iPhone: How to use Face ID with a mask

As we noted back in January, most people have found wearing a face mask renders Face ID unusable. Even though it sounds like a first-world problem in the current circumstances, there are a lot of people, especially medical professionals who would value the ability for Face ID on iPhone to work while wearing protective equipment. Well, it turns out you actually can teach your iPhone to do this, read on for how to use Face ID with a mask.

Researchers at Tencent’s Xuanwu Lab (via WSJ) discovered that you can train Face ID to recognize you wearing a mask if you set up the biometric system while wearing half a mask.

The tutorial mentions folding a mask in half and going through the set up process for Face ID. In our testing, that worked but not very consistently.

What we found the most consistent was using the primary Face ID set up as well as redoing the alternate appearance with a mask to offer the best unlocking results.

For its part Apple told WSJ:

“Face ID is designed to work with your eyes, nose and mouth visible,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. “Users can still unlock their devices while wearing a mask by entering their passcode.”

But if being able to use Face ID with a mask could be valuable to you, even if not a 100% unlock rate, try out the steps below and let us know what you experience.

iPhone: How to use Face ID with a mask

Part 1

  1. Head to Settings > Face ID & Passcode
  2. You can either try to do the first step as an Alternate Appearance or choose to Reset Face ID
  3. Once you’ve picked Set up Face ID or Set Up Alternate Appearance fold your mask in half and hold it up to your face
  4. If your iPhone says “Face Obstructed” move your mask slowly away from the center of your face until it asks you to “Move your head slowly to complete the circle” (Xuanwu Lab recommends covering just the tip of your nose, cover too much and you’ll get an error)
  5. Complete two scans of your face with the mask folded in the same orientation
  6. You should see “Face ID is now set up.”
  7. Put your mask on, covering your whole face, test out if it works to unlock your iPhone

Here’s how these steps look:

iPhone how to use Face ID with mask walkthrough 1

Part 2 (optional)

  1. If Face ID isn’t working consistently after doing the Face ID set up with a folded mask, go back into Settings > Face ID & Passcode
  2. Tap Set Up Alternate Appearance (if you chose alternate for step 1 above, you’ll need to Reset Face ID and do part 1 again for the primary Face, and do part 2 as an alternate appearance)
  3. Fold the mask and place it on the other side of your face then you did for part 1
  4. Complete the two Face ID set up scans
  5. Put your mask on, covering your whole face
  6. Test out if it’s working
  7. Face ID should still work when you’re not wearing your mask as well

iPhone how to use Face ID with mask walkthrough 2

While we’ve found this to work in our testing, we haven’t been able to try it with a face shield. If try this out and are also able to test it with other PPE, let us know down in the comments!

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