Lizzie
Warren

What is Android smart lock?

Lizzie Warren

Oct 14, 2022

8 min read

Imagine having your phone unlock itself when you pick it up…
Sounds interesting right?

Hey, I am not quipping. It is now possible with an Android smart lock!!

One of Android’s best-kept secrets, Smart Lock, keeps your phone unlocked while linked with a reliable Bluetooth device or when it’s on your person. It provides a balance between security and a trusted environment.

When did your phone locks become smart?

Google Smart Lock, sometimes known as Android Smart Lock, was introduced with Android 5.0 Lollipop. The main benefit of using a smart lock is elementary! It solves the problem of always trying to unlock your phone. This lets the user specify circumstances in which it can safely remain unlocked for extended periods of time.

Additionally, this smart lock feature reduces the need to open a password-protected device as frequently in low-risk situations. In these cases, the phone can be accessed with a simple swipe. These circumstances include:

  • Trusted locations
  • Trusted devices
  • On-body detection
  • Trusted voice match
  • Trusted face

Smart Lock is never actually a part of the firmware and is instead always managed by Google Play Services. Trusted locations, trusted voice, and on-body detection are implemented with a Google Play Services update.

1. Trusted locations

When you are in your home or a trustable place, why do you need to unlock your phone each time? It’s unusual (though not impossible) that an unknown person will enter your living room and steal your phone. Authentication is not needed to access your device since the user finds the surroundings secure and reliable.

trusted places
UI of trusted place feature
2. Trusted devices

It is also possible to access your smartphone, which automatically pairs with your car’s bluetooth system. We can choose any bluetooth products we are confident with using this option. Thereby we won’t need to enter the passcode to unlock our phone when it’s connected to these devices.

trusted devices
UI of trusted device feature
 

3. On-body detection

Your smartphone is really smart!! It is aware of its state at all times, including when it is static, picked up, and even in motion.

 

When you take the phone out of your pocket or bag, you won’t have to enter your pin or passcode again if you already did so. You may thus keep the phone unlocked when it’s on you. It remains unlocked as long as you move, hold, or carry your phone. Thanks to the on-body detection feature!

On-body detection
UI of on-body detection feature
 

4. Trusted voice match

We can utilize the trusted voice function together with voice commands. The smartphone will automatically unlock after voice detection is configured and a voice match is detected. This option will give you access to some of your phone’s functionalities but won’t ultimately unlock your phone all the time.

What you should know about Trusted voice match?

Voice match is not an entirely secure method of authentication. Thus, Google announced at CES 2019 that they eliminated voice match’s ability to unlock phones and this new behavior would arrive on all Android devices. As a result, this feature on phones and tablets can no longer fully unlock a device; instead, it can only provide Assistant “personal results,” such as email and calendar entries. This modification also has the advantage of synchronizing Voice match behavior with Google Home speakers and Smart Displays.

This feature can be enabled in settings:
Search for google assistant > Assistant settings> Hey google and voice match.

Voice match
UI of voice match feature
 

5. Trusted face

Do you recall the Face Unlock function? This feature, launched with the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in 2014, enables face recognition to unlock your phone. With this Trusted face function included in Smart Lock, the phone uses facial recognition to allow users to engage with alerts and unlock them in a much more reliable way. Unfortunately, it was found that a picture of the owner made it simple to unlock the phone and made it unreliable.

Face lock
Authentication of User’s face

What you should know about Trusted face?
This feature is now totally absent from stock and OEM devices, running Android 10 or earlier devices. It is quite likely that the option was removed in a Google Play Services update.

How to setup a Smart Lock on Android devices?

To install Smart Lock on an Android smartphone, follow the instructions below.

