A few years ago, Android introduced an innovation that let users unlock their phone using a pattern instead of a mere password or PIN. Nowadays, there's a myriad of ways to wake up your device, whether it's using a fingerprint scanner, face recognition, or even palm authentication.

One of my favorite ways to unlock my phone is — or rather was — Voice Match because I can do so even when my hands are dirty, or my handset is out of reach. For instance, it's particularly convenient if I want to read a message while doing the dishes, or if my device is out of reach when I'm watching a movie. Although this feature is useful at times, it can also expose your personal data when you try to interact with Assistant. To prevent this from happening, Google has updated its application so it opens up a specific lock screen mode instead of granting full access to the device.

 

The new feature shows a specific lock screen page (left), while the app would previously unlock the device and launch Assistant (right)

The feature had initially rolled out to Pixel 3 handsets in October and is now spreading to all Android devices. You'll still be able to wake your phone with your voice and interact with Assistant, but Google has removed the ability to fully unlock your device with Voice Match. Instead, you can choose whether you want to enable "Lock screen personal results," which only grant access to:

  • Email, including personal results from Gmail, like flight reservations and bills
  • Google Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Reminders
  • Memory aids
  • Shopping lists

Other personal data-related interactions would require you to manually authenticate yourself to proceed with the action.

I get that some people would prefer restricting access to their personal data, but it's complete nonsense Google isn't offering the option to manually enable Voice Match unlocking, especially after so many people have grown accustomed to using it.