Apple issues beta software update to test users unlocking their iPhones while wearing a face mask as many states eliminate mandates – but will it work?
Even though many states are starting to get rid of mask mandates, Apple is attempting an update that will allow iPhone users unlock their devices while still wearing a face covering.
Apple’s iOS 15.4 update is hoping to make it certain that the feature can work without making the owner take off their mask, nearly two full years into the pandemic.
However, the feature remains in beta and may not reach the public for weeks or even months.
A CNN tech reporter tried out the new Face ID feature with several different masks and found the experience ‘inconsistent.’
Apple said that because Face ID with a mask uses less biometric information, there will be times when a user is not as easily recognized as when their full face is visible and a user may therefore need to enter their passcode.
‘Despite unlocking the device while incognito in sunglasses and a hat on my first try, repeating this feat was also hit or miss,’ wrote CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly.
People wear face masks while taking photos in Times Square
Facemasks have made it harder for users to unlock their iPhones
‘Apple later told me the software update is intended to work with eyeglasses but can work with sunglasses in certain situations, when Face ID can gather enough information to identify a user,’ she added.
‘It is, however, designed to work with a hat. The pairing of both worked about half of the time.’
Facial recognition software usually only works by combining multiple different facial features to create one consistent image.
A world where masks are being worn constantly has forced Apple and other tech behemoths to focus on using eyes and noses alone for identification functions.
In 2021, Apple Watch used a partial solution allowing people to authenticate themselves without losing the mask.
Most facial recognition software uses several features from a person’s face to make up a consistent image
A CNN reporter tries out the new technology to open an iPhone while wearing a mask
This comes just days after California’s top health official said he ‘anticipates’ being able to drop the state’s controversial school mask policy in as close as two weeks.
The move would make the Golden State join a growing list of blue states breaking ranks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) and the Biden administration on masks – both of which are still yet to budge despite plummeting daily Covid infections nationwide.
‘Masking requirements were never put in place to be there forever … it’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when,’ said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Department of Health and Human Services.
Reports indicate that a decision could come soon. Many California schools districts have a week-long February break either this week – from the 14th to the 18th – or next, from the 21st to 25th. It is a possibility that upon return from next week’s break that mask mandates are lifted.
Some other states are starting to listen to calls from parents and the larger community, as well. Last week, Connecticut and Massachusetts both set plans in place to lift their school mask mandates on February 28.
Nearby Delaware did the same last week. Ned Lamont, governor of Connecticut, told Squawk Box last week that the decision by the northeastern states was made in tandem.
Other states such as Illinois, New Jersey and New York relaxed mask orders last week, as well, though did not remove face coverings from schools.
Covid cases are dropping in all 50 U.S. states over the past two weeks, and have slashed in half during the period in 46 of them.
Oklahoma in Nebraska are recording the sharpest drops, with both seeing daily infections drop over 80 percent in the last 14 days. Oklahoma was one of the final states in the U.S. to still be recording an upward trend during the Omicron surge.
In 17 states, cases have dropped more than 70 percent over the past two weeks. These astronomical figures will likely begin to shrink soon, as Covid cases begin to reach such low points that they will likely steady soon.
Deaths are finally beginning to trend in the right direction as well. The figure, which often lags behind cases by a few weeks, flattened recently and now is showing the first signs of a downward trend.
The U.S. is currently averaging 2,365 Covid deaths per day, a six percent decrease over the past week. The figure has hovered in the 2,400 to 2,500 range in recent weeks, and is now showing early signs that it will start to fall.
Only three U.S. states are still recording more than one daily Covid death per 100,000 residents. Each are southern state with low vaccination rates.
Mississippi is still the national leader in Covid mortality. The Magnolia state is recording 1.76 Covid deaths every day for every 100,000 residents – by far the highest rate of any state. It also has only vaccinated 51 percent of residents, one of the lowest rates in the country.
West Virginia, which has vaccinated only 56 percent of residents, and Arkansas, at a 53 percent vaccination rate, are both logging high Covid mortality rates as well.