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Many residents of China say wearing face masks to avoid the coronavirus has made it impossible to unlock their phones with Face ID


Some provinces in China have mandated that people wear face masks when they’re out and about to avoid spreading the highly contagious coronavirus. 

But face masks cover the lower half of faces — and that can trip up the facial-recognition software that’s popular in many mobile phones, frustrating some residents. 

The Hong Kong-based tech news outlet, Abacus, reported that residents are venting about the inconveniences on Weibo.

“Under the current circumstances, for the past two days, I’ve been basically wearing a mask all the time except while sleeping,” the Weibo user wrote, according to Abacus. “In times like this, the iPhone’s Face ID doesn’t really work that well.” 

The iPhone user said she wished that Apple would bring back the fingerprint unlock and payments feature.

“Fingerprint payment is still better,” another Weibo user wrote. “This facial recognition, I don’t even dare pull down my mask. And passcode comes so slow. All I want is to pay and quickly run.”

Facial recognition software has also been deployed at some train stations, airports, retail stores, and hotels, according to Abacus. Face mask-wearing residents are in trouble there, too. 

“Just came in through the community gate. I was standing under the facial recognition [camera] but it didn’t recognize me,” one user said. “Around two minutes later, I realized I was wearing a mask.”

The coronavirus outbreak isn’t the first time the FaceID technology on phones has proved tedious. 

People have also complained about complications while wearing respirator masks during wildfires or even sunglasses.

Still, when face masks are deemed mandatory, and some residents are too fearful to pull them down for even a few seconds, facial recognition technology can feel more like a burden than a boon. 

By Thursday morning, the coronavirus had killed more than 560 people and infected more than 28,000 people worldwide. 

While the virus has spread across China and to more than two dozen countries, the city of Wuhan and the larger Hubei province have been the hardest hit.

Face masks are flying off shelves and some precincts in China have even started lottery systems for buying masks.

Still, experts say that washing your hands is more effective than wearing a mask for staving off disease.



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