Summary

  • Google is set to bring a futuristic watch unlock feature to its Pixel Watch, which will allow users to unlock their phone by bringing their smartwatch closer.
  • The setup process for Watch Unlock is straightforward, and it performed better than Face Unlock in testing, but it may be a little less secure and impact the watch’s battery life.
  • The release of Watch Unlock may coincide with the October release of Android 14 or Pixel 8, Pixel Watch 2, and Wear OS 4, and it may also be available on non-Google hardware.

The future of seamless phone access is almost upon us. Imagine being able to unlock your phone faster by bringing your smartwatch closer. Although this concept may seem like a futuristic dream, Google is about to turn it into reality with its interesting Watch Unlock feature.

At CES 2023, Google provided a tantalizing preview of what’s to come, showing how the Pixel Watch can efficiently keep smartphones unlocked. This isn’t a new idea, it stems from Android 13’s Active Unlock API, which laid the groundwork for this feature. After being revealed as early as 2023, its rollout seemed inevitable by August this year when the code for the feature became fully functional, but the delay of Android 14 may have affected things.

9to5Google recently managed to access this feature, and setup is impressively straightforward. Once the feature is enabled, users can go to the Pixel Watch mobile app and navigate to View Preferences After Security, Alternatively, on Android 14, it can be found below Settings → Security & Privacy → More Security & Privacy, From there, you can begin the watch unlock setup. And if you’re wondering when you might need it, consider those moments when your fingers are wet or facial recognition isn’t on your side.

Images of the Watch unlock setup process captured by 9to5Google

However, there are conditions. For the feature to operate, the wearable must be unlocked, on your wrist and within 4 inches of the phone. Simply swipe up on the lock screen or tap on the incoming notification and your device will unlock. In testing, this method proved its efficiency and was seen to surpass the speed of face unlock. But security has not been compromised. Each unlocking action prompts haptic feedback and a notification on the watch, allowing users to re-lock their device from their wrist. Also, if the password or PIN activates watch unlocking while the screen is open, the phone will flash the message “Unlocked by your watch.”

However, Google issues a word of caution. Using Watch unlock may be slightly less secure than traditional face, fingerprint, or strong pattern methods. Additionally, while convenient, this feature may impact your watch’s battery life slightly.

In parallel to Apple’s Watch unlock mechanism, when a user attempts to access their phone, the device first scans for facial or fingerprint recognition. If they fail, the system checks for the presence of the clock. A successful identification results in the phone being unlocked and the watch giving a confirmation vibration.

The anticipation is palpable, and predictions are rife. Some suggest that Google may introduce the Watch Unlock feature with the upcoming Android 14 in a few weeks. Others believe it may be held off until the Pixel 8, Pixel Watch 2, and Wear OS 4 launch in October. In any case, the future of device accessibility is evolving, and Android users have an exciting change to look forward to — especially since Watch Unlock is moving toward non-Google hardware as well.

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