iOS 15.4 won't unlock an iPhone X, XS, or 11 using Face ID if you're masked

Face ID setup
Face ID setup (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has released iOS 15.4 to developers and it brings the ability to use Face ID even when masked.
  • Testing shows older iPhones don't support the change in Face ID functionality.
  • It's likely the problem is related to the increased processing power required by the change.

While the first beta release of iOS 15.4 does include support for unlocking an iPhone while wearing a mask and using Face ID, it seems that feature isn't available to everyone. According to tests, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone 11 devices do not support unlocking using Face ID while wearing a mask.

In tests conducted by MacRumors it was confirmed that iPhone 12 and newer devices work fine. I haven't seen confirmation on whether iPhone XR devices will work, but given their aging A12 Bionic processor, it seems unlikely.

Based on our testing, the "Use Face ID with a Mask" feature is available on the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Apple's new Face ID changes focus on the "unique features around the eye area" which may require additional processing power. In testing, using Face ID on iOS 15.4 does take noticeably longer to authenticate when using an iPhone 13 Pro Max, for example. Given that this is the first beta release, that is perhaps to be expected. But it could also speak to the additional processing being done on-device.

There is no indication of when Apple will make iOS 15.4 available to the public but we can expect this feature and others to change and improve before that happens.

Already running the iOS 15.4 beta? Here's how to unlock your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.