We unlock our smartphones countless times a day without thinking about it. But that doesn’t make typing in a PIN or passcode, waiting for your phone’s facial recognition to kick in, or swiping your finger across your phone’s fingerprint sensor, any less monotonous. If you happen to own an Android device running version 5.0 Lollipop or later, then you can save some time with a handy feature called Smart Lock which can automatically unlock your phone without prompting you to do anything.
Here’s everything you need to know about Android Smart Lock, including how it works and how to use it.
Google introduced Smart Lock alongside version 5.0 Lollipop of its Android smartphone operating system, and it has evolved slightly since then. Smart Lock lets you specify conditions when it’s safe to bypass the PIN, pattern, or any other hoops you’ve set up to unlock your phone.
The path to enable Smart Lock is slightly different depending on the phone you have and the version of Android it’s running.If you have a stock Android phone or close to it, you’ll want to go toSettings > Security > Smart Lock, or maybeSettings > Security & Location > Smart Lock. If you have a Samsung Galaxy, then look in Settings > Lock screen and security > Smart Lock.
You’ll be required to enter your smartphone’s PIN, pattern, or password before continuing further.
With Smart Lock enabled, you’re ready to start configuring it to automatically unlock your phone. There are five possible options: On-body detection, Trusted places, Trusted devices, Trusted face, and Voice Match. Note that not all of these options are available on every device, so you will have to check with your phone’s manufacturer to see which works and which doesn’t.
On-body detection, perhaps the easiest Smart Lock option to configure, uses the accelerometer and other sensors to keep your phone unlocked when it detects that it’s being carried in your hand, pocket, or bag. The caveat? If you give your device to someone else while it’s unlocked, it might stay unlocked. On some phones, though, On-body detection goes so far as to learn the pattern of your walk and lock your phone if it detects one that seems different.
Here’s how to enable On-body detection:
On-body detection isn’t perfect. It can take up to one minute to lock after you’ve stopped moving, and between 5 and 10 minutes after you get into a vehicle, like a car, bus, or train.
If you’re not thrilled at the prospect of your phone unlocking whenever you’re out and about, Trusted places is a good compromise. It uses geofencing — or geographic boundaries defined by your phone’s mapping software — to detect when you’re at home, work, or another location where you feel comfortable leaving your phone unlocked. As long as your phone has an internet connection and access to your location, you never have to worry about unlocking it again.
You have to check a few things before you can enable Trusted places. First, enable location mode on your phone. Here’s how:
Once you have enabled and selected a location mode, you’re ready to enable Trusted Places.
Switch jobs or move to a new house? Not to worry. Here’s how to edit or remove a place:
Trusted devices lets you use a paired watch, fitness tracker, or car speaker system as a kind of wireless key. When you designate a Bluetooth device as “trusted,” your phone automatically unlocks the moment it pairs to it.
Here is how to add a trusted Bluetooth device:
Often when you pair a new device via Bluetooth, you’ll be asked if you want to add it as a Trusted device.
Trusted devices isn’t without limitations. Someone could keep your phone unlocked by imitating your Bluetooth connection, and if your phone determines that your connection isn’t secure enough, Trusted devices will fail altogether. There is the issue of range, too. If someone takes your phone and Trusted device with them, they could gain access to it. If the range of your paired Bluetooth device is long enough, a person might be able to unlock your phone from up to 100 meters away.
Smart Lock originally supported NFC-based unlocking, but as of September 2017, the option has been deprecated. Trusted near-field communication (NFC) tags, which have a range within inches rather than tens of feet, offered a more secure alternative. For example, you could set up an NFC sticker in your car or at your bedside, so that when you tap the sticker with your device, your device unlocks. Users who set up Trusted NFC tags can continue to use them, but they won’t be able to modify them or add new tags.
Facial recognition is not the most secure way to unlock your smartphone, but it’s certainly one of the most convenient. After you set a trusted face, your phone’s front-facing camera will search for your face and unlock it if it recognizes you. This option is not present on some phones and you should be aware it’s not anywhere near as secure as something like Apple’s Face ID which employs special hardware. Smart Lock’s Trusted face can be fooled by a photo of you.
Here’s how to set up a Trusted face:
In some cases, your phone might have trouble distinguishing your face from someone else’s. Luckily, improving facial recognition is a cinch.
Want to unlock your smartphone with nothing more than your voice? Smart Lock makes it possible. Voice Match recognizes the unique intonation of your phrasing and automatically unlocks your phone without you having to lift a finger. You can access it in a couple of ways.