An iOS 14.5 Beta Feature Is Proof That Apple Has The Best Ecosystem

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Apple’s ecosystem is without a doubt one of the widest in the market. Covering everything from phones to laptops, and speakers to wearables, all your Apple devices play well with each other (bugs aside). Now, a new feature in iOS 14.5 beta takes it to a whole new level. 

It’s something so small, but yet so huge that it will transform the way we use our iPhones. Steve Jobs was famous for saying “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Well, in this case, Apple has absolutely nailed it on the head!

What is the iOS 14.5 Beta Feature?

If you own an iPhone X or above, you’ll know just how inconvenient FaceID is. Thanks to the pandemic, masks have rendered FaceID practically useless. It’s a problem Apple tried to address back in September. Their solution – bring up the pin code prompt when FaceID fails the first time.

We’ve lived with it since, having to enter our pins in public. It’s a frustrating thing to do, particularly if you (like me) end up picking up and using your phone a few hundred times each day. Surely there must be a better way? Turns out there was all this while, but you’ll need an Apple Watch to use it.

With the new iOS 14.5 beta and watchOS 7.4 beta, Apple is letting users unlock their iPhones automatically when their watches are unlocked and on their wrist. It’s such a simple and efficient solution, it’s surprising Apple didn’t come up with it sooner. 

The feature works a lot like the way you can use an Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. When nearby, your Mac simply unlocks without you having to enter a password. You simply get a buzz on your wrist with a message your Mac has been unlocked. That’s exactly how it will work on your iPhone as well. 

Unlock iPhone Apple Watch thanks to the Apple ecosystem
How the feature works. Source: Macrumors

Of course, there are a few caveats. The feature will only let you unlock your iPhone. You can’t use it to authenticate App Store purchases or Apple Pay payments. You will also have to enter your passcode every once in a while just as a security measure. 

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The Power of Apple’s Ecosystem

Facial recognition isn’t an Apple-exclusive feature. By 2024, Mercator estimates 30% of smartphone users will use facial recognition. The pandemic isn’t expected to subside anytime soon. Until we reach “herd immunity”, we will still have to wear masks. Vaccines won’t stop the spread of COVID, so masks are going to be a big part of the foreseeable future. 

Apple has shown that there can be a better way. Of course, it depends on an individual owning both an iPhone and an Apple Watch, but that’s the advertisement Apple wants to make. Solutions like these are meant to push the entire ecosystem, not just one product. 

Diverting a little, let’s look at the HomePod. On its own, the device has so far failed to drive sales numbers that are typically associated with Apple. It’s expensive, and doesn’t do much as compared to Alexa or Google Home. But, if you are already on the Apple ecosystem and own an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and/or an Apple TV you might find it more useful than Amazon or Google. Features like Intercom will drive people towards the HomePod, simply because it just works!

HomePod Mini' intercom feature as part of the Apple ecosystem
Intercom is basically Walkie-Talkie but for the entire ecosystem. Source: Apple

That’s the power Apple has. The iPhone still remains Apple’s best selling device. So it makes sense the company would lean on the brand to push its sales of other devices – in this case, the Apple Watch. Sales aside, it also allows Apple to present unique solutions that you won’t find elsewhere.

Google doesn’t have a smartwatch (yet), Samsung doesn’t own WearOS or Android. So even if they wanted, they can’t introduce a feature like this. It’s the benefit of the Apple ecosystem. A benefit that both customers and the company sees. That’s why I’d go so far as to say that Apple has not just the best ecosystem, but the only comprehensive one. 

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Unlock with Your Watch

The feature is now in beta testing, so it could be a while before we all get to enjoy it. If you really can’t wait, you can grab the betas now by signing up for Apple’s beta program. You’ll need to install iOS 14.5 beta first, then watchOS 7.4  to get the feature. Fair warning, it is beta software so expect plenty of bugs and crashes. 

If you’d rather not risk your device or sanity, the full software should release to the public in a month or two. Once it does, you can unlock your iPhone if your Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked. It also needs to be protected by a passcode if you want to use the feature. Also, you need to be wearing a mask. That’s because the feature will kick in only if FaceID fails.

Assuming all those conditions are met, you’ll be able to unlock your iPhone quickly with little effort in the future. It’s an exciting future indeed! 

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