Unlock Your iPhone While Wearing a Mask Using Face ID. Here's How

The days of removing your mask to unlock your phone or to use Apple Pay are gone.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Nelson Aguilar
Jason Cipriani
3 min read
Apple will now let you unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask.

Apple will now let you unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. 

James Martin/CNET

When you're in a public place that requires you to wear a mask and you need to use Face ID, it can be uncomfortable pulling your mask down to get into your iPhone. Instead, you probably just type in your passcode. However, thanks to iOS 15.4, you can finally use Face ID and keep your mask on.

As long as you have an iPhone 12 or later running iOS 15.4, you can now go into your phone's settings and toggle on a new feature that uses the features around your eyes to authenticate that it's really you so that you can finally use Face ID while still wearing a mask.

However, if you own an older iPhone model or simply don't want to update to iOS 15.4 just yet, there's another way to unlock your iPhone with a mask on -- using your Apple Watch. Check out both methods below. For more, here's everything we know so far about iOS 16, and these are the new emoji in iOS 15.4.

How to use Face ID with a mask

This new feature is exclusive to iOS 15.4 ‌‌and is only available on the iPhone 12‌‌, 12 Mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max and the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Once you update, you'll see the option to use Face ID with a mask on during the welcome screen, but you can also do the following to enable the new feature:

1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.

2. Next, go into Face ID & Passcode and enter your passcode.

3. Toggle on Face ID With a Mask.

4. On the next page, choose the Use Face ID With a Mask option.

5. Finally, remove your mask, if you have one on, and set up Face ID.


If you go into your Face ID & Passcode settings on iOS 15.4, you can set up Face ID to work with a mask on.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

The feature will mention that your face must match your existing Face ID appearance, so you won't be able to set it up on someone else's phone, for example. Although it scans your entire face, the Use Face ID With a Mask feature places an emphasis on authenticating the unique features around your eyes. Once that's set you'll be able to unlock your iPhone while masked (and unmasked).

How to use your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone

If you don't have iOS 15.4 or an iPhone 12 or 13, you can still unlock your iPhone with a mask on using your Apple Watch. For this to work, you'll need to be running iOS 14.5 or later and WatchOS 7.4 or later. To set the feature up:

1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.

2. Select Face ID & Passcode and enter your passcode.

3. Scroll down to Unlock with Apple Watch, find your Apple Watch and toggle the feature on. 

Now when you're wearing a face covering, all you have to do is hold your phone up like you normally would to unlock it with Face ID. You'll feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch was used to unlock your phone. 

Unlock with Apple Watch

Make sure your watch is nearby when you set up Unlock with Apple Watch. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The alert on your watch is more than just an acknowledgment that your phone was unlocked, though. It includes a button to lock your phone, in case it was unlocked by someone else. It's a security feature to ensure that someone else doesn't pick up your phone and unlock it while wearing a mask. While unlikely that it will happen, it's a reassuring fallback to keep your data safer.

Raise your phone and before you know it it's unlocked, thanks to your watch. 

GIF by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Don't have an Apple Watch? Check out the best Apple Watch deals here. And if you do have one, you might be interested in these 12 Apple Watch settings you'll want to change right away.