iPhone owners should stop taking off their face masks

NYC commuters in April 2020.

NYC commuters in April 2020.
Photo: Scott Heins (Getty Images)

The New York Public Transportation Agency wants Apple to come up with a way to unlock phones where passengers do not lower their masks to use Face ID, according to ABC News.

Face ID has run into problems in the new coronavirus pandemic, namely that it is not really capable of identifying users wearing a mask. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the subways, buses and railroads in and around New York City, is concerned that passengers simply remove their masks to unlock their phones with Face ID, spraying respiratory droplets everywhere, one of which virus can contain.

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye wrote in his letter to Apple that he wants the company to come up with an alternative method that requires not operating on the lower half of a human face, according to ABC and the New York Post.

“Upgrades that allow users to unlock their phones while keeping their masks safely over their noses and mouths would be beneficial in all public spaces, not just on public transportation,” Foye wrote. The MTA, who may or may not be aware that all iPhones can already be unlocked with a four or six number password, offered to promote which solution Apple comes up with via signs and digital bulletin boards.

“There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers,” Apple said. who both solved and created this problem, told ABC News in a statement. “We are fully committed to continuing with the MTA to support its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

This might not have really become an issue, had Apple not stripped Touch ID of many recent models of iPhone, because it aggressively pushed Face ID as a next-generation technology.

It’s possible that Apple could come up with a version of Face ID that scans only the top half of a user’s face (that’s harder than it sounds) of bring back Touch ID in future phones (which at the moment no one is helping). There is also custom masks which are presumably compatible with Face ID, but their uncomfortable creepiness over a phone-related convenience that they might deliver.

Alternatively, MTA riders could realize that taking off their mask to scan their phone potentially exposes them as well as others to the virus and probably takes longer than just entering the passcode. But really, do not count on it.