iOS 13.5 beta speeds up iPhone sign-ins while wearing a mask

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iOS 13.5 makes signing into your iPhone wearing a mask.faster.
All kinds of people are wearing masks these days, and it’ll soon be easier to access your iPhone while wearing one.
Photo: cottonbro/Pexels

Unlocking your iPhone while wearing a protective mask might get a little quicker in iOS 13.5. Apple released a new beta of this upcoming version Wednesday, and it includes a neat trick that skips Face ID to immediately ask for a passcode if it detects the user is wearing a mask.

Quicker iPhone sign-ins with a mask on

Normally, when someone picks up their iPhone, Face ID recognizes them. All it takes to start using the device is flicking up from the bottom of the screen. But the COVID-19 pandemic has many people wearing protective masks as a matter of course. And the face coverings interfere with Face ID.

Now, for someone with a mask on, Face ID will spend about a second trying to recognize them, then switch the screen so they can enter their passcode for identification. But with an iPhone running the new iOS 13.5 beta 3, Face ID immediately recognizes that the user is wearing a mask and instantly switches to the passcode screen. The difference is only about a second, but this should be a welcome change for anyone who picks up their phone a dozen or more times a day.

Apple’s tweak was first noticed by 9to5Mac, and Cult of Mac tested it and confirms that it works.

It’s also possible to train Face ID to recognize you while wearing a mask, a process that doesn’t depend on the iOS 13.5 beta. It does require folding or cutting a mask in half, though.

An iOS tweak for developers only

Only paying members of Apple’s developer program got access to iOS 13.5 beta 3 on Wednesday. But Apple likely will release a public version soon.

The major new feature in this prerelease version is also related to COVID-19. Today’s beta gives developers their first look at the coronavirus contact-tracing tool that Apple is creating in cooperation with Google. The API enables Bluetooth “chirps” to anonymously track physical interactions between smartphone users. If an individual finds out they are infected with COVID-19, the system would notify other smartphone users who had come into close proximity with them.

The opt-in system could help slow the spread of the disease by warning people of potential infections.