Auto Unlock Mac with Apple watch

Apple announced a major new feature for its upcoming macOS Sierra operating system for Macs on Monday at WWDC 2016, which will let you get into your Mac easier than you ever have before.

Dubbed Auto Unlock, it’s an extension of the Continuity feature between your mobile devices and your Mac.

Rather than being presented with a password entry interface from your Lock screen every time you wake up your Mac, Auto Unlock is going to let you get into your Mac as long as you have an authenticated device on your person – namely, when you’re wearing your Apple Watch.

Whenever you’re wearing the Apple Watch, it’s already authenticated as long as you haven’t taken it off recently. It stays authenticated until you actually take it off.

The Apple Watch can already use Touch ID from your iPhone, rather than its integrated passcode, to authenticate itself. In this sense, Touch ID can actively impact your Mac authentication as well. Keep in mind however, that you don’t need to use Touch ID from your iPhone or iPad to unlock your Mac directly like you would with third-party App Store apps like MacID.

After you’ve authenticated your Apple Watch, either by entering the passcode or by using Touch ID on your iPhone, you just need to keep wearing it. When you walk within Bluetooth proximity of your Mac, your computer is going to unlock for you automatically so you can start using it without even having to enter a password to get into it.

Afterwards, a notification will appear on your Mac and show that your Mac was unlocked. A Dismiss button will then appear, allowing you to dismiss the notification and get to using your computer.

It’s very much a secure way of getting into your Mac, because Auto Lock won’t unlock your Mac unless you’re wearing an authenticated Apple Watch. If your Apple Watch is being worn, but hasn’t been authenticated, then you don’t need to worry because your Mac won’t unlock.

This is a feature that appears to be limited to the Apple Watch only, so if you don’t own one, then Auto Unlock won’t be possible. You also cannot use third-party smart watches to unlock your Mac.

Are you excited to use Auto Unlock to get into your Mac? Share in the comments!

  • Feivl

    Why not unlock your Mac with your Iphone close?

    • Ds

      my thoughts exactly. I think it’s probably because Apple wants to make more Watch based apps to help boost sales.

    • Julio M.

      MacID, it’s free.

      • MacID is nice. But a whole lot more cumbersome than this could have been had Apple implemented it better.

      • Also it’s not free at all..

      • Yeah I got MacID when it first came out but it often seemed to lag and by the time it connected and authenticated (if it ever did) it was faster for me to just enter my password. When it worked it was great. I just felt like it was spotty enough I uninstalled it.

      • That’s too bad

    • More logical, why not with touchID?! Just like they demoed with applePay. It’s clearly super easy for them to code.

      • I think the rational is that your phone is the only thing capable of generating the one time use codes for Apple Pay. Your watch pre-authenticates and requests them securely from the phone when paired (Apple Watch doesn’t work for payments unless you have your phone with you). Since OS X doesn’t have a secure enclave with all that technology built in the only way to really do this is to talk to your phone and request one and since a computer is much harder to verify identity of the user it makes the most sense to require touch ID. I’m sure this will change in the future especially if we get a TouchID sensor directly on the Mac, but with current hardware it’s as simple as they are likely to get.

      • Shadowelite123

        That’s not true. The Apple Watch does work with payments even if you don’t have your phone on you. Just set it up and then you can disconnect and it will work. I’ve done it before many times.

      • Oh that’s good to know. I tried it once when my phone was dead and it failed and I had to revert to my credit card. Maybe it was just that vender? I’ll have to try again! Either way the point still stands that Apple Pay relies on hardware that is not available in the Mac so it would require either the watch or the Phone to authenticate.

      • That definitely sounds like the direction they’ll go

      • Brandon Brooks

        I thought of that until I actually used it. The phone would be more cumbersome.

        All I do is open my MacBook, and it’s ready to go, logged in. I do nothing. I don’t have to touch my watch at all.

        I can’t do that on my phone because my phone is locked until I click the home button and unlock by Touch ID. The watch is always unlocked when it’s on your wrist. Now, they could allow an iPhone to work this way, but just taking my phone out of my pocket and unlocking it takes about the same amount of time as entering a password.

    • It’s probably because the watch is already with you and authenticated and acts an an instant key without any extra interactions. Using your phone requires you to have it with you and to authenticate from your phone. So you’d have to pull out your phone and scan your thumbprint every time you wanted to open up your laptop. The watch is certainly the most elegant way to do this, and the extra steps in the phone may lead some to argue that it’s easier to just type a password or worse yet, not have one at all.

      • It could just prompt your phone as soon as your display goes on. Put your finger on the sensor and you’re in.

      • Sure I understand that. And if you use very long passwords like me then opening your computer, pulling the phone out of the pocket and scanning the fingerprint could be a time saver. But for simpler passwords it would probably be about the same time. And in either case it’s not nearly as fast as doing nothing 😉 Additionally I always have my watch with me, but I often don’t have my phone on me. I think it would have been nice for apple to offer this, but I understand why they went the route they did.

      • Options would have been nice that’s all. Some always have their phone near. Others have an Apple Watch, other don’t. Why not use whatever capable device the user has. But from the rumors it seems they’ll just make it a Macbook OLED bar/touchID to sell that feature better.

      • Options would be nice but remember this is the same Apple that puts the charging port on the bottom of the mouse so that you don’t have to see ports or wires on your desk (or buttons on your mouse for that matter).

        The watch method accomplishes making security something that fades 100% into the background whereas the phone method (while potentially more convenient for some users than entering passwords) still makes you do active work to unlock the device. For Apple it’s all about what get’s pain points completely out of the way and unfortunately the phone approach just doesn’t do that.

        Now that’s not an argument as to why Apple should or shouldn’t do it or even that it’s the right choice or not. I just believe that’s the reason Apple went with the Watch and not the phone at this point.

    • Nicholas Oldroyd

      @feivl:disqus Because if someone steals your iphone then they could unlock your Mac.

      Apple watch doesnt work this way. If the watch comes off your wrist it wont work anymore to unlock your Mac. When you put your watch on you have to use TouchID to activate it on your wrist so Apple Pay and Auto Unlock work.

  • James G

    My company IT will disable this. Bummer.

  • david

    Guys i don t understand. Mac can be unlocked and with iphone or only with apple watch. thanks

    • Carlos Santiago

      Only with apple watch.

  • Unknown

    How to set it up?

  • Squuiid

    Does anyone know how to actually enable this?

    • Tim Liu

      Same problem here, seems like it’s not working for me currently.

  • Greg R.

    Does one have to pair their Apple Watch with their Mac?

    • Brandon Brooks

      No. You just need to log into the same Cloud account on your mac and your iPhone and everything works.

  • Abraham Kim

    The GateKeeper will automatically lock your computer when you walk away. When the user walks back the computer will unlock.