But the latest update, which is part of a developer beta test likely to roll out broadly soon, will allow an iPhone to communicate with a synced Apple Watch when the phone is raised to use Face ID.
When authentication is completed — the devices must be in close proximity — the iPhone will automatically unlock and the Apple Watch will vibrate.
Apple said users will need to opt into this feature.
For security purposes, the update will only work to unlock the phone; users will still need to type in a passcode to make transactions through Apple Pay, the App Store or iTunes if wearing a mask.
The latest update is both another step forward for supporting mask wearing during the pandemic and a potential incentive for Apple customers to purchase a smartwatch, or at least use the one they have more frequently.