The coronavirus pandemic has transformed a dizzying number of aspects of everyday life, including Apple’s revolutionary Face ID system, to everyday frustration. When Apple introduced Face ID with the iPhone X in September 2017, it appeared to be a serious improvement on the California company’s previous hassle-free sign-in method: the Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
In contrast to Touch ID, Face ID is around 20 times more secure than the previous system, according to Apple. While the chance that a random fingertip can unlock your iPhone is 1 in 50,000, the chance that another face will be recognized by the infrared camera as your own is 1 in 1,000,000. Unfortunately, with face covering – an important measure to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially indoors and in poorly ventilated rooms – becoming commonplace, Face ID has lost a lot of its comfort.
Apple responded last year with an update that introduces backup methods to unlock your iPhone (PIN or password) if facial recognition doesn’t recognize your face. When you’re in a face covering store trying to unlock your iPhone, you’ll be presented with the keyboard that will allow you to use your PIN almost immediately. Compared to the hassle of waiting for facial recognition to fail a few times one at a time before this update arrived.
And now, the first developer beta test has revealed that Apple has another plan to solve this problem. According to those who signed up for the Developer Program, Apple plans to automatically unlock your iPhone – bypassing Face ID and a PIN – if it is determined that you are wearing an unlocked Apple Watch. To do this, Apple continues to use the Face ID system, but uses a mask to verify that you are wearing a mask. This will get your thumbs up to go back to that Apple Watch method. It seems that Apple is also scanning your facial features to try a rough approximation, or whether you are under the covering of your face … but it will mainly be leaning on the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch can be accessed with a six-digit PIN code or it can be automatically unlocked after a successful Face ID or Touch ID scan with the paired iPhone. So if you’ve unlocked your iPhone after strapping your Apple Watch to your wrist and then came out with a face covering, you may never have to deal with the hassle of entering passwords or PINs.
iOS 14.5 was just released for testing with developers. So it will be a while before it is rolled out to iPhone owners worldwide. And of course, those without an Apple Watch still have to continue with the frustration of entering a PIN when wearing their face covering.
According to some sources, Apple plans to solve this problem by adding an in-display fingerprint scanner to the next iPhone, which will be unveiled in September – should the Californian company stick to its typical release schedule. While the new on-screen option doesn’t appear to replace Face ID, it’s another option for verifying your identity when a face scan isn’t possible.