New York's MTA wants Apple to magic new mask-compatible Face ID out of thin air

Face ID on iPad Pro 2018
Face ID on iPad Pro 2018 (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • New York City MTA wants Apple to fix Face ID's ability to work with face masks.
  • Chairman Patrick Foye has sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
  • He wants Apple to "accelerate the deployment of new technologies".

Any iPhone user will already be well aware that Face ID simply doesn't work when you're wearing a face mask. It stands to reason, with Face ID needing to see your face so it can decide whether you're who you say you are. That's a feature rather than a bug. But that isn't stopping New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Patrick Foye from wanting something done about it.

According to the Associated Press, Foye has written to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking for it to "accelerate the deployment of new technologies" to make Face ID work with face masks.

"We understand Apple is working to address the issue and know that Apple has a range of technologies at its disposal as a global leader among tech companies," Foye wrote in the letter sent Sunday. "We urge Apple to accelerate the deployment of new technologies and solutions that further protect customers in the era of COVID-19."

With people removing face masks to make Face ID work rather than enter their passcode, it's obvious why anyone would want Face ID to work even when part of the face is obscured. But the stance of Foye seems to come from a lack of understanding about Face ID works and what it would take for it to be tweaked in such a way to allow it to work with face masks.

Apple has already done its bit to try and get around the problem, although it's a workaround more than a fix. As of iOS 13.5, iPhones that detect a mask will automatically fall back to a passcode entry screen rather than making users wait for Face ID to fail first.

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.