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Keep Face ID on the iPhone after we stop wearing masks



One of the hassles iPhone users with the Face ID unlock feature, um, face during a pandemic is that it doesn’t work when wearing a mask. And that means having to either remove or lower the mask, which defeats the purpose of wearing it in the first place. Or, yes, tapping out a passcode.

As part of the recent iOS 13.5 software update, or, if you waited, the 13.5.1 release with “important security updates” that came out today, Apple made it so the passcode field more immediately surfaces after you swipe up from the bottom of the Lock screen when you are wearing a mask.

Of course, you’re still left having to tap in the passcode to unlock the screen, or when you’re completing a purchase via Apple Pay.

My former USA TODAY colleague Jefferson Graham is so frustrated with all of this that he recorded a podcast asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to get rid of Face ID whenever the next iPhones come out, even if we’re no longer wearing masks.

I’m telling Tim to keep the feature.

On my mask-less mug, Face ID works reliably most of the time, even in the dark and even when I’m donning shades. But Jeff tells me that Face ID fails him about 80 percent of the times he tries it, which, sorry my friend, I have a hard time buying.

What the two of us do agree on is that when we are wearing a mask, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on older iPhones or the recently launched iPhone SE is an easier way to unlock the device. Again, when we are wearing a mask.

But let me remind you that Apple says Face ID is way more secure than Touch ID. The company’s assertion is the chance that any other person could unlock your device using Face ID is 1 in 1 million, compared to one in 50,000 for Touch ID.

Where does this leave us?


I say why should there be only a single method for unlocking the screen (besides the passcode we have to enter anyway whenever we power up the device?)

So don’t ditch Face ID. But on the next iPhones (which if Apple sticks to the usual playbook we’ll see in September) how about also embedding a fingerprint sensor into the display? Such biometric systems already exist on a number of Samsung Galaxy, Huawei, OnePlus and other smartphones?

And why not also give an iPhone user an option such as Google’s Smart Lock feature? It lets you keep an Android phone unlocked in certain presumably secure situations, such as when you’re in your house. You only have to unlock the phone once, using a PIN, pattern or, yes, the dreaded password.

Whose side are you on in the Face ID debate?