Cover How to unlock your iPhone without taking off your face mask (photo: d3sign/Getty Images)

The new iOS 14.5, in beta today, includes an important update that allows iPhone users to unlock their phone without removing face masks or keying in a code

In 2017, when Apple launched Face ID with its iPhone X debut, the new facial-recognition technology forever altered the ways users interact with their handheld devices—and opened a new world of possibilities in terms of mobile security and identity verification for iOS apps. No one could have ever predicted that three short years later, Face ID would be relegated to the sidelines during a pandemic year that saw so many people adopt face masks for everyday use. 

Swipe-up, fail, swipe-up, fail, swipe-up, enter passcode. 

In the early days of 2020, anyone using Face ID probably lost a few minutes in aggregate each day swiping up repeatedly, expecting their phones to recognize their facial features, before remembering they were wearing a mask and keying in their PINs. How many of us finally caved in and disabled the Face ID feature after weeks of hoping the recognition software would catch on? We've all gotten really good at typing in numbers on the on-screen keypad over the past few months. 

Related: Apple iOS 14: 5 Life-improving features to download now

Soon there will be an easier way to unlock your screens.

According to a report published by tech news website Pocket-lint, it will soon be possible for people to unlock their phones while leaving their face masks intact and without typing in their PINs. In iOS 14.5, currently in beta and the latest update to iOS 14, iPhone users who also use Apple Watch will be able to enable their phones to unlock when in close proximity to a paired Apple Watch. This functionality will also work with Apple Pay, but purchases on Apple shopping platforms (such as the App Store or the iTunes Store) will still require a password or PIN.

This feature is similar to an already available "auto unlock" Apple Watch feature that allow users to unlock their Macs using their Watches. 

"Auto Unlock works when you're wearing your unlocked watch and are very close to your Mac. If necessary, move your watch a little closer," the Apple Support page explains. The existing functionality also enables automatically entering your admin password and other system request approvals. "To automatically enter your password without having to type it, just double-click the side button on your Apple Watch."