How to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch in iOS 14.5, even with skin

A pedestrian in a protective mask uses his mobile phone as he walks past an Apple iPhone advertisement on Orchard Road in Singapore.

Wei Leng Tay | Bloomberg | fake images

Apple will soon allow you to unlock your iPhone as long as you use an Apple Watch. That means it will be much 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 releases iOS 14.5 for iPhones and the corresponding Apple Watch update. It requires you to have an Apple Watch on your wrist, unlocked and with your own passcode.

It works very 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 approaching it with your Apple Watch, for example.

The experience is really similar with the iPhone. If you have a skin on (or even if you don’t), just swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen. Your iPhone will scan part of your face and your Apple Watch will make a small 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.

I also tried it with something other than a mask. I lifted my shirt covering everything but my forehead and eyes, and it worked. It didn’t work when I locked my whole face, or if I tried to unlock 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

Unlocking my iPhone with my Apple Watch using iOS 14.5.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

I tested this using the beta version of iOS 14.5. But, once the software is available to everyone this spring, you can follow these steps to set it up.

  • Open the settings on your iPhone.
  • Touch Face ID and password.
  • Enter your iPhone passcode.
  • Scroll down to “Unlock with Apple Watch.”
  • Move the button next to your Apple Watch so it’s on.

That’s it. Now when you go to unlock your iPhone with a mask, you will feel a soft buzz on your Apple Watch when you unlock your iPhone.


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