Apple's next software update will allow iPhone and iPad users to unlock their devices with Face ID without first removing their masks—but the company said users may not be as easily recognized since the update uses less biometric information.
iPhone and iPad users will be able to use Face ID with a mask
In 2017, Apple launched its 3-D facial recognition system to allow users to conveniently unlock their Apple devices. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the feature became a headache when users were forced to remove their masks whenever they wanted to unlock their iPhones or iPads, Bloomberg reports.
To address this complaint, Apple has been beta testing an updated version of the Face ID feature for iPhone and iPads. The updated feature will likely be included in iOS 15.4, which is expected to be released during the first half of March, and will ensure users can use 3-D facial recognition on their devices without having to first remove their masks in public.
Typically, facial recognition software works by comparing the measurements of different facial features in an image to those in at least one other image, CNN Business reports.
Apple's 3-D facial recognition software compares a stored image of the device owner's face with the image taken when they attempt to unlock their device. The new update will identify users based on the portion of the face above the nose, largely focusing on the eye region.
According to Apple, the updated version of Face ID uses less biometric information, meaning there may be circumstances in which a user is not as easily recognized as they would be without a mask.
However, CNN Business noted that the timing of this update may be somewhat ironic since many states have started easing Covid-19 restrictions and lifting mask mandates.
How well does the Face ID update work?
CNN Business writer Samantha Murphy Kelly downloaded an early version of the update and tested it while wearing a variety of masks, including patterned masks, KN95 masks, masks with fake beards, and even one with Kevin McCallister's face from the movie "Home Alone."
According to Kelly, Face ID worked on the first attempt with most of the masks she tested—but not consistently. In fact, she was frequently prompted to type in a passcode after Face ID failed to unlock her phone.
According to Apple, the software update is designed to work with a hat and eyeglasses, but it may also work with sunglasses in certain situations. When testing the update with both a hat and sunglasses, Kelly found the Face ID worked about half of the time. (Kelly, CNN Business, 2/17; McKay, Bloomberg, 2/17)