Apple watchOS 7.4 makes unlocking your iPhone a breeze

WatchOS7.4 is rolling out as we are writing this. This update is more than just bug fixes. It brings an easier way to unlock your phone, some settings tweaks and more.

Here’s a screen-shot of the changes.

Unlock with Apple Watch feature

The most important upgrade is the ability to unlike your iPhone X or later with Face ID while wearing a mask. Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic means we are often walking around with masks on our faces. And Face ID does not work as intended when wearing a mask which can make it a hassle to unlock your phone.

With this update there’s a new “Unlock with Apple Watch” option in the iPhone’s Face ID and Passcode settings section. You’ll need to turn this on to use the feature. It allows you to bypass Face ID and a omit the need to enter a passcode when wearing a mask. Just make sure you watch is close to and paired with an iPhone X and above with iOS 14.5 installed.

This doesn’t mean your face can be totally covered. The eyes and a few other features will still need to be visible. But it makes the process much easier as there’s no need to remove your mask. You’ll feel a haptic tap on your wrist when your watch unlocks your phone, similar to how it works when unlocking a Mac computer.

The caveat is that this type of authentication cannot be used for purchases or to unlock apps that require Face ID to open. In this case you’ll either need to remove your mask or type your password.

Other updates

Also arriving with watchOS 7.4 is ability to stream audio and video content from Apple Fitness+ workouts to AirPlay 2 enabled devices. There’s now a way to classify a Bluetooth device type in Settings. This should help with correct identification of headphones for audio notifications.

The remaining updates are region-dependent. They include support for the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications for Apple Watch owners in Australia and Vietnam.

Release date – how to install WatchOS 7.4

The update comes some three months after watchOS 7.3. It should be available now or pretty soon if you are not seeing it yet.

To check if it’s available in your region, open the Apple Watch app on your phone and head over to General > Software Update. Click on download/install. As always, make sure to have at least 50% battery juice left in the watch and place it on the charger while updating.

Apple has dropped support for Series 1 and 2 since watchOS 6.3. But if you have Series 3 and above, you can install the new firmware version.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

We should also get word on watchOS 8.0 pretty soon. Apple’s annual Wordwide Developer’s Conference lands on June 7th. Like last year this will be on online-only event. No credible leaks yet on what we can expect as part of watch OS8.0, but we’ll update this article when more is known.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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