When Face ID is not working with the mask on…

Joyce XR
2 min readJan 18, 2021

Due to COVID-19, users have to wear masks in public. It’s more challenging to use Face ID to unlock the phone. Under such circumstances, users would have moments to reply to a text message while walking dogs, to check the shopping list at grocery stores, or to buy a cup of coffee nearby. Like Jenny, iPhone users would have been through such frustrating experiences during the pandemic. In the near foreseeable future, we might have to face the fact that masks might be part of our normal life now. Then, Face ID failing frustration would be an inevitable issue that needs to be solved.

In fact, when we look back at the Apple products, Touch ID would be a great backup solution considering the pandemic.[1] However, iPhone X and more recent models have already get rid of this feature, but it’s fixable and technically achievable. Using a fingerprint to unlock the phone would be my first replaceable solution that comes to mind.

Secondly, if iPhones have Retina Scanner to unlock the phone or proceed with payment, it would be a useful feature considering the mask covers our nose and mouth, iris recognition would be a compromised solution based on current Face ID technology. [2] Retina scanning would be another convenient way to unlock the phone.

Also, Android phones have the “Smart Lock” feature, which allows users to unlock the phone near trusted Bluetooth devices. [3] In Apple’s case, like Apple Watch or Air Pods, users can just proceed with the payment or unlock the phone contactless and conveniently along with their trusted Bluetooth devices nearby.

At last, based on the current system and products, it would be unrealistic to recall all iPhone X and beyond products to upgrade/add Touch ID, Retina Scanner, or Smart Lock features. Apple needs to consider upgrading the current IOS system to adjust the circumstance that Face ID sometimes is not working. Instead of tying Face ID but failed for several times, an automated “3–4 digit verification code” pops up would be less frustrated for users to type in. The fewer users failed, the less frustration means users have better experiences.

I’m new to UX and passionate about it, hoping I could get sparkles and inspirations by learning after all talented UXers. Glad to know you! :)


[1] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201371

[2] https://www.computerworld.com/article/3545393/how-will-apple-replace-faceid-now-we-re-wearing-masks.html

[3] https://www.samsung.com/us/support/answer/ANS00062631/