Apple tweaked its facial recognition system to make it easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask.
The tweak included in iOS 13.5, which was released on Wednesday, is subtle. Users with up-to-date software will now see an opportunity to enter their passcode or password when they swipe up and FaceID doesn't work. Previously, when Face ID couldn't identify a face, it would try again before displaying the passcode screen, causing a slight delay.
The new feature is a sign that Apple is aware that its FaceID software, which has been a key selling point for new iPhones since 2017, is significantly less useful when people are wearing masks. The software can't identify a face if its mouth and nose are covered, and most recent iPhones don't have a fingerprint sensor.
Face masks are increasingly being required as a condition to enter private businesses or to be in public in certain states. The CDC says that masks can help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus even from people who don't feel sick.
There's no setting you need to turn on the new face mask unlock feature — you simply need to download the latest software to your iPhone, iOS 13.5, in Settings > General > Software Update.
The update also includes the technology needed for governments to make digital contact tracing and exposure notification apps which are intended to help track and slow the spread of coronavirus.