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Yes, you can use FaceID to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask, but there's a catch

The days of pulling down your mask or entering your passcode to unlock your phone may be over.

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Since the release of iOS 14.5, Apple made it a little easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

Are you tired of entering your passcode or pulling down your mask to pay with your phone when you're at the store? Instead of your iPhone unlocking as soon as the screen lights up, you're instantly asked to enter your PIN code. We've all been there. Unlocking your iPhone with Face ID during the pandemic has been a hassle, to say the least-- especially when trying to avoid touching your mask at all costs. 

Fortunately, iPhone now has a way to use Face ID to unlock your phone while wearing a face mask, and the feature isn't new. Apple found a solution to the problem (kind of) with the release of iOS 14.5, and it still works with the latest iOS 15 updates. But before you get too excited, this trick requires an Apple Watch to work.

I'll walk you through how to set up the new Face ID unlock feature, and show you how it works. And you can now store your verified COVID vaccination card with Apple Wallet and your Apple Watch. And here's the latest on vaccine mandates. This story was recently updated. 

Unlock with Apple Watch

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

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Find and turn on the 'Unlock' feature with your Apple Watch

Once your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 or later and your Apple Watch has WatchOS 7.4 (or newer) installed, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps. 

Open the Settings app on your iPhone and then select Face ID & Passcode, enter your PIN when asked. Next, scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. The name of your Apple Watch should be listed there. Next to it is a toggle to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app. 

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

GIF by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How to use Apple's 'Unlock' feature while wearing a mask 

Going forward, whenever 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. 

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 method to keep your data safe.

Here's the latest on the MacOS Monterey to help determine if your device is compatible. And we put Apple's latest watch to the test its durability. Plus, the new AirPods 3 are finally here. Here's what we think about the new earbuds.