• Apple released the latest beta version of iOS 13.5 as well as iPadOS 13.5 for developers on Wednesday, with the software including a few important features related to the current coronavirus pandemic.
  • For example, the new version of the software now includes a workaround that allows for a quick unlock of your iPhone even when you’re wearing a face mask, as is increasingly becoming a requirement for when people are in public spaces outside of the home.
  • Also, developers will now be able to start building apps that notify users when they’ve come into proximity with someone who’s had the COVID-19 coronavirus.
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Pushing a shopping cart with one hand while holding my iPhone with the other to study my grocery list was a bit of a logistical challenge during a shopping trip I took this week. Wearing a face mask — as we’re all supposed to be doing right now generally everywhere we go outside because of the coronavirus pandemic — also made it a little awkward to look down and actually see my list, which meant bringing the phone higher up to my eye line. And to add one more wrinkle to all this, how are you supposed to use Face ID to actually unlock your phone if you’re, you know, wearing a mask and actually obscuring half of your face?

Turns out, Apple has been working on a fix to address precisely that challenge. The latest beta version of Apple’s iOS mobile software, released to developers on Wednesday, includes an easy workaround for those of you who rely on Face ID — and while it’s only in the iOS 13.5 beta 3 code right now, given the seriousness and widespread nature of this pandemic, we’re surely all but guaranteed to see this feature make its way into a finished version of the software eventually.

Here’s how it works: Right now, if you have your mask on and try to unlock your phone, there’s a slight delay before you’re presented with the prompt to enter your passcode. In the new iOS beta, all you need to do is swipe up and enter your passcode, making for a much faster unlock process that skips the delay. There have also been reports on social media of phones actually detecting the presence of a mask and jumping automatically to the passcode prompt:

It’s great for Apple to add this feature, because wearing face masks is increasingly becoming not just a recommended best practice but a requirement for when people are out in public, as JetBlue is now requiring of all passengers.

Wednesday’s release of the new iOS beta also included other coronavirus-related features, such as this being the first software release from Apple that now supports the ability of developers to build apps that notify people when they’ve been in proximity with someone who’s tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.