1. Navigate to Settings > Security > Advanced > Trust agents and check whether the Smart Lock is turned on.

  • On your specific phone model, the Trust Agents setting may be located in a different location. Tap the magnifying glass at the top of the Settings screen to look for Trust Agents.

smart lock
Enable the smart lock option
 

2. Then search for Smart lock in security settings

3. Select Smart Lock, then input your fingerprint, pin code, unlock pattern, or password.

smart lock
UI of lock screen feature with smart lock option
 

4. From this page, you can add Trusted locations, Trusted devices or activate On-body detection feature.

smart lock
UI of smart lock feature
 

Is your smart-lock-phone secure enough to give you peace of mind?

Well, this is an argumentative question 🤔

It is true that, in addition to the smart actions offered, the smart lock may be vulnerable to attacks.

It is up to the end user to decide which circumstances are safe. They can choose any location in the world and a certain radius around it as a trusted location. For example, the users might think that their office or usually visiting coffee shop is secure.

After a certain point, this scenario can be dangerous because accessing a stolen phone is a piece of cake when it is unlocked. So, it’s not a smart idea for corporate devices. This risk is not worth taking for any device used for business purposes, especially one known to contain sensitive data. The same is true for your unlocked phone, which might be sensitive to the trusted device and on-body detection feature.

The on-body detection is suspicious since there is no way for the gadget to tell if the phone is on your body or if it has been stolen. The smart lock has not yet become smart enough to keep itself safe from theft. So, smartly using the smart lock relies on the end user.

An insightful guide to Android device management

How does Hexnode enhance the smartness of the smart lock?

UEM solutions like Hexnode enable granular control over the smart lock in your phone.

It provides a lock screen customization feature as well. Only smartphones with a secured lock screen can customize their lock screen (devices protected by a PIN, pattern or password lock).

The Hexnode for Work software needs to be updated on the device to modify the lock screen.


Hexnode UEM provides features like:
  • Trust Agents for Smart Lock:
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Device Owner (Android v5.0 & later) and Android Enterprise Profile Owner (Android v6.0 & later).
    • If this option is deactivated in the UEM console, this will stop trusted agents, such as Bluetooth or NFC-connected devices, from unlocking the device. It ensures more security for the devices in device owner or profile owner mode.

Containerization in Android:

Containerization helps in efficient data control mechanism for the individuals. It creates separate, encrypted containers for personal devices. Data and apps in this personal container space will remain private to the user. The main management modes with Android Enterprise are:

  • Device owner mode (Fully managed device) – In this mode, the organization will have total control of the entire device.
  • Profile owner mode (Work profile) – In this mode, the personal portion of the device stays the same, while the work apps and data are stored in a separate, self-contained region. There is no control for the organization over any of the personal data.

  • Lock Screen Camera:
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Device Owner (Android v5.0 & later).
    • This option can turn off the camera and face unlock functions on a secured lock screen.
  • Lock Screen Notifications
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Device Owner (Android v5.0 & later).
    • This feature can prevent notifications from showing on the secured lock screen.
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  • Unredacted Notifications
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Profile Owner (Android v6.0 & later) and Android Enterprise Device Owner (Android v5.0 & later).
    • Sensitive notifications with their contents hidden on the lock screen are known as redacted notifications. Lock Screen Notifications must be enabled to use this function.
  • Fingerprint Unlock
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise – Device Owner (Android v5.0 & later) and Android Enterprise Profile Owner (Android v6.0 & later).
    • Through this option, the fingerprint option can be enabled or disabled to unlock the device.
  • Face Unlock
    • It is similar to the fingerprint unlock option.
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Device & Profile Owner (Android v9.0 & later).
  • Iris Scanner
    • It is supported for Android Enterprise Device & Profile Owner (Android v9.0 & later).
    • This option enables/disables the iris scanner feature on the secured lock screen.

Closing lines…

The built-in Smart Lock function on Android phones was created to make life easier for the user. As the saying goes, “Everything has positive and negative consequences”, the smartphone remote functions may also change the game. So, use it wisely to avoid being tricked!

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Lizzie Warren

Life is a journey of love and laughter, of sunshine and shadows. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

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