Active Unlock will keep your phone unlocked when you wear your watch
For a long time, Google has offered the option to keep your Android phone unlocked with a trusted Bluetooth device around as part of Smart Lock. When used with smartwatches, this system comes with its issues, though. Your phone will stay unlocked as long as your smartwatch is connected, even when you’re not wearing it or when the watch itself is not unlocked. Google is looking to fix that with a new Active Unlock option, and the company used CES 2023 to showcase the new method.
The Active Unlock API was introduced with Android 13, and it adds a second layer of security to Smart Lock. Rather than just checking for the plain connection, it can require you to authenticate yourself on your watch, so your phone only stays unlocked as long as you are actively wearing your smartwatch. In conjunction with the Google Pixel Watch, this feature is then called Watch Unlock. It’s particularly meant as a fallback when your face unlock or your fingerprint unlock doesn’t work, though it will only give you tier 1 security access to your phone (meaning no contactless payments or biometric app logins).
During CES 2023, Google unexpectedly demoed the feature as part of its booth. We managed to get a look on the show floor at how the feature works, confirming with Google that you need to be wearing the watch for the function to work. A sign near the demo reads that “Now you can sign into your phone simply by having your watch nearby.”
So far, the feature isn’t officially released yet, so it’s interesting to see Google showcasing it during the tradeshow already. With the company being this open about it, it’s likely that we will see a release sooner or later at this point.