Ever since the pandemic hit us, face masks have become THE most important tool to curb the spread of the virus. And while wearing face masks for prolonged periods was something we all were not familiar with initially, they have become an integral part of our lives now, almost an extension. But while we have learned to live with our masks on but it seems the technology around us has not yet recognized our new way of life. This is why in the age of face unlocks, we have trouble unlocking our smartphones when wearing masks. That can be got around in most phones which also have fingerprint scanners. But with the iPhone, it unlocks a new level of difficulty.


Apple paved the way for the face unlock feature to stardom when it introduced it on the iPhone X, as it has done for many other features in the past. While it is incredibly convenient and very secure (something Android has struggled to imitate), it can be rather annoying to use it in a pandemic-stricken world where wearing a mask is compulsory. The device obviously fails to recognize your masked face, and after a few efforts gives up and presents us with the option to unlock the phone using the good-old passcode method, driving us back to the pre-fingerprint scanner days. It can be incredibly frustrating to pick up your phone and then wait for it to move from Face ID to passcode every time you are wearing a mask.

What you need

People have been working on complex hacks to tackle the issue (register with half a mask on your face and so on), but now Apple has come up with a solution. A solution that features the Apple Watch. Well, it doesn’t just feature the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch does the unlocking for you, making it a pretty vital part of the process. Apple has rolled out a new software update, iOS 14.5 that brings the option for you to unlock your iPhone while you are wearing a mask using your Apple Watch. This “unlock with Apple Watch” feature has been available on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in the past, and now it has come to the iPhone.

Here is a list of all things obvious and not-so-obvious you need to get to this feature:

  • An iPhone with FaceID feature
  • Apple Watch Series 3 or later
  • iOS 14.5 on the iPhone
  • WatchOS 7.4 on the Apple Watch
  • FaceID turned on on the iPhone
  • Passcode on the Apple Watch
  • Wrist detection on the Apple Watch
  • Your Apple Watch also needs to be on your wrist and unlocked

Once you have checked off every item, the task to turn on the feature becomes incredibly simple.

What you need to do

Now all you have to do is:

how to unlock an iphone while wearing a mask, ft. apple watch - iphone mask unlock

  • Go to the Settings app on your iPhone.
  • Find the FaceID and Passcode option there.
  • Then you need to enter your iPhone passcode. Entering the passcode will take you to a new window.
  • Here you need to scroll down and find the option “Unlock with Apple Watch”.
  • Tap on that toggle and make it go green. You will get a tiny prompt message on your iPhone explaining how the feature works.
  • Tap on the “Turn On” option on the prompt and voila! you are done and the feature is on.

How to use it

This feature only works when you are wearing a mask and your Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch also needs to be unlocked and wrist detection on the watch must be on.

how to unlock an iphone while wearing a mask, ft. apple watch - apple watch unlock

All you need to do is wake up your iPhone by tapping it or picking it up. You have to now look at your iPhone and it will detect that you are wearing a face mask that is covering your nose and mouth. It will now recognize that you are wearing an Apple Watch which is unlocked and allow it to unlock your iPhone for you. Basically, you just have to glance and the rest will be done by your iPhone and Apple Watch.

Once your phone gets unlocked, you will get a haptic message on your Apple Watch that your iPhone has been unlocked. In case you did not intend to unlock your iPhone, you can simply tap on the “Lock iPhone” option on the notification you get on your Apple Watch. If you do so, the next time you try to unlock your phone using the feature, you will have to put in the passcode. While this feature can be used to unlock your phone, unlike FaceID, you cannot use it to make payments or use it for transactions or even unlock an app – it is just for unlocking your iPhone.

Much needed, and it works!

The feature works very well and seems like a major time saver in today’s time when you are pretty much wearing a mask around the clock. It basically puts an end to the constant tussle between having to pull down your mask to use FaceID or stare at your iPhone long enough for it to offer you the option to enter the passcode.

We also think the “Lock iPhone” option you get on your Apple Watch is a very important part of this feature. If you pick up your iPhone to unlock and feel that someone is peering into it, you can quickly lock it back up, leaving the prying Pams with only disappointment and not your data.

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