watchOS 7.4 beta 3 with iPhone mask unlock feature for Apple Watch now available

The third developer beta version of the upcoming watchOS 7.4 software update for Apple Watch is now available. iPhone users will especially appreciate this update as it allows the Apple Watch to replace Face ID and a passcode when wearing a facial covering.

Here’s how Apple describes the feature in Face ID and Passcode settings on the iPhone:

iPhone can use your Apple Watch to unlock when Face ID detects a fact with a mask. Your Apple Watch must be nearby, on your wrist, unlocked, and protected by a passcode.

In practice, this feature is extremely convenient when frequently checking your iPhone in a public place where masks are required during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, you can check your shopping list on your phone in the grocery store without entering your passcode a dozen times if you wear an Apple Watch with a passcode. If you unlock your Apple Watch via your iPhone with Face ID before you wear your mask, you can actually skip the step of entering a passcode on either device.

While the feature is certainly prioritized while the world is working together on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it has practical uses in other situations where your face is partially obscured like wearing a helmet or facial covering for professional or cultural purposes.

watchOS 7.4 for Apple Watch is currently in beta. iOS 14.5 for iPhone is required for using the unlock feature. Apple Fitness+ also works with AirPlay sans live metrics like heart rate and activity data with the upcoming watchOS and iOS versions. Both software updates will likely be available later this month or early next month.

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