Plenty of Android smartphones support some type of face unlock feature, but unfortunately not many of them are all that secure. Phones that rely solely on the front-facing camera to recognize a user’s profile are much more easily fooled than more advanced setups, such as Apple’s Face ID technology. Apple’s Face ID combines the phone’s front-facing camera, ToF sensor, IR illuminator, and dot projector to offer more secure facial recognition for users. Those extra sensors can mean the difference between you unlocking your phone and someone else unlocking your phone with a photo of you.
It appears Google’s next major version of Android will attempt to make facial recognition much more secure across the Android ecosystem.
Our friends at XDA Developers have been rooting around an early build of Android Q and noticed dozens of strings relating to facial recognition built into the framework, SystemUI, and settings APKs. The lines of code specifically reference error messages that will display if a phone running Android Q does not have built-in facial recognition hardware.
If a phone does have the proper facial recognition hardware, users will be able to utilize the new tech to not only unlock their phones, but also authorize purchases and sign into apps. Users will still be able to set a password, PIN, or pattern as a backup authentication method if the face unlock feature fails.
It’s worth noting some Android phones, such as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, have more secure face unlock setups than other phones. However, Huawei had to jump through extra hoops to make Android work with its hardware since there isn’t native support for it built into Android. It sounds like this will change going forward, allowing other Android phone makers to more easily build secure face recognition into their devices.
Now, this isn’t confirmation that the Pixel 4 will support this advanced face recognition tech, but it’s also not not saying that. There’s a good chance Google will announce it at Google I/O 2019, which takes place May 7-9, and later debut the technology when the next Pixels arrive in the later half of 2019.