Apple’s Face ID technology was a gamechanger when it first launched on the iPhone X, providing consumers with a secure way to unlock their smartphones without the need to do anything apart from look at the display. Easy, right?

Of course, the pandemic hit in 2020 and the number of people wearing masks around the world shot through the roof. The problem is, Face ID needs to see your entire face to make sure it’s you – so what was Apple to do?

While it seemed logical to introduce Touch ID integration in the power button like with the iPad Air and mini, Apple has instead gone down a software route. In iOS 14, it introduced the ability to unlock your iPhone wearing a face mask if you’ve got an unlocked Apple Watch nearby. That worked well, but it required an expensive wearable that many people don’t have.

It seems Apple went back to the drawing board and, with iOS 15.4, it introduces a new way to use Face ID with a mask. Rather than focusing on your entire face, it focuses more on your eyes. The catch? It doesn't work automatically – you’ll need to re-scan your face to provide the tech with the extra data necessary.

It's also limited to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, with iPhone X, XS and 11 users seemingly left out of the new functionality. 

With iOS 15.4 now available to download, we show you how to use Face ID with a mask in iOS 15.4 right here.

How to unlock an iPhone using Face ID when wearing a mask

Once you update your iPhone 12 or 13, you should be automatically prompted to re-setup Face ID for use with a mask. If you haven’t been asked to re-scan your face during the iOS 15.4 setup, or you initially dismissed the prompt, here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Face ID & Passcode and enter your passcode for verification.
  3. Toggle on the ‘Use Face ID With a Mask’ switch.
  4. Tap ‘Use Face ID With a Mask’ to initiate the setup.
  5. Scan your face with your iPhone, as with the initial Face ID setup. Don’t worry about wearing a mask at this stage, as it’s focusing mainly on the eyes.
  6. For your second scan, remove your glasses (if you wear them). 
  7. Once the scan is complete, tap ‘Add Glasses’ to show Face ID what your glasses look like. You’ll need to repeat this step for every pair of glasses you wear on a regular basis, unlike with standard Face ID.
  8. That’s it! You’ll now be able to unlock your iPhone using Face ID, even if you’re wearing a face mask.

It’s worth noting that, in our testing, Face ID needs to see the eyes and forehead to properly authenticate in iOS 15.4, meaning you can’t rock a combination of a face mask, sunglasses and a beanie hat and expect access to your iPhone. Apple’s Face ID tech is impressive, but it’s not magic after all.

The question is, is that enough to stop fans calling for the return of Touch ID on the iPhone 14? We’ll have to wait and see.

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