How to unlock your phone while wearing a face mask

Wearing a mask while out and about is going to help contain the spread of coronavirus. But it can also make it tricky to unlock your phone with your face.

Newer phones, like the iPhone 11 or Google Pixel 4, don’t have fingerprint scanners so rely on scanning your face to unlock the device. So unless you want to enter a PIN every time you open your phone, you’re going to need to configure it to work with a face mask.

Whether you use an iPhone or an Android device, the method is the same: You’ll need to reset your phone’s face unlock features with a mask to hand.

When you’re required to scan your face with your phone’s camera, make sure you have your surgical mask folded in half so it covers only one side of your face. While holding the mask in place, follow your phone’s face unlock enrolment instructions.

Once your setup process is complete, you should be able to unlock your phone with your mask on.


Researchers at Tencent found this process worked using an iPhone 11. To make it more accurate, there is an option on iPhones to add an ‘Alternative Appearance’ option. Select this and go through the process again with the mask held to the other side of your face to give the phone more chance of recognising you with a mask on.

Of course, different Android phones have different cameras and software interpreting the images. There’s no guarantee that this process will work on all of them.

Naturally, some creative types have been coming up with other ways to make the process easier – like printing the lower half of your face onto the mask itself.

This morning Matt Hancock denied that face masks would become mandatory in offices, but went on to emphasise the benefits of face coverings as he discussed the new guidance for shops.

He told Kay Burley: ‘One of the things we’ve learned about this virus is that there is more asymptomatic transmission than anybody thought of and there have also been developments in understanding the spread.

‘On masks, it’s a balanced decision, but there is a benefit of having a mask, especially a benefit to other people. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, it’s now clear you can transmit it.’

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