iOS 13.5 Update Adds Face ID Bypass for Masks

By Chand Bellur

April 30, 2020 at 6:10 p.m. PT

  • With over a million COVID-19 cases and more than 62,000 deaths, the novel coronavirus pandemic has shut down much of the nation.
  • Masks can help stop the spread of the disease by containing respiratory droplets.
  • Face ID doesn’t work if the user is wearing a mask.
  • Apple’s next version of iOS, 13.5, allows users to bypass Face ID quickly when wearing a mask.

Apple Adds Face ID Bypass for Mask Wearers

Times have changed dramatically. In most parts of the world, non-essential businesses and public facilities are off-limits. If you’re going to an essential business, such as a supermarket, a mask may be required.

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets. As long as you’re six feet away from an infected person, you should be fine. There are times, however, where it’s not possible to practice social distancing. In these situations, wearing a mask protects the wearer from infecting others. It does not protect the mask wearer from infection, unless it’s an N95 mask.

Researchers recently discovered that COVID-19 spreads most effectively immediately before the infected develop symptoms. Apparently healthy individuals can spread the disease. In fact, they often spread it more effectively than some symptomatic individuals.

Masks help stop the spread of COVID-19; however, they hinder Apple’s Face ID technology. Users are either required to remove their face covering or wait for Face ID to show the passcode prompt. This inconvenience can also be unsafe in a supermarket, as Apple Pay employs Face ID technology.

Given the dilemma, Apple has a simple solution. The next iOS release will allow users to bypass Face ID by swiping up on the screen. This gesture displays the passcode screen, allowing the user to authenticate.

Currently, iOS 13.5 is in beta. It’s unclear when Apple will release the next version of iOS to the public. When the release is available, your iPhone will prompt you to update your device.

Touch ID May Boost iPhone SE Sales

Until now, Face ID was considered superior to Touch ID in every aspect. The feature required little user interaction. Hold the iPhone up to your face, and it just worked.

Face ID requires an array of projectors and sensors embedded on the iPhone’s front panel. These components are expensive compared to Touch ID’s relatively simple fingerprint scanner and secure enclave. Unfortunately, people around the world may be required to wear masks for several months. Apple’s Face ID workaround renders the coolest feature of new iPhones useless.

If you can’t use Face ID, top-of-the-line iPhone models only offer superior camera capabilities and larger screens. It’s a hard sell for a device that costs much more than an iPhone SE.

The iPhone SE will likely enjoy increased consumer adoption. Some may even ditch their more sophisticated iPhones for an iPhone SE. Touch ID works, with or without a mask. Coincidentally designed for the pandemic, the iPhone SE seems to be a smart choice for today’s reality.

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