How to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask using iOS 15.4

With the latest Face ID update, you can say goodbye to keying in your passcode while wearing a mask and unlock your iPhone with just your eyes.

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After nearly two years of punching in passcodes, using an Apple Watch, or pulling down masks to unlock our iPhones, Apple is finally releasing a face mask-compatible Face ID update.

With masked facial recognition and the option to store a verified vaccination card in your Apple Wallet, the iPhone might be the most pandemic-friendly phone out there right now. All it takes is iOS 15.4 and a few extra facial scans to add mask compatibility to Face ID.

How to set up Face ID to work with a mask

To use Face ID with a face mask, you’ll need to be using an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 model running iOS 15.4 or higher. iOS 15.4 is expected to be released in early March. If you don’t want to wait, you can join Apple’s Beta Software Program, download an early version of the software update and check out the new feature today. (Be warned, you might run into bugs. It’s beta software, after all.)

Once your iPhone is running on iOS 15.4 beta, setting up a new Face ID that’s mask-compatible only takes a few moments. You may be prompted to set this up the first time you start up your iPhone after updating your iOS, but we’ll walk you through the steps in case you missed it. You don’t even need a mask on-hand to set this up.

To use Face ID with a mask on, all you need to do is run a few extra facial scans in your settings.
  • In your “Settings” menu, find and tap on “Face ID & Passcode.” You’ll be prompted to access your passcode to continue.
  • Without scrolling through this menu, you should be able to spot a new toggle titled “Use Face ID With a Mask.” Tap that toggle to get started.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions, scanning your face using the camera like you did the first time you set up Face ID. Since this new mode is focused on the areas around your eyes and your forehead (spots that’ll still be visible with a mask on), you may be asked to move closer to your camera once or twice before the scan starts. If you wear glasses, you’ll be asked to take them off for an additional scan.
  • Tap through the on-screen instructions and your new Face ID appearance will be good to go. You’ll now be able to use Face ID to unlock your phone, access your wallet, etc. with a mask on.

We tested our new masked Face ID feature in a variety of lighting scenarios with different-styled masks and it worked properly every time.

A quick note for glasses wearers

Because this new Face ID mode is so focused on the eyes, you might have to do a bit more work to set yours up properly. Apple claims that wearing different glasses could affect Face ID scans and keep you from using the feature.

The solution? Apple wants you to complete face scans wearing every pair of glasses you own. Not a big deal if you only wear a few different frames, but a pain if you’re got a stylish collection and switch your frames out frequently.

If you’re a glasses wearer, you might want to complete some extra face scans to make sure Face ID works with all of your frames.
  • Go to the “Face ID & Passcode” in your “Settings” again.
  • If you’ve completed the steps above, you’ll see an “Add Glasses” button right below the enabled “Use Face ID With a Mask” toggle. Tap on that.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions and complete another face scan. Like before, you may be prompted to adjust the camera or reframe the shot a few times.

Once you’ve finished your new scans, you’ll see the “X pairs of glasses added” count under the toggle change. There doesn’t appear to be a way to remove a pair of glasses or even revisit the face scans, so be sure to keep track of which ones you’re adding if you’re in the middle of a face scan marathon.

All of this being said, you might not have an issue swapping out frames at all. I completed scans wearing these frames from EyeBuyDirect and had no trouble unlocking my iPhone wearing these frames. Not wildly different frames, sure, but it shows that you probably don’t need to add every pair of glasses to your phone.

What about iPads with Face ID?

Sorry bud, iOS 15.4’s updated Face ID doesn’t extend to any iPads that have a Face ID camera system. Not the first iPad to include the face recognition tech, the 2018 iPad Pros and not the latest M1 iPad Pros. It’s just iPhone only for now.