Apple’s latest software update packs a bigger punch than the updates we usually get this time of year: iOS 14.5 is available as a free software update for the iPhone, and it delivers a new solution for unlocking your iPhone while wearing a mask.
For those who own an iPhone with Face ID, unlocking it while donning a face mask has proven to be rather difficult. Apple made it a bit quicker to enter a passcode with iOS 13.5, but it was a bandage, not a fix. The true fix: an Apple Watch.
Essentially, if you’re wearing an Apple Watch that’s paired to your iPhone and unlocked, the phone will use the watch to authenticate that it’s you. We’ve been testing the iOS 14.5 beta for over two months and even used the final version that’s available now. In our testing, it takes under half a second for the iPhone to unlock.
You’ll hold the iPhone up to your face, you’ll feel a slight vibration on your wrist and then the phone will unlock. Just swipe up, and you’re good to go. If it was accidental, you can lock the iPhone with a tap. This is very handy and solves a common problem for iPhone owners. Furthermore, we’ve found it really reliable and working without fault on final software.
It’s also pretty easy to turn it on. Navigate to Settings > Face ID and scroll to “Unlock with Apple Watch.” You’ll see your paired Apple Watch listed (in our case, “Jacob’s Apple Watch”) and can toggle the feature on or off. You’ll need to have a passcode enabled on your Apple Watch for this to work.
There is a cost involved here, and that is the Apple Watch. The good news is you don’t need a brand-new Series 6 (it’s not the cheapest, starting at $399) — this feature is supported on the Series 3, Series 4, Series 5 and SE.
The ability to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask is just a new addition to the many things that the Apple Watch can do. You can read our full reviews of the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE here.
There’s more to the story with iOS 14.5, though. Apple is rolling out new transparency around how apps can track you and what they can do with that information. You’ll now notice a prompt when using an app (likely on the first start) if you’re cool with being tracked or if you’d like it not to track. Apple is pushing developers to be transparent, and this update allows you to see what data is being requested.
Apple’s iOS 14.5 also brings a bevy of new emojis, including a heart on fire, head in the clouds, a new syringe and a couple kissing, among others. If you’ve preordered or are planning to get AirTags, Apple’s new item tracker, you’ll need iOS 14.5 to set one up. You can see our full review of the relatively affordable device here.
For Apple Fitness+ users, you’ll no longer need to buy an Apple TV or TV 4K to get your workouts on the big screen. You’ll be able to AirPlay the content to any capable screen. This is a big win and fixes a pain point from our original review. Siri will also no longer have a default voice within iOS; you can choose from four options that are more diverse than previous options. For now, this is just rolling out to English-speaking users.
You’ll notice some other speedups and new features, but these are the significant finds in iOS 14.5. You can head over to Settings > General > Software Update on your compatible iPhone or iPad to download and install the latest version of iOS. We recommend completing a backup to a Mac or iCloud before installing.