iPhone can now recognize when you're wearing a face mask, streamlining unlocking process

Unlocking your iPhone while wearing a face covering is (hopefully) about to get a lot less frustrating.

In an iOS software update released Wednesday, Apple has rolled out a simplified process for unlocking your phone while you are masked. According to release notes posted to Apple's website, devices with the updated software will recognize that the user is wearing a face mask and will prompt the user to unlock the phone with his or her passcode.

The update is not described as one that will allow users wearing a face covering to use Face ID to entirely unlock the phone, but it should bring up the passcode unlock prompt more quickly than it used to. Users previously had to wait several seconds for Face ID to fail before the passcode prompt appeared.

The streamlined unlocking process will also be implemented within the App Store and other applications where users can use Face ID to sign in.

Apple and Google on Wednesday also released long-awaited smartphone technology to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The companies said 22 countries and several U.S. states are already planning to build voluntary phone apps using their software. It relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for the virus.

The identity of app users will be protected by encryption and anonymous identifier beacons that change frequently.

"User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps," the companies said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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