Apple is testing the ability to use Face ID while wearing a mask, without the need for an Apple Watch on your wrist to authenticate your identity.
The first iOS 15.4 beta is out for iPhone and, after the feature-less iOS 15.3 update, it looks like we’re in for a tangible new biometric security update this time around. The addition was first spotted by YouTuber Brandon Butch (via 9to5Mac).
The feature is already available for registered developers and gives iPhone users the option to “use Face ID with a mask” and select a version of the biometric security feature that focuses on the eye area to identify the device owner.
The feature description explains: “Face ID is most accurate when it’s set up for full-dace recognition only. To use Face ID while wearing a mask, iPhone can recognise the unique features around the eye area to authenticate.”
The definition suggests users will be sacrificing a little bit of the security Face ID offers by using it with a mask. However, it’s a price many will be winning to pay after struggling to use features like Apple Pay in the supermarket while masked-up, for example.
Thus far, users have had the choice to either lower their protection, or enter their passcode when the Face ID identification fails. Via Settings > Face ID & Passcode will be able to remedy this in iOS 15.4, which is expected in the next couple of months.
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Apple has previously offered mitigation for Apple Watch owners. It senses the presence of the wearable and is confident enough that the owner of the watch is also holding the phone, so the need for individual Face ID authentication has been bypassed.
However, only a minority of iPhone users are also using the Apple Watch, so it’s good to see Apple work towards a situation where mask-wearing folks can continue to use the rapid Face ID tech. Mask mandates may be ending in places like the UK, so the feature will be arriving a little later than many would have hoped.