Apple appears to be testing a feature that will let you use Face ID to unlock the phone even when wearing a mask. The first developer beta for iOS 15.4 has a screen that asks if you want to be able to use Face ID while wearing a mask, at the cost of reduced security, according to photos from Brandon Butch on Twitter and MacRumors. Unfortunately, the feature will only be available if you’ve got a newer device according to 9to5Mac.
According to pictures of the screen, Apple says that “iPhone can recognize the unique features around the eye area to authenticate” but warns that Face ID is going to be more accurate if you have it set to not work with a mask.
Here’s the new toggle in iOS 15.4 (settings > Face ID > Use Face ID with a Mask) pic.twitter.com/nL8PPxrrZe— Brandon Butch (@BrandonButch) January 27, 2022
Not everyone will be able to take advantage of this particular feature, though. While one of my colleagues confirmed that it worked on his iPhone 12, 9to5Mac reports that it only works on the iPhone 12 and 13 lines. They also weren’t able to use it on a 2018 iPad Pro.
As the pandemic drags on, people (and organizations like the New York City MTA) have been clamoring for Apple to add a way to let people unlock iPhones while still wearing masks. Apple has introduced various updates to help — iOS 13.5 would detect that you’re wearing a mask and quickly ask you for your passcode instead of trying to authenticate your face, and 14.5 let people with Apple Watches use Face ID while wearing a mask. (It seems to unlock for anyone wearing a mask, as long as your Apple Watch is close enough to the phone.) For people without an Apple Watch, however, it seems like this functionality may finally be on the horizon, assuming it proves to be secure enough.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment on the feature.
Update, January 27th 4:19PM ET: Added information about the feature reportedly only being available on the iPhone 12 and 13.