Your Apple Watch can unlock your iPhone when you’re wearing a mask – here’s how

watchOS 7.4 update brings handy new feature
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Apple watchOS 7.4 has landed and it’s brought some big new features to Apple’s smartwatch.

The key headline feature is Apple Watch unlock, which means that when wearing your Apple smartwatch, you can bypass the Face ID and passcode on your iPhone when wearing a face mask. That’s exciting for those frustrated by the added difficulty of accessing your iPhone while wearing a face mask.

Granted, humanity has managed to produce and deploy a COVID-19 vaccine faster than Apple has managed to get this fix into beta and onto devices – but consider it a ‘pain point’ solved.

It works in a similar way to Apple Watch unlock for Mac, so you’ll need to be wearing your Apple Watch and it should be unlocked using the PIN code.

Once activated, iPhone Face ID (on iPhone X and later) will look for the presence of a mask and then unlock.

We’ve tested it and it works seamlessly. It will, however, unlock if anyone wearing a mask attempts to access your phone. You should get a message on your Apple Watch to say your iPhone has been unlocked, although we did find the haptic vibration sometimes wasn't accompanied by a message.

How to enable iPhone unlock with Apple Watch

Once the feature is installed, you’ll need to enable it:

1. On your iPhone head to Settings

2. Tap Face ID and Passcode

3. Turn on Unlock With Apple Watch

4. Accept warning

More watchOS 7.4 and dance badges

There are some other minor changes, and you can now use Apple Fitness+ without live metrics on screen.

What’s more, friends in Australia and Thailand can now get ECG and irregular heart rate notifications on Apple Watch Series 5/6.

To get the new features you’ll need to have iOS 14.5 running on your iPhone, after which you should see the update ready on Apple Watch. To check, head to the Watch companion app on iPhone and go to General > Software Update.

And finally there’s some new badges to be earned on Apple Watch. Users can earn a limited edition award and stickers for Messages by recording a Dance workout of 20 minutes or more, in honor of International Dance Day on 29 April. Boogie on down.

TAGGED Apple Watch

How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

Related stories