Things to note when using Unlock with Apple Watch (with your FaceID iPhone)

By now you should have heard and seen the news about the lifesaving feature in iOS 14.5 – Unlock with Apple Watch. In this age where masks are compulsory, FaceID is a pain when you are outdoors. With iOS 14.5 and a compatible Apple Watch (Series 3 and above), you can now unlock your iPhone even when masked.

Steps to enable Unlock with Apple Watch

  1. Make sure your Apple Watch (only works with Series 3 and onwards, and SE) is on watchOS 7.4. If not, follow instructions to install watchOS 7.4 on your watch first.
  2. Next, go to your iPhone Settings > FaceID and Passcode, and make sure the Apple Watch setting you want to use “Unlock with Apple Watch” with is turned on. If you have “Update Needed” beside your inactive (currently not connected) Apple Watch shown, even though that particular watch is already updated, there is no need to worry. It seems to be a bug. Once the watch is connected it goes away.
  3. Tap on “Turn on” for the following prompt
  4. Enjoy!
  5. Every time you unlock your iPhone, your Apple Watch will provide haptic feedback as well as a prompt to lock the iPhone down if the unlock is unwanted.

Things to take note of

Does Not Work for Authenticating Apple Pay 

It will not work for authenticating Apple Pay to pay with your iPhone. You still have to enter your iPhone’s passcode. But since you are already wearing your Apple Watch you should just use that instead. If Apple Pay has yet to be set up on your Apple Watch, set it up now. Remember that you need add the same credit card to the iPhone and Apple Watch separate, the card you have in your iPhone doesn’t appear in the Watch automatically.

Unlock will Fail if the Connection to your Watch is Weak

This is the case especially for iPhones with multiple Apple Watches paired. Sometimes the auto switching can fail or even when the correct watch is shown as connected, the Bluetooth connection might be weak. The easiest way to test this is by going into the Watch app on your iPhone and setting a random “as your current watch face”. If the watch face on your Apple Watch does not change  immediately then the connection is not working normally. Usually it will resolve by itself in a few minutes. Sometimes it requires you to reboot both your iPhone and your Apple Watch.

Does not Work for iCloud Keychain or when FaceID is Set to Unlock/Login into Apps

If you have previously set FaceID as a quick way to login or unlock certain apps (bank apps, payment apps, etc), Unlock with Apple Watch will not unlock your app. It is strictly for unlocking the iPhone only. This means it will not work when you are trying to unlock your PayLah! app to pay at Daiso or if you are trying to login to Health Buddy by authenticating with the Singpass app. If you have not set FaceID to unlock those apps then you will need the relevant passwords you set for those apps. Or you can just enter your iPhone’s passcode. Either way it is still friction in the usage process, and prevents the some people from using those apps when they are outside for fear of CCTVs catching their passwords/codes.


I am trying to think of more negative points for Unlock with Apple Watch all while typing this on a train ride, but I really can not find any. This is the feature we needed all along for the past 12 months, and while it is a year late I am glad we got this after all. With the rumors of the next iPhone getting under display TouchID going away somewhat, Unlock with Apple Watch is definitely needed to survive the pandemic days going forward.

For those with older Apple Watches (Series 0, 1 and 2), while it is possible to use your Apple Watch with iOS 14, the Unlock with Apple Watch feature is a watchOS 7.4 feature. Since Series 1 and 2 can only run watchOS 6, maybe it is time to consider buying a new Apple Watch. Amazon US has the latest Series 6 40mm Product RED Apple Watch at 100USD off its MSRP of 399USD.


MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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