Google is shipping Android’s April security patch this week, and with it comes a fix for a long-standing issue with the Pixel 4’s face unlock feature. The Pixel 4’s face unlock system is finally getting an alertness check, almost a whopping six months after launch.
Google went all-in on a face unlock system for the Pixel 4, removing the fingerprint reader that had been on previous models and using and IR-backed, 3D face scanner as the only biometric system. The Pixel 4 sported a big, lopsided top bezel with all the requisite hardware to build a FaceID-like system, but Google’s software left a bit to be desired. The face-scanning system worked even when the user’s eyes were closed, so it would be possible to point the phone at the sleeping owner and unlock the phone without their consent. With the new eyes-open check, there’s more of a consent factor built into the biometrics.
The fact that the Pixel 4 didn’t launch with this feature is kind of baffling. The system is, after all, a copy of Apple’s Face ID system that debuted on the iPhone X and that has an eyes-open check was built into the original release. Even Google’s previous version of face unlock—a camera-based system that was built into Android 4.1 Jelly Bean back in 2012—could ask the user to blink to verify that they were a living, breathing, alert person.
The April Android security patch is rolling out now, but it may take weeks to hit the entire population.
Listing image by Ron Amadeo