What you need to know
- Apple's iOS 15.4 update adds support for unlocking with Face ID while wearing a mask.
- iOS 15.4 is now available in its first beta form, but only to developers.
- We don't yet know when this update will be rolled out to everyone.
Update, January (4:35 pm ET): Use Face ID with a Mask is currently limited to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13.
Apple has made a change to Face ID that will allow it to function even when someone is wearing a mask. Unlike a previous, similar feature, no Apple Watch is required. The change is part of the first iOS 15.4 beta made available to developers today.
While this feature is specific to iOS 15.4, a previous change also allowed people to unlock their iPhones while wearing a mask. That feature required people to also have an authenticated Apple Watch however, a requirement that this new update removes entirely.
The change was first spotted by YouTuber Brandon Butch and comes with a text that suggests Apple is now focusing more on the area around the eyes seeing as it can no longer see mouths.
"Face ID is most accurate when it's set up for full-face recognition only. To use Face ID while wearing a mask, iPhone can recognize the unique features around the eye to authenticate."
People installing iOS 15.4 will be prompted to reconfigure Face ID and decide whether they want to enable it to unlock their iPhones when wearing a mask. Apple also notes that it has made improvements to how Face ID works when wearing glasses, too.
Unfortunately, there is no telling when this iOS 15.4 update will be made available to everyone but it's likely to be a number of weeks before it is ready.
Update, January 27 (4:35 pm ET) — Use Face ID with a Mask is currently limited to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13.
As reported by MacRumors, it appears that Apple's new "Use Face ID with a Mask" feature, which is currently available in the iOS 15.4 developer beta, is currently only available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models.
Unfortunately, Face ID with a Mask is limited to some of Apple's newest iPhones, even though Face ID has been available since 2017 with the launch of the iPhone X. As noted on our forums, Face ID with a Mask is only an option on the iPhone 12 and later, so you'll need an iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max or an iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, or 13 Pro Max.
It's currently unclear why the feature is not available for the iPhone X and iPhone 11. It could be due to technological differences in Face ID that Apple may have implemented when it switched to the iPhone 12. It could also come to the older iPhone models with Face ID in a future beta or public release.