Apple iPhone’s face recognition was released in September 2017, which allowed consumers the biometric ability to unlock their phones and access other sensitive data just by glancing at their device. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to wear a mask has made it impossible for consumers to use the iPhone’s face ID.
Apple released a new software update Monday that allows users with iPhone X or later to unlock their device using Face ID, even if they are wearing a mask. There’s only one catch; you need to have an Apple Watch.
Apple’s iOS 14.5 allows the iPhone to communicate with the Apple Watch to verify ID even if it can’t detect the user’s entire face. As long as the Watch is nearby and out of sleep mode the user will be able to unlock their phone using Face ID. The feature was borrowed from a similar feature available to MAC users allowing them to unlock their computers as long as the Apple Watch was in close proximity.
Once the user’s device is running iOS 14.5 and the Apple watch has Watch OS 7.4, they can turn on the new unlock feature in settings under Face ID & Passcode. The security feature also includes a button to lock your phone from the Apple Watch.
Contrary to popular belief, the new feature is not using partial face recognition and responds to any face prompt it is given. This draws for a minor fallback as it makes it so that someone else wearing a mask in close proximity to the Watch can possibly unlock the device.
Months after the pandemic, Apple attempted to reconcile the issue of face masks by releasing a beta iOS 13.5, which prompted users to enter their passcode instead of continuing the process of failing the face recognition process.
At the time, many Apple users suggested allowing other solutions, such as providing alternate appearance photos, which included Face ID with a mask on, but the system blocked any attempts that were considered to be a face obstruction.
Features of the new update also include a privacy report, which gives Safari users a detailed log of ad trackers that they may have come across while browsing certain sites. There is also a subtle “fake eye contact” feature that makes it appear as though your eyes are looking directly into the camera even if they are focused somewhere else on the screen.
Apple’s new update also includes a transparency feature, which has met a lot of praise, as well as dissent because it allows users to decide which apps are allowed to track their data. Through this new attempt at privacy transparency, Apple allows users to block certain apps that record and track data, like Facebook.
Apple has long accused Facebook of showing complete disregard for user privacy, while Facebook has accused Apple of monopolizing its App store. Facebook believes that following the release of the iOS update, it will face deficits due to the company’s reliance on ad revenue.