Apple is releasing beta iPhone software so users can unlock their phones while wearing a face mask.
On Wednesday, the technology behemoth said that iPhone users will be able to unlock their phones without using FaceID. The update comes as a response to people having trouble unlocking their devices because of how they have to wear masks as a precaution against the novel coronavirus.
Currently, in order to unlock an iPhone, one needs to pull their mask down so that the FaceID feature can recognize their face and grant access. The phones can also have a slow lag time when they aren’t able to detect a user’s face, reports NBC News.
In the brand new iOS beta 3 code, the passcode field is brought right to the main screen. If someone is wearing a mask, they can just swipe up and enter the code — and skip the annoying lag from facial recognition. However, those who aren’t wearing protective equipment can still unlock the phone with FaceID.
Apple software developers posted video clips to Twitter on April 29 showing how the new feature would work. The video shows that the iPhone would automatically be prompted to use the passcode if it notices that the user has a mask, per the New York Post.
There's also apparently a new feature that lets you skip directly to passcode if you have a mask on
— kif (@kifleswing) April 29, 2020
The beta also includes new software that will make building apps easier to let users know if they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
While the initiative came due to customer complaints, it is also a preventative measure. The update eliminates the potential spread of the disease from users taking off their masks. As well, it will reduce contact with other people. iPhone tools such as Apple Pay will allow contactless payments, which would help with social distancing.
A recent Australian study found that the average smartphone has hundreds of different bacteria strains. Knowing that COVID-19 is very contagious, Apple hopes that this change will help prevent the spread of the virus.
“People have to understand that mobile phones are Trojan horses for microbial presence,” said Dr. Lotti Tajouri of Bond University in Brisbane.
“If you touch a contaminated phone, you are contaminating yourself all over again,” he warned, pointing out that this is possible even after washing one’s hands “hundreds of times.”
Since the feature is still in the beta stage, it may be a while before an official version launches, NBC News noted. Apple has not announced when it will be released.