Face unlock for Google's Pixel 4 series of phones just keeps breaking. Some claim the Android 11 upgrade is to blame while others point fingers at more recent monthly updates. A reboot can temporarily fix the issue for some, while others are experiencing the problem in tandem with symptoms associated with the seemingly still-unfixed device sensor issue.
It's been a couple of years since the Autofill API was added to Android and you've been able to use Google or other password managers to fill in your credentials and log in to apps. However, while most third-party password apps require you to verify your identity before releasing your details to another app, Google's autofill just surrendered those details willy-nilly as long as your phone was unlocked. That's not so secure. A recent change to Play Services fixes that by letting you require an on-the-spot authentication before Google autofills the data fields.
More and more apps support Android 10's biometrics API, which means that they work with the Pixel 4's face unlock mechanism for authentication, saving you from typing in your password or PIN over and over again. One of the Big Four banks in the US is now getting ready to jump on the bandwagon for its app: Chase. After an initially extremely slow rollout, it seems that the feature is now in the hands of many more people.
When the Pixel 4 was launched last year, many people praised its fast face unlock system. It didn't do much good, though, unless it worked with the apps you used, and that wasn't likely at launch. Google introduced a new version of the Biometric API for Android 10 that worked with authentication methods such as fingerprints and faces, but it meant that developers had to add this updated API into their apps first. It took a while, but many bigger banking institutions are starting to support it, and now you can add Wells Fargo to that list.
Password managers and 2FA apps are a personal affair. From cloud to self-hosting to offline, there are different approaches that try to balance out convenience and security, and every one of us will end up weighing those differently and picking what works for them. I used Enpass for several years, but for the past 18 months or so, I found myself gravitating toward Myki. Now the app has finally added Android 10's biometrics API in v1.27, which means it supports face unlock on the Pixel 4.
Fingerprint sensors were the norm for a long time, but face unlock reentered the scene as the smartphone biometric authentication method a couple years back. Secure apps have been relatively slow to adopt face unlock, but TD Ameritrade has just become the latest finance-related app to support it.
If you plan on just dipping into the latest developer preview for Android 11 with your Pixel 4 or 4 XL before proceeding back to normal life, be warned: a number of users are reporting that they cannot enroll in Face Unlock after reverting to a stable Android 10 build.
The Pixel 4 and Android 10 brought us a new approach to biometric unlocks in the form of face recognition. To implement that technology, Google had to introduce a biometrics API that isn't compatible with the fingerprint interface of old. That's why all apps that have previously supported biometric fingerprint authentication have to be updated to work with the new API, which seems to be a painfully slow process. The latest app to add biometric face unlock is Discover's banking app.
Although some form of face unlocking has been available on Android for years now, the secure method that relies on IR only started popping up on devices in the last year or two. Adoption of the feature has skyrocketed in recent times, and Google finally added face authentication to the biometrics API in Android 10. Since most flagships are now launching with no fingerprint scanner and just face unlock as a security method — to the joy and dismay of many — I decided to step back and take a look at my personal experience with the feature.
If you've used face unlock before, be it on an iPhone or other Android device, my observations should be very obvious to you.