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Apple's new way to unlock your iPhone with an Apple Watch works even when you cover most of your face

CNBC logo CNBC 5 days ago Todd Haselton
  • Apple will soon let you unlock your iPhone as long as you're wearing an Apple Watch.
  • It will be a lot easier to unlock your phone while wearing a mask.
  • The feature is coming this spring in iOS 14.5, and I tested a beta of the software to try it out.
a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: A pedestrian wearing a protective mask uses her mobile phone while walking past an Apple iPhone advertisement at Orchard Road in Singapore. © Provided by CNBC A pedestrian wearing a protective mask uses her mobile phone while walking past an Apple iPhone advertisement at Orchard Road in Singapore.

Apple will soon let you unlock your iPhone as long as you're wearing an Apple Watch. That means it will be a lot easier to unlock your phone while wearing a mask, which you currently have to remove for Face ID to work.

The feature will launch sometime this spring when Apple rolls out iOS 14.5 for iPhones and the corresponding Apple Watch update. It requires that you have an Apple Watch on your wrist, unlocked, and with its own passcode.

It works really well. You may be familiar with the process if you have a Mac and an Apple Watch -- you can already unlock a Mac just by coming near it wearing your Apple Watch, for example.

The experience is really similar with the iPhone. If you have a mask on (or even if you don't), just swipe up from the bottom of the screen on your iPhone. Your iPhone will scan part of your face and your Apple Watch will give a little buzz indicating that it was used to unlock your iPhone. It unlocks in an instant, just like Face ID does when you don't have a mask on.

I tested it with more than just a mask, too. I held up my shirt covering all but my forehead and eyes, and that worked. It didn't work when I blocked my whole face, or if I tried unlocking the phone without being in front of it.

Here's how you'll be able to set it up when iOS 14.5 comes out.

How to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch

graphical user interface, text: Unlocking my iPhone with my Apple Watch using iOS 14.5. © Provided by CNBC Unlocking my iPhone with my Apple Watch using iOS 14.5.

I tested this using the iOS 14.5 beta. But, once the software is out for everyone this spring, you'll be able to follow these steps to get it set up.

  • Open settings on your iPhone.
  • Tap Face ID & Passcode.
  • Enter in your iPhone's passcode.
  • Scroll down to "Unlock with Apple Watch."
  • Toggle the button next to your Apple Watch so that it's on.

That's it. Now when you go to unlock your iPhone with a mask on, you'll feel a gentle buzz on your Apple Watch as it unlocks your iPhone.

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