The release version of the watchOS 7.4 software update for Apple Watch is now available. iPhone users are now able to use Apple Watch to replace Face ID and a passcode when wearing a facial covering like a mask.

Here’s how Apple describes the feature in Face ID and Passcode settings on the iPhone: 

iPhone can use your Apple Watch to unlock when Face ID detects a fact with a mask. Your Apple Watch must be nearby, on your wrist, unlocked, and protected by a passcode.

In practice, this feature is extremely convenient when frequently checking your iPhone in a public place where masks are required during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. readers, please keep in mind that vaccination distribution isn’t as far along in other countries around the world.)

For example, you can check your shopping list on your phone in the grocery store without entering your passcode a dozen times if you wear an Apple Watch with a passcode. If you unlock your Apple Watch via your iPhone with Face ID before you wear your mask, you can actually skip the step of entering a passcode on either device. 

While the feature is certainly prioritized while the world is working together on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it has practical uses in other situations where your face is partially obscured like wearing a helmet or facial covering for professional or cultural reasons.

watchOS 7.4 also brings support for the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications to Australia and Vietnam.

watchOS 7.4 for Apple Watch is available starting today. iOS 14.5 for iPhone is required for using the unlock feature. Apple Fitness+ also works with AirPlay sans live metrics like heart rate and activity data with the new watchOS and iOS versions.

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