Apple has finally added the option to utilize Face ID while wearing a face mask in iOS 15.4, over two years after the COVID-19 outbreak began. Long before COVID-19 and the current practice of virtually always wearing a face mask when out in public or travelling by bus, train, or aircraft, there was a debate about Face ID vs. Touch ID / fingerprint sensor. However, given the whole “covering half of your face” thing, masks are a huge obstacle in allowing facial recognition systems like Face ID to work for unlocking your phone.
iOS 15.4: Set Up Face ID With a Mask
However, iOS 15.4 seeks to address this by simply allowing Face ID to work while wearing a mask, focusing on the information on the top portion of people’s faces to accurately recognize them and unlock the phone. Apple isn’t the first company to try to solve the Face ID / mask problem: In the iOS 13.5 update, the business included a function for automatically unlocking your iPhone while wearing an Apple Watch, and in the iOS 14.5 release, the company added a feature for automatically unlocking your iPhone when wearing an Apple Watch. The new Face ID mask support, on the other hand, is a lot simpler option that doesn’t necessitate the purchase of additional Apple hardware.
When wearing a mask, a more streamlined approach for Face ID is needed. Apple wants to make sure that customers are aware that the new Face ID option is coming. The first thing you’ll see after installing iOS 15.4 (at least in its current beta form) is a splash screen asking if you want to enable Face ID with a mask. The function is easy to set up, albeit you will have to re-register your face (presumably so Apple can dial in even further on the details around your eyes).
Once you’ve done that, Face ID with a mask – for the most part – works great, which means it unlocks your iPhone when you look at it, even if you’re wearing a fabric mask or a more substantial N95. However, there are a few oddities. If you use Face ID with a mask and wear glasses, Apple now requires you to scan each pair of glasses you possess to create a baseline scan. Face ID didn’t work when I wore a mask when I moved to a different, unregistered pair of glasses. Face ID doesn’t work with sunglasses or a mask.
Other times when I covered too much of my forehead, such as with a pulled-down beanie with earflaps that covered the majority of my skull, I failed. But I did have some impressive triumphs, too: Face ID worked and unlocked my phone while I was wearing my complete ski gear of a knit cap, face mask, and goggles (albeit an exceptionally transparent pair of goggles). It’s difficult to say how much less accurate Face ID is when wearing a mask, but it’s worth noting that you might miss some unlocks when utilizing the feature.
Even yet, the sheer ease of not having to take off my mask or repeatedly type my password to unlock my phone is well worth the occasional missed unlock. It’s especially useful when using Apple Pay for things like paying for subway rides in New York City (instead of awkwardly fidgeting with my passcode during a hectic rush-hour crowd).
Because iOS 15.4 is still in public beta, you should avoid operating unfinished beta software on your primary device. It’s also feasible that Apple will defer Face ID mask support until a later release if it’s unhappy with how things are currently working. But, perhaps, in the coming week, Apple will make iOS 15.4 and the vital new Face ID feature available to the general public, putting an end to our extended password-entry agony.
Img Credit: theverge.com