Apple Releases First watchOS 7.4 Public Beta With iPhone Unlocking Feature

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming watchOS 7.4 update to public beta testers, with the new beta coming a few days after the release of the first developer beta.

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The ‌watchOS 7‌.4 update can be downloaded after upgrading your iPhone to the public beta version of iOS 14.5. After installing iOS 14.5, the watchOS 7.4 software should show up as long as you have the Apple Watch profile installed. To update to the new software, the ‌Apple Watch‌ needs to have 50 percent battery life, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌iPhone‌‌‌‌‌‌‌.

Alongside iOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4 introduces a new "Unlock with Apple Watch" feature that lets an ‌iPhone‌ with Face ID use an unlocked and authenticated Apple Watch as a secondary authentication measure when you're wearing a mask, alleviating the need to enter a passcode to unlock the ‌iPhone‌.

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Face ID does not work when wearing a mask, but this new Apple Watch feature provides an easy but still secure way to access the ‌iPhone‌ without the hassle of a passcode. It's similar to the Apple Watch unlocking on Mac and can be enabled in the Settings app under Face ID & Passcode.

An unlocked Apple Watch paired with Face ID can unlock the ‌iPhone‌ when a mask is worn, but it's only for mask usage. The Apple Watch cannot be used to authenticate Apple Pay or App Store purchases, nor can it be used to unlock apps that require a Face ID scan. In these situations, the mask will need to be removed or a passcode/password will need to be used instead.

iphone apple watch unlock 2
When the Apple Watch unlocks the ‌iPhone‌, you'll feel a haptic tap on the wrist and will receive a notification on the watch, similar to how it works when using the watch to unlock a Mac.

For those who use Apple Fitness+, the watchOS 7.4 update combined with iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 enables AirPlay 2 for Apple Fitness+, so workouts can be streamed to an ‌AirPlay‌ 2-enabled TV or set-top box. Apple Watch metrics do not show up on the screen when AirPlayed, however, and that feature is limited to ‌iPhone‌/iPad/Apple TV.

watchOS 7.4 is going to be available in a beta capacity for several weeks, with Apple planning to release the update in the early spring.

Related Roundups: watchOS 7, watchOS 8

Top Rated Comments

BC2009 Avatar
8 months ago
I think it’s hilarious that this article points out that you cannot use your watch to unlock Apple Pay on the phone. If I am wearing my watch I am going to use that 100% of the time to pay at a terminal over using my iPhone — especially since Face ID made Apple Pay at a terminal way more awkward than Touch ID and then it went from awkward to unusable with masks.

Apple Watch is by far the best way to use Apple Pay. I still have people look in me in awe and say “you can pay with the Apple Watch?” because they have been paying with their iPhone “like an animal”.

Only time to use Apple Pay on the phone is when shopping on a website in safari that takes Apple Pay. So not very often.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
farewelwilliams Avatar
8 months ago
Can't wait until I pull out my iPhone that waits for a response from my Apple Watch only to fail after 5 seconds like my MacBook does.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
windywalks Avatar
8 months ago
I've had the developer beta for a couple of hours now and I've had a slight delay maybe once or twice out of countless times I pulled the phone out of my pocket to unlock it with my masked face, iPhone 11 Pro Max and Watch Series 4 combo.
I'm totally on board with this solution - typing in my passcode felt like regressing back to the iPhone 4 times.
This brings back the comfort we've had in the first place.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coachgq Avatar
8 months ago
But it wasn’t a mistake they could see coming and personally, without the mask, I prefer faceID over touchID all day.

Agreed. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or what, but this happens all the time. They're like 6 inches from each other and still nothing.

I applaud any way to unlock with a mask, but this just makes it even more obvious that abandoning TouchID was a terrible mistake, IMO.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GDF Avatar
8 months ago

Also it only works on wifi
What does? Apple Watch can unlock iPhone with mask on cellular or WiFi.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gizmotoy Avatar
8 months ago

But it wasn’t a mistake they could see coming and personally, without the mask, I prefer faceID over touchID all day.
I understand some like it, but it adds so much latency to getting into the phone. It's not a dealbreaker, but I can't think of a single advantage it offers over TouchID (at least for how I use my phone - I'm curious why you like it more). IMO it's what we have to put up with in exchange for an edge-to-edge screen, not a feature unto itself. With TouchID the phone is unlocked before it's even all the way out of my pocket. The speed is improved on the 12s, but it's impossible to compete with "already unlocked." Then the mask stuff happened and added an even more severe check in the Cons column.

Really hoping the iPhone 13 TouchID rumor is true.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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