Apple’s iOS 14.5 will come with an exciting new way of unlocking your iPhone, but there are security considerations to take into account. Here’s what you need to know.
There’s no doubt about it—iOS 14.5 is going to be one of the biggest updates of Apple’s latest iPhone operating system. That’s because iOS 14.5 comes with an exciting new way of unlocking your phone while wearing a mask, and the game-changing anti-tracking privacy change that’s been in the making for months.
The iOS 14.5 iPhone unlock feature has been a long time coming. Apple users have been waiting for nearly a year now for an easy way to unlock their iPhones while out and about wearing a mask. Currently, Apple’s solution is clumsy—a feature in an iOS 13 update brings up your passcode when your iPhone detects your face is covered.
Many Apple users, including myself, were hoping for Touch ID’s return when the iPhone 12 launched last year. This didn’t happen of course, but the iPhone maker has now added what should be a more convenient way of opening your smartphone when you are wearing a mask, via your Apple Watch, coming soon in its next major iOS 14 update.
An easier way of unlocking your iPhone in iOS 14.5
So how does this soon-to-arrive iOS 14.5 feature work?
The secret is haptic feedback, the technology that allows you to unlock your MacBook using your Apple Watch. It’s easy to use, as long as several criteria are met, as 9to5Mac explains.
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For example, you must enable a passcode on your Apple Watch to open your iPhone with it, but you should only have to enter this when you put the watch on each day (unless you take it off). You’ll also need to enable the Apple Watch wrist detection feature to unlock your iPhone in iOS 14.5.
You can’t use the unlock feature to pay for things on your iPhone, but you shouldn’t need to do so anyway if you are wearing your watch.
Is the new iOS 14.5 feature secure?
The new iOS 14.5 feature is nifty, but it’s not, of course, as secure as Face ID, which is one reason Apple added the option to quickly “Lock iPhone” from your watch if you need to.
Indeed, 9to5Mac, which tried the feature out in the iOS 14.5 Beta, said: “It does not appear that this feature is scanning for your face at all.
“Instead, it is simply looking for a face mask, and when it registers a face mask—whether it’s on you or someone else—it will use proximity to unlock with your Apple Watch.”
But at the same time, The Guardian points out that users will still need to glance at their phone to confirm the unlock, and the strength of the Bluetooth signal between iPhone and Apple Watch will be measured to ensure they are being held by the same person.
iOS 14.5: Finding the balance between convenience and security
The iOS 14.5 feature will certainly be useful, but using it is a trade-off between security and convenience, says Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET. He warns: “Anything that even bypasses security remotely makes the device slightly more vulnerable.”
He says Touch ID would have been a stronger solution to the scenario of opening up your phone with a mask on, which he thinks is “far more secure as it reduces the chance of shoulder surfing people seeing any passcodes being entered.”
I agree, and I am still hoping for the return of Touch ID on the iPhone 13, especially after multiple rumors that the sought-after feature is making a return. Sadly, however, this iOS 14.5 feature could indicate that Apple is simply thinking longer term, and assuming we won’t be wearing masks in a year’s time.
For this reason, I am actually more excited about the other big feature coming in iOS 14.5, which builds on its recently launched privacy labels: The game-changing privacy move that forces the likes of Facebook to be more transparent about tracking you, and the option to turn this tracking off altogether.