iPhone 13 Face ID failing with CPAP masks; worked with older phones

By September 29, 2021 No Comments

Apple made some changes to the iPhone 13 Face ID setup in terms of both hardware and software, and this seems to be causing problems for some disabled and seriously ill users.

Specifically, Face ID registration is failing when some owners are wearing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask – used by those with respiratory issues. This is despite the fact that Face ID coped fine with the same masks on older iPhones, all the way back to the iPhone X …

Apple prides itself on its accessibility features, but a British man who wears a CPAP mask due to respiratory failure says that something appears to have gone wrong with either the company’s more compact TrueDepth camera system, or the iOS changes designed to guard against spoofing.

Colin Hughes, an Apple user who has severe muscular dystrophy, has to wear the mask for much of the day. He said that Face ID used to work reliably for him with or without the mask, but that is not the case with the iPhone 13 Pro.

I wear a CPAP nasal pillow ventilator mask, and since day one with the iPhone X, Face ID has never had an issue setting up and recognising me with my mask on. Always worked perfectly. The noise surrounding Covid masks passed me by as I simply didn’t have a problem with my mask and several iPhones from 2017 to present.

Now, I find myself with a 4 year old iPhone X that will unlock my iPhone with my CPAP nasal pillow ventilator mask on, with no problem, and the latest and greatest iPhone 13 Pro that refuses to set up Face ID with my mask on.

Apple has clearly been tinkering with Face ID in light of Covid masks but it’s come at great cost to accessibility for people like me.

In trying to set up a new face on the iPhone 13 Pro it says “Face obscured try removing anything that maybe covering your face”. If I do that I will suffocate! I don’t have a plan B.

Some, like those with sleep apnea, only need to wear a CPAP mask overnight – but others have to wear one either full time or for much of the day. Hughes says that he didn’t exactly feel comfortable sharing a photo of him wearing the mask in bed, but chose to do so because he feels strongly about the issue, and hopes it will prompt Apple to address the issue.

The problem isn’t affecting all CPAP mask users, though others have noted that training it takes time.

Hughes has previously described how Apple technology helps those with severe disabilities, and how it doesn’t. Apple has worked with him on a number of issues, so hopefully there is a software tweak that can restore functionality here. We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

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