New York’s mass transit agency wants Apple to solve Face ID iPhone mask issues

Apple with iOS 13.5 added a feature allowing iPhone owners to skip Face ID and get to the passcode screen immediately. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was not impressed. New York’s mass transit agency reportedly wants Apple to come up with a better way of unlocking iPhones for users that would work reliably even if they’re wearing a mask.

The Associated Press obtained the agency’s letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, that was sent Sunday, in which chairman Patrick Foye focuses on the fact that people are still required to remove their masks in order to unlock their iPhones with Face ID:

We understand Apple is working to address the issue and know that Apple has a range of technologies at its disposal as a global leader among tech companies. We urge Apple to accelerate the deployment of new technologies and solutions that further protect customers in the era of COVID-19.

I’m not sure how Apple could implement such a solution without degrading Face ID security.

Face ID only works if the user’s eyes, nose and mouth are fully visible to the infrared TrueDepth camera. Wearing a face mask covers the triangular area around your nose and mouth, which is crucial for Apple’s depth-based facial recognition system.

On the other hand, that tweak in iOS 13.5 for mask wearers is nothing to write home about: it simply lets you swipe up from the bottom edge of the display, or tap the “Face ID” text in the middle of the screen, to skip the facial scan session and invoke the passcode prompt without having to wait for five incorrect matches, which prompts Face ID to ask for the passcode.

The MTA requires all riders to wear masks and socially distance.

Image top of post via Xuanwu Lab