Using Face ID while wearing a mask requires relatively recent hardware. Consult this list of iPhone models that support Face ID with a mask to see if yours is compatible.
- Apple on March 15, 2022, launched iOS 15.4 for its iPhone. Among other perks, the refreshed software improves the usefulness of Apple’s Face ID feature in the age of the pandemic. With it, you can unlock your device while wearing a face mask without needing to also wear an Apple Watch on your person.
- Face ID normally scans the area around your nose and mouth. To make the new feature work, Apple has had to train its algorithm to recognize the user even if they are wearing a face mask or other coverings that block their mouth and nose.
- Face ID optimized for face masks focuses on the unique characteristics around your eyes. Aside from unlocking the phone, you can also use this feature to authenticate apps and use Apple Pay like you would with regular Face ID.
Why does Face ID with a mask need a fast chip?
Regular Face ID works on any Face ID-equipped models from the iPhone X onward. Face ID with a mask, on the other hand, requires relatively new hardware. That’s because the system analyzes more complex facial features than regular Face ID and is, therefore, more computationally intensive. Read: How to use Face ID with a mask
According to Apple’s support document, using Face ID while wearing a mask in iOS 15.4 and later can only be set up and used on the iPhone 12 and later. More precisely, the feature needs Apple’s A14 Bionic chip that provides significant improvements in terms of machine learning acceleration. Apple could’ve made using Face ID with a mask work on older chipsets, but that would’ve made scanning too slow.
These iPhone models support Face ID with face masks
So summing up, using Face ID while wearing a face-covering such as a face mask only works on the latest iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models:
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 13 mini
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
In other words, iPhone 11 or older owners are out of luck: They won’t be able to use iOS 15.4’s enhanced Face ID to unlock their phone while wearing a face mask.
If that’s the situation you’re currently in, you may want to buy an Apple Watch. With an Apple Watch on your wrist, you can unlock your iPhone even while wearing a face mask or sunglasses. Read: How to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch
Why wont’ Face ID with a mask work on iPad Pro?
Unlocking your Apple tablet with Face ID while wearing a mask is currently unsupported across iPads equipped with Apple’s TrueDepth camera. At the time of writing, even the most recent fifth-generation iPad Pro, launched in 2021, wasn’t supported. “But how could that be,” you might be wondering, “the 2021 iPad Pro runs Apple’s M1 chip!” Well, there’s just one slight problem: the M1 is based on the A13, which is one chip generation below what Apple requires for Face ID with a mask.
We’ve tried to set up the feature on our iPad Pro, to no avail. Corroborating our finding, it isn’t listed in Apple’s release notes for iPadOS 15.4. Of course, the iPhone maker could extend this feature to iPads in the future, if it wanted to. If and when the company does so, we’ll make sure to update this article to reflect new information.