Apple releases watchOS 7.4 with Face ID unlock assistance

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Apple has issued an update for watchOS 7.4, one which adds support for a Face ID feature in iOS 14.5 to unlock an iPhone when the user wears a face mask.

The update can be installed automatically to the Apple Watch, or can be triggered to download manually. A manual download can be forced by opening the Apple Watch app on their iPhone, selecting My Watch then General followed by Software Update, then select Install.

Once downloaded to the iPhone, the Apple Watch has to be placed on a charger and have sufficient charge to allow the update to install.

The update can also be installed from the Apple Watch itself, by accessing the Settings app and selecting General, then Software Update, then Install. Again, users have to place the Apple Watch on charge for it to install.

Helping Face ID dealing with face masks

The main addition to watchOS in version 7.4 is the addition of support for a Face ID feature on an iPhone running iOS 14.5. Apple introduced a mechanism that will use the presence of an Apple Watch as a confirmation of the user's identity in cases where a face mask interferes with Face ID.

A new option in the iPhone Settings app's Face ID & Passcode menu will offer to "Unlock with Apple Watch," which has to be enabled for the feature to work. When triggered, the Apple Watch will display a notice stating it is unlocking the iPhone, and present a button to re-lock the iPhone if required.

Earlier update

Apple's last update to watchOS was on February 15, with watchOS 7.3.1 fixing a charging issue in some Apple Watch models. The watchOS 7.3 update from January 26 added the Unity watch face, Time to Walk for Apple Fitness+, an update to the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications, and a Control Center fix.

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