If you find PIN codes or gesture patterns too predictable to keep your phone secure, Ice Cream Sandwich has the ultimate solution: face unlock.


Face unlock utilizes your phone's front-facing camera to "recognize" your face. If anyone else looks into the camera, they will be denied access. Simple as that. Not only is this a nice option to have for everyday use, but I could imagine it being integrated into mobile security apps as well, ensuring that no one but you could get into your phone and see potentially sensitive data.

In tonight's demo, face unlock experienced quite a hiccup - it didn't recognize the face of the presenter, who was also the phone's owner. Google still has a little time to get this right, however, but it certainly seemed a bit embarrassing, getting duped by a feature that may not quite be ready yet.

At any rate, this feature promises to seriously step up your phone's everyday security, and seems like it will a fun feature to try out once we get our hands on Ice Cream Sandwich.

Update: video demo by Engadget:

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • Jimmy

    Can't someone just get a photo of you and put it in front of the front-facing camera?

    • PacoBell

      They could have easily mitigated this by requiring the user to turn their heads to the left or right. Either that or get all fancy and scan the facial contours with an infrared laser.

      • Jimmy

        Someone on Google plus just commented that they need they collect multiple profiles images to approximate depth

        • PacoBell

          That someone was me ^_^ I wasn't saying that already do this, but that they NEED to do something like this.

    • http://lavadip.com HRJ

      More worrisome.. so now someone can unlock your phone while you are sleeping.
      Bad if you have mischievous room-mates.

      • Tee

        And if you get in an accident, no one can open your phone and let your love ones know that you're about to die...

        • http://www.thepixelpuse.com aj

          Jesus that's grim.

        • michael

          can't do that if its locked any other way also

        • PacoBell

          It's no different from pattern unlock (which activates if you fail face unlock). It still exposes 911 directly, so no worries.

      • Seth

        Although, they would probably need to shine a light on your face. Also, it's not the only lock option.

        If you can't trust the people you live with you should probably be locking your DOOR while you're asleep.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody


      Which makes it ironic that ICS is so eager for everybody to put "high res" photos up on G+ (and facebook and twitter). The thing that makes the People app awesome is the thing that completely undoes their latest security feature.

      In all fairness, it's a terrible security feature (by itself) anyway. Facial recognition relies on at least acceptable lighting (there will be no using it in a nightclub/bar). It's slow because you have to line up the camera to your face and wait for it to process the image. It's easily fooled into false positives and negatives where a person making the right expression could pass as the original while the owner just needs some hair out of place or a shadow in the right spot and they will fail repeatedly.

  • bikerbillsbolt

    I think it can tell if its 3d like a faces contours or just a flat picture. And what if you sgave and it dont recognize you is their a way to over ride it. Ie a pin or swype backup ..

    • Jimmy

      But then we would be back to the same security level, but that would be a problem...

    • PacoBell

      Yes, see the Engadget interview.

  • Jimmy


    It shows here that there is a backup unlock when low lighting (or by forcing low lighting with your thumb over the camera).

  • DarknesSx

    Its more like fun than security to me... the pattern and password level of security is more than enough and the password is almost impossible to be fished if you really care about your stored data ...

    As for me I have a pattern and pretty much every one of my close friends knows it already and I don't mind.. its there just in case my phone was stolen.. Face unlock will be even more fun to play with :D

  • boriqua2000

    i bet you that the iphone 5 will have this feature when it comes out a year from now and apple will tell everyone that they created it and how it will revolutionize the phone industry.have you seen how excited iphone 4s owners are about their new notification system.its incredible.messages appear in the notification bar at the top of their phone.wow

  • Craig Rachel

    I hope Google is considering me for the CEO position next time its available


  • Icefreez

    I don't really see this as much of a "security" feature. But more of a fast unlock feature.

    • PacoBell

      If it's not for security, then a finger swipe is much faster, don't you think?

  • Jeff A

    I am betting that the reason it didn't work in the demo was it wasn't set to recognize a grinning face that they had on up there.

    • PacoBell

      Ironically, their marketing material says something to the effect of "unlocking your phone is just a smile away".

  • http://facebook.com/lamarw LW

    what if someone has an evil twin?

  • http://www.marksmithphotography.co.uk Mark – Plymouth Wedding Photographer

    Oops, that’s a bit of a fail there with the recent security issues. You would have thought that this would have been tested, I’ve seen this idea on TV or a film before and anyone who was thinking that a camera in 2D couldn’t recognise a photo (also in 2D) is a bit silly. Looking at the other posts I wasn't the only one asking the question of security, but why wasn't Google?

    Also, what about twins? I think there is a way to go yet with this, I’m happy with putting in a number for now!