Google gets serious about competing with Face ID
The fourth version of Android Q’s developer beta includes a new “Face Authentication” entry in its settings menu, suggesting Google is planning to include native support for face unlock in the operating system. 9to5Google reports that the feature will support using your face to unlock the device, sign into apps, and make payments, similar to Apple’s competing Face ID technology. The final version of Android Q is expected to be released later this summer.
We’ve seen face unlock support appear on Android devices before, but it’s generally relied on manufacturers building their own support for it on top of the core operating system. Since each manufacturer has to build its own implementation, the results can be inconsistent. The face unlock feature on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, for example, can be fooled with a video of your face playing on another smartphone.
Native support for Face Authentication in Android Q could make the experience more consistent across all Android devices. Code discovered by XDA-Developers back in January suggests that handsets will need to have special facial recognition hardware in order to make use of the feature, which hopefully means the software is more intelligent than simply recognizing a 2D image taken from a selfie camera.
It also gives Android phones a much better chance of competing with Apple’s Face ID technology, which debuted on the iPhone X back in 2017. Although Apple’s technology isn’t completely foolproof, it’s still leagues ahead of many Android implementations.
Also included in the beta is support for a new “Screen Attention” feature, similar to Samsung’s Smart Stay and Apple’s Attention Aware features, which prevents a phone’s screen from dimming while its camera senses that you’re looking at it. But probably the most significant change in the developer beta is that the padlock icon on the lock screen has been moved from the bottom of the screen to the top.
If you haven’t already installed beta 4 you might want to hold off. Google said it is temporarily pausing over-the-air updates to all Pixel devices after issues were reported. Proceed with caution.