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Google demonstrates how the Pixel Watch can safely lock your smartphone

To keep your Android phone unlocked while you have a trusted Bluetooth device nearby, Google has provided the Smart Lock feature for quite some time. However, there are several problems with using this technique with smartwatches. If your wristwatch is connected to your phone, then your phone will remain unlocked even if you aren’t wearing it or if you haven’t unlocked the watch. For this reason, Google has developed a new Active Unlock option, which it debuted at CES 2023 in an effort to address the issue.

A new line of defence for Smart Lock is the Active Unlock API, which debuted with Android 13. Instead of just checking for a connection, it might ask you to authenticate on your watch, leaving your phone accessible only while you have it on. This functionality is referred to as Watch Unlock when used with the Google Pixel Watch. It’s designed to be a backup in case your fingerprint or face unlock doesn’t work, but it’ll only get you access to your phone’s lowest level of protection (meaning no contactless payments or biometric app logins).

The capability was surprisingly demonstrated at Google’s CES 2023 stand. We were able to see how it functions in action on the exhibition floor, and Google confirmed that it only works while the watch is on the user’s wrist. You can now login into your phone only by having your watch handy, according to a notice next to the demonstration.

It’s surprising to see Google demoing a feature that hasn’t even been launched yet at a tradeshow. Because of the company’s transparency, I expect a release to occur shortly.