Apple Explains How Unlocking iPhone With Apple Watch Works

With the launch of iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, Apple introduced a feature that's designed to allow people wearing masks to unlock their iPhones with a paired and authenticated Apple Watch, alleviating the need to continually enter a passcode.

Unlock With Apple Watch Feature
Apple has published a support document outlining how the feature works and the requirements that enable it to function. Apple says that the Apple Watch unlocking process is not using Face ID to recognize and authenticate you, so the same facial scan that allows ‌Face ID‌ to unlock your phone isn't happening here.

There are a specific set of requirements that allow the Apple Watch to authenticate your identity for unlocking an iPhone. You'll need an ‌iPhone‌ X or later with iOS 14.5 or later and an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with watchOS 7.4 or later, which must be paired together.

Both WiFi and Bluetooth need to be activated for communication between the ‌iPhone‌ and the Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch needs to have a passcode and wrist detection must be enabled. Unlock with Apple Watch needs to be expressly turned on for it to function, and you can find the feature in Settings > ‌Face ID‌ & Passcode.

For the Apple Watch to authenticate your identity the watch needs to be on your wrist and unlocked, and you need to be wearing a mask that covers both the mouth and the nose, presumably to signal to the ‌iPhone‌ to use the secondary unlocking method rather than ‌Face ID‌.

To unlock the ‌iPhone‌ with the Apple Watch, you need to wake your ‌iPhone‌ by raising it or tapping the screen, and then glance at it to unlock. The requirement to glance at the ‌iPhone‌ is meant to prevent the feature from working when you're not close by your ‌iPhone‌, and though not mentioned by Apple, there definitely seems to also be a proximity requirement because it will tell you if you're not close enough to your phone.

This is a feature that can allow someone else that's not you to unlock your ‌iPhone‌ if they're near you, have your ‌iPhone‌, and are wearing a mask, so enabling it should be done with caution if other people have access to your device and you're worried about security.

It's worth noting that Unlock with Apple Watch only works for unlocking the ‌iPhone‌. It does not verify identity for use with Apple Pay, passwords in Keychain, or password-protected apps, which will require either ‌Face ID‌ or your passcode.

Though not as secure as ‌Face ID‌, Unlock with Apple Watch is a convenient option for those who are tired of having to enter a passcode on their devices while wearing a mask.

Related Forum: iOS 14

Top Rated Comments

alexandr Avatar
23 months ago
the watch gives you a haptic when your phone is unlocked this way and gives you the ability to lock it back up, so i don't think security is that much of an issue.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
techfreak23 Avatar
23 months ago

Honestly, the ONLY reason I needed to unlock my phone with a mask on is to use the Face ID on phone for Apple Pay to pay for something when I was in an establishment and had to wear a mask.

this doesn’t even work for that and that’s the main use case during COVID

aside from this it’s kinda useless
If you already have an Apple Watch and it’s with you at the grocery store while wearing a mask, why not just use the Apple Pay on your Watch…? I don’t get what the problem is with all of these people crying that it doesn’t work with Apple Pay. You have Apple Pay setup on your phone, but not your watch? What is the logic behind that? The security risk of authenticating Apple Pay on the phone this way is far greater than whatever “inconvenience” you people might be feeling. Setup Apple Pay on your Watch! That’s what it’s there for! Double clicking the side button is much faster than pulling out the phone anyway.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LeadingHeat Avatar
23 months ago
It seems to work flawlessly for me so far! Glad that it’s opt-in, that increases the security of it greatly. It seems to recognize anyone wearing a mask, not just you. (If someone tries to unlock your phone it will, if you have this feature enabled.) You get a haptic feedback tap from your watch, and there’s an option to quickly lock your iPhone again if if wasn’t you. (It then requires the iPhone’s passcode to unlock it after that, Apple Watch unlocking is disabled until the phone is unlocked again).

Overall very well thought through! I’m happy with it and it’s a welcome addition to this crazy time we live in.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Vance9991 Avatar
23 months ago
I absolutely love this feature already.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dojoman Avatar
23 months ago

Why not just make it happen like with the Mac . Why only iPhones with Face ID and mask on? So stupid
Do you carry your Mac in your pocket?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Oohara Avatar
23 months ago

I absolutely love this feature already.
Same here. Wish we had it a year ago - and now that we do, boy do I wish we soon won't need it anymore.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iphone 15 pro wifi 6e

Internal Apple Document From Leaker 'Unknownz21' Confirms Wi-Fi 6E Will Be Limited to iPhone 15 Pro Models

Friday January 27, 2023 10:01 am PST by
Multiple rumors have suggested that the next-generation iPhone 15 models will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard that Apple has already introduced in the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, and now a leaked document appears to confirm Apple's plans. Sourced from researcher and Apple leaker Unknownz21 (@URedditor), the document features diagrams of the iPhone 15's antenna architecture. D8x refers to the...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 8 Features

Friday January 27, 2023 2:11 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least eight exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the eight features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...
top stories 28jan2023

Top Stories: iOS 16.3 Released, iPhone 15 Pro Rumors, macOS Tips and Tricks, and More

Saturday January 28, 2023 6:00 am PST by
Following last week's hardware announcements, this week saw the actual release of several of the new products as well as operating system updates bringing new features and bug fixes across Apple's platforms. This week also saw some fresh rumors about the iPhone 15 lineup and Apple's upcoming AR/VR headset, while we shared some tips to help you get the most of your macOS experience, so read...
Multi Display CarPlay 1

Apple Launching All-New CarPlay Experience Later This Year With These 5 Features

Sunday January 29, 2023 10:15 am PST by
In June 2022, Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, promising deeper integration with vehicle functions like A/C and FM radio, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, personalization options, and more. Apple says the first vehicles with support for the next-generation CarPlay experience will be announced in late 2023, with committed automakers including Acura, Audi,...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Max MacBook Pro

Thursday January 26, 2023 12:14 pm PST by
New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with the latest M2 Pro and M2 Max chips are available in Apple retail stores and are already in the hands of customers, and we picked up one of the new M2 Max machines to answer all of the questions MacRumors readers considering a purchase might have. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Yesterday, we asked MacRumors fans on...
iPhone 15 General Mock Feature

Kuo: iPhone 15 Models to Adopt Wi-Fi 6E

Thursday January 26, 2023 5:09 pm PST by
The upcoming iPhone 15 models that are set to be introduced later in 2023 will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note about Apple's work on a Wi-Fi chip, Kuo said that the company will upgrade the iPhone 15 to Wi-Fi 6E. Apple is already using Wi-Fi 6E for the 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models introduced last year, along with the new Mac mini and...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Expected to Feature Wi-Fi 6E Like Latest Macs and iPad Pro

Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:39 pm PST by
The iPhone 15 will support Wi-Fi 6E, according to a research note shared this week by Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Tom O'Malley. The analysts did not specify whether the feature will be available on all models or limited to the Pro models. Apple has added Wi-Fi 6E support to a handful of devices so far, including the latest 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook...