Apple’s rolling out iOS 15.4 to folks with iPhones everywhere now, bringing new features, such as 37 new emojis, general bug fixes and a new Siri voice. But the most significant part is the ability to use Face ID while wearing a mask on an iPhone 12 or later with no Apple Watch required. It’s an excellent update — we just wish Apple had delivered it sooner.
Once you update to iOS 15.4 on your iPhone (open Settings > General > Software Update > Download and Install), your phone will install the latest version of iOS and update. As with any update, completing a backup to a Mac or iCloud before installing is highly recommended.
On an iPhone 12 or newer, you’ll see a new walk-through for Face ID, which will help you enable the ability to use your phone while wearing a mask. It’s pretty easy, and simply requires a new scan or two in which your iPhone’s True Depth Sensor focuses on your eyes. If you wear glasses, your iPhone will ask to do a scan with them on and with them off.
After that, you’re pretty much set. If you skip it in setup (essentially a series of splash screens when you turn the phone back on), you can always enable this feature in Settings. To do this, you’ll open Settings, scroll down to Face ID, tap it, enter your passcode and select “Face ID with a Mask.”
Here’s how well Face ID with a Mask works
I’ve been using iOS 15.4 since the beta began rolling out in late January, and the new Face ID feature has been a handy tool for when I’m rocking a mask. Whether I’m walking outside or strolling through the aisles of a grocery store, my iPhone 13 Pro Max is quick to recognize I’m wearing a mask, scan my eyes and unlock the iPhone. Since it’s looking at your eyes and the area around them, you may need to be more specific with how you position your phone toward your face. At times, it may prompt you to look down so that it can authenticate, but for the most part, this updated Face ID works as intended.
Furthermore, you no longer need to buy an Apple Watch to be able to unlock your iPhone with Face ID while rocking a mask. And that can save you some money if you haven’t opted for Apple’s wearable yet. You will need an iPhone 12 or newer, though, which means this doesn’t work on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. It also isn’t supported on iPad Pro with Face ID.
It also makes Face ID a little less disappointing in the current world — especially as many wish for the iPhone to reintroduce Touch ID since Face ID previously didn’t work with a mask. Given how well it’s performed in our testing thus far, we’d recommend updating your phone for the bug fixes and this update to Face ID.