How to unlock your iPhone and Mac with an Apple Watch

How to unlock your iPhone and Mac with an Apple Watch

Apple Watch can do more than mirror notifications from your phone or track your activities. It can also be the key to unlock both iPhone and Mac.

The feature is useful, especially when you are wearing sunglasses or part of your face is covered, and it will therefore be difficult to use Face ID. Plus, in the case of your Mac, you no longer need to enter your password after each wake-up. Let us show you how to unlock your iPhone and Mac with an Apple Watch.

How to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch

Face ID does not work when you are wearing sunglasses or the iPhone is in landscape orientation. Fortunately, in such cases, you can use the “Unlock with Apple Watch” feature to unlock your iPhone.

Prerequisites:

  • An iPhone with Face ID (iPhone X or later) running iOS 14.5 or later.
  • An Apple Watch Series 3 or later running watchOS 7.4 or later.
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled on iPhone and Apple Watch.
  • Code setup and wrist detection enabled on Apple Watch.

1. Set up Unlock with Apple Watch on iPhone

To set up “Unlock with Apple Watch” on your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the “Settings” app on your iPhone.
Unlock with the Apple Watch Settings app
  1. Scroll down to the “Face ID & Passcode” section and tap on it.
Unlock with Apple Watch Face ID and password
  1. Enter the iPhone passcode.
Unlock with Apple Watch Enter your passcode
  1. On the “Face ID & Passcode” settings page, scroll down to the “Unlock with Apple Watch” section and enable the switch next to your Apple Watch name.
Unlock with Apple Watch Enable toggle
  1. A confirmation message will explain how and when the “Unlock with Apple Watch” feature works. Tap the “Turn On” text to give the final permission.
Unlock with Apple Watch Turn on the feature

That’s all you need to set up unlocking with Apple Watch on iPhone.

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2. Use Unlock with Apple Watch on iPhone

  1. When you want to unlock your iPhone, tap the screen.
  2. You’ll feel haptic feedback on your wrist and receive a notification on your Apple Watch that says “Unlock this Apple Watch.”
Unlock with Apple Watch
  1. The notification has a “Lock iPhone” button. If you didn’t mean to unlock your iPhone, tap it to lock your iPhone immediately. Note that tapping Lock iPhone will disable “Your iPhone unlocked by this Apple Watch” until you enter your iPhone passcode.

Unlocking iPhone with Apple Watch has some limitations. For security reasons, it does not verify your identity to pay for App Store purchases, pay with Apple Pay, access passwords stored in iCloud Keychain, or unlock password-protected apps. However, you can use these features by entering your iPhone passcode.

How to unlock your Mac with Apple Watch

Like “Unlock with Apple Watch” on iPhone, you can unlock your Mac with Apple Watch using “Auto Unlock”.

1. Look for Auto Unlock

Apple has set specific requirements for the “Auto Unlock” function to work. Your Mac must be a mid-2013 or later model running macOS Sierra or later. Here’s how to check your Mac model and auto unlock support:

  1. On your Mac, tap the Apple logo at the top left of the menu bar.
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch White Apple logo menu bar
  1. From the Apple menu, click “About This Mac.”
Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch Tap About this Mac
  1. You’ll find your Mac model under the OS version, as well as see the year it was released (in this case, it’s 2020).
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch About this Mac screen on Mac
  1. If you want to be double sure that your Mac supports “Auto Unlock” or not, tap “System Report”
  2. Next, expand “Network Information” and tap Wi-Fi from the left sidebar. Look for “Auto Unlock: Supported” in the Interface section of the Wi-Fi information page.
Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch auto-unlock support

Once you’ve checked that your Mac supports automatic unlocking, there are a few other things to check:

  • Your Mac has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on.
  • You are not using Internet Sharing or Screen Sharing on your Mac.
  • You are logged in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on both Apple Watch and Mac.
  • Your Apple ID has two-factor authentication enabled.
  • Your Apple Watch model is running watchOS 3 or later.
  • Apple Watch has a passcode.
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2. Set up automatic unlocking on Mac

If you meet all the requirements, follow the steps below to set up “Auto Unlock” on your Mac.

  1. Tap the white Apple logo at the top left of your Mac screen.
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch White Apple logo menu bar
  1. From the Apple menu options, tap “System Preferences.”
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch Tap System Preferences
  1. Alternatively, open “System Preferences” from Launchpad or do a quick Spotlight search.
  2. Under “System Preferences,” tap “Security and Privacy.”
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch System Preferences on Mac
  1. By default, this should land you in the General tab. If that’s not the case for you, just click on the General tab yourself.
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch Enable Use Apple Watch to unlock apps and Mac
  1. Once there, check the “Use Apple Watch to unlock apps and Mac” option.
  2. You will get a message “System Preferences is trying to change your system settings”. Enter your Mac password in the box below and tap “Change Settings.”
Unlock Mac with Apple Watch Change settings on Mac

Once all this is done, you will be able to unlock your Mac using your Apple Watch.

3. Use Auto Unlock on Mac

  1. To use “Auto Unlock” on your Mac, bring your Apple Watch closer to your Mac and wait a few seconds.
  2. You’ll hear a sound, feel haptic feedback, and receive a notification on your Apple Watch that says, “Your MacBook is unlocked by this Apple Watch.”
Unlock your Mac with Apple Watch Auto Unlock

4. Accept other password requests

There are several cases where your Mac requires you to enter your password before making changes. It includes unlocking settings in System Preferences, viewing saved passwords in Safari Preferences, unlocking a locked note in Apple Notes, approving a new app installation, etc.

You can approve these passcode requests using your Apple Watch. For example, when you want to make changes in “System Preferences”, you can double-click the side button on the Apple Watch to accept the password request.

Unlock Mac with Apple Watch Double-click to approve

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it safe to unlock iPhone/Mac with Apple Watch?

Apple uses “Time of flight” as a security mechanism to keep “Unlock with Apple Watch” and “Auto Unlock” secure. However, unlocking your iPhone or Mac with Apple Watch is not as secure as using Face ID on your iPhone or a passcode on your Mac.

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2. How close does Apple Watch need to be to unlock Mac?

Apple hasn’t specified how close the Apple Watch needs to be to unlock a Mac. But according to a test conducted by a senior Apple Community moderator, the Apple Watch unlocks the Mac at a maximum distance of 48 inches (4 feet/1.22 m). Any distance above that and you’ll see a message “The wireless connection is too weak for Apple Watch to unlock this Mac.”

3. Apple Watch can’t seem to be able to unlock iPhone/Mac. What can I do?

If your Apple Watch won’t unlock your iPhone and Mac, try the quick fixes below.

  • Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and turn them back on.
  • Turn off automatic login on your Mac.
  • Turn off Internet Sharing and Screen Sharing on your Mac.
  • Restart your Mac, iPhone, and Apple Watch.
  • Reset your Apple Watch and set up again.

Image credit: Unsplash

Ratnesh Kumar
Ratnesh Kumar

Ratnesh is keen on writing guides and explanations. He spends most of his time reading, writing and looking at technology. In his spare time, he loves to play and watch cricket.

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