My constant struggle.
My constant struggle.
Photo: Caitlin McGarry (Gizmodo)

Coronavirus has upended lives in countless ways, and of those, my inability to unlock my iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask in public spaces is not that consequential.

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But, fuck, it’s so annoying.

According to CNBC, Apple is preparing to roll out a feature in iOS 13.5 that will let you immediately swipe up to enter your passcode when you’re wearing a mask, rather than making you wait for that small but oh-so-irritating delay between when your phone attempts to scan your face and when it brings up the passcode screen.

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This will relieve some of my irritation, but, more importantly, it might make life a little easier for essential workers who actually have to wear masks all day.

Ideally, Face ID would work even with a mask on—after all, it recognizes me when I’m wearing a hat and large sunglasses. But the iPhone’s depth-sensing front-facing camera takes a 3D scan of your entire face, and apparently your nose, mouth, and chin are all pretty important when it comes to detecting a your identity. Until the iPhone can scan my retinas and be done with it, this workaround will have to do.

The Face ID tweak arrived first in a developer beta today, so the rest of us will probably have to wait awhile longer before it rolls out in a software update.

Until it does, you have three options: Turn off Face ID altogether (not ideal, because it’s more secure than a passcode and also very convenient when you’re not wearing a mask); set up Face ID’s alternate appearance feature by wearing a mask and hope it actually works; or deal with the annoyance by cursing under your breath every time you unlock your phone. One of the reasons why Apple’s new $400 iPhone SE is so tempting (aside from its size and price) is that it still sports a home button with Touch ID.

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Today’s developer beta also includes Apple’s covid-19 contact-tracing API, which will let public health app developers notify people when they’ve been exposed to the virus. That update is definitely more significant than the Face ID tweak, but still. I’ll take a small victory in these trying times.

Consumer tech editor, Gizmodo.

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