Apple has released the latest beta version of iOS 13, which includes an adjustment to the Face ID biometric authentication system in which if a user is wearing a face mask they can skip the process and go straight to the passcode screen.
The change comes at a time when a growing number of people are wearing face masks as a precaution against the COVID-19 virus that has spread to all corners of the globe.
Before this update, users wearing masks that partially obscured their faces would find Face ID unable to recognize them, and would need to wait for the system to re-attempt biometric authentication several times before eventually asking for their passcode.
Aside from the inconvenience of having to wait 10 to 15 seconds to unlock your phone each time, there is also the concern that users would grow impatient with the process and simply remove their masks to authenticate faster, which could be potentially dangerous, especially for those working in healthcare facilities where the potential exposure to COVID-19 could be much greater.
The need for this change is also exacerbated by the fact that anyone who owns an iPhone X, XS, or 11 doesn’t have the option to use fingerprint authentication since Apple decided to drop Touch ID in favor of Face ID with the release of the iPhone X in 2017.
Apple did, however, re-introduce Touch ID to its iPhone line with the launch of last month’s iPhone SE (though that device doesn’t feature Face ID), and there are numerous reports that the 5G iPhone 12 will feature both Face ID and Touch ID, in the form of an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.
iOS beta 13.5 is rolling out for developers now, though the changes it brings should become available in the standard non-beta release of iOS in the coming weeks.