Anyone wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic has noticed how their iPhone's Face ID system no longer recognizes them.
Typically it can then take a few seconds for the system to work out what's going on, then offer people the option to unlock their smartphone using a password or code instead. But now Apple has worked out how to shorten that pause.
As part of the new iOS 13.5 beta, which became available for developers this week, the iPhone and iPad operating system has been tweaked so that Face ID immediately recognizes when you are wearing a mask, and brings up the keyboard for your password more quickly.
It's an admittedly small change, but a welcome one to avoid the frustration of an iPhone not unlocking when you want it to, then stubbornly trying again with Face ID.
Alternatively, you could try teaching your iPhone's Face ID system to recognize you while wearing a mask. Researchers from Chinese firm Tencent discovered a way to make this work, which involves holding half a mask against your face while setting up Face ID.
The new beta also includes an option to adjust how Group Face ID works. Normally, the video of the person talking in the conversation automatically becomes the largest, with others shrinking into the background. But now there is an option in the Settings app to switch this feature off. That way, each person has the same amount of screen space, whether they are talking or not — a layout that is the same as rivals like Zoom.
Finally, the new beta software from Apple now includes an on/off switch in the Settings menu called Covid-19 Exposure Notifications. This is related to the API jointly created by Apple and Google, granting public health applications the ability to autonomously track your location and alert you if you have come into close contact with someone with Covid-19. Apple has also built its own site, independently, offering people updates on the virus as well as testing information.
"[Your] iPhone is using Bluetooth to securely share your random IDs with nearby devices and collect their IDs," said Apple, explaining the system when it's working. "This enables an app to notify you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Random IDs are deleted after 14 days. Apps you authorize can notify you if you're exposed to COVID-19. You can also choose to anonymously share your COVID-19 diagnosis."
While the foundations for contact-tracing apps are now in place in iOS, the applications are currently still being built by government health organizations and are due out in the coming weeks.
Similarly, while the iOS 13.5 beta is available now for developers to use, the operating system won't be released to the public just yet. We expect to see Apple release it publicly in May, likely timed to when contracting tracing programs will be launched as well.
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