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I asked 10 U.S. banks when they plan to support Google Pixel 4’s Face Unlock

pixel 4 xl bezel
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

No one likes typing in passwords, so it’s surprising that with Google’s latest phone — the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL — I had to do exactly that instead of using its facial recognition technology to access sensitive apps.

You see, there’s no fingerprint sensor, as Google has opted to go along Apple’s route and stick with Face Unlock as its sole tool for biometric authentication. That’s fine and all when it comes to unlocking the phone, but it’s not so great when you want to access secure apps like the ones you use to access your bank account.

That’s because most apps do not support the Pixel 4’s Face Unlock system yet. Google deprecated the old FingerprintManager Application Programming Interface (API) in the last version of Android, and there’s a new one that replaced it called BiometricPrompt API for devices running Android 9 and Android 10.

This new API supports Face Unlock, along with other strong biometric authentication methods like in-display fingerprint sensors, according to Google. But in-display fingerprint sensors are already supported on Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10, aren’t they? Yes, but there hasn’t been a standard user interface tying it all together. That’s what BiometricPrompt aims to fix.

The problem is developers aren’t exactly in a rush to update their apps to support the new API, which means new technologies like the Pixel 4’s Face Unlock will have to sit by the wayside until developers get to it.

So how long will it take for banking apps to support the Pixel 4's Face Unlock? There's no support right now and no fingerprint sensor, so I have to keep typing my password…

Also, Google Pay doesn't support it yet either ????

— Julian Chokkattu (@JulianChokkattu) October 16, 2019

As I’ve been reviewing the phone, I’ve had to constantly type in my password for all my banking apps, from Chase to American Express, as well as for apps I need to authenticate purchases, like when reloading my Starbucks card. As much as I like Face Unlock, it’s making me sorely miss a fingerprint scanner because of such limited support for the feature. I know, I know — it’s a first-world problem, but it’s frustrating.

“The Android team is working quickly to drive developer adoption, with dozens of banking, financial, and password apps already compatible and many more in the works,” a spokesperson for Google told Digital Trends.

But strangely enough, even the peer-to-peer section of the Google Pay app doesn’t support the Pixel 4’s Face Unlock yet. The spokesperson went on to say apps like Dashlane, Keeper, Password Safe, and 1Password, all support the API, meaning they work with Pixel 4’s Face Unlock. It’s a shame I don’t use any of those.

In all fairness, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL don’t launch until October 24, so I’m holding out hope developers will update their apps sooner rather than later.

Banks that support Face Unlock

Pixel 4 XL Face Unlock girl
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s no database showing all the apps that support Face Unlock, so I decided to ask 10 major U.S. banks when they’ll get around to it with their respective apps.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • J.P. Morgan Chase Bank: A Chase spokesperson told Digital Trends it plans to support the feature in the fourth quarter of 2019, which is anywhere from now until December 31.
  • Wells Fargo: A Wells Fargo spokesperson told Digital Trends it’s currently “exploring” when it will add support for new Android face authentication capabilities.
  • Citibank: A spokesperson told Digital Trends the company is currently evaluating Face Unlock and will share details in the future.
  • Bank of America: A Bank of America spokesperson told Digital Trends it doesn’t have a timeline to share, but it will “conduct a standard review of operation on the Pixel 4.”
  • Capital One: Did not respond to our request for comment.
  • American Express: Did not respond to our request for comment.
  • Discover: Did not respond to our request for comment.
  • PNC: A PNC spokesperson told Digital Trends it’s evaluating the authentication landscape, and it “may consider supporting Android devices that permit facial recognition in the future.”
  • US Bank: A U.S. Bank spokesperson told Digital Trends the company plans to support the feature in the app, but did not have a timeline.
  • TD Bank: Did not respond to our request for comment.

I’ll update this article if I ever hear back from any of these institutions.

For good measure, I reached out to Starbucks and asked when they planned to add support and also have yet to hear back.

All these apps will eventually support the Google Pixel 4’s Face Unlock technology, but it’s safe to say you’re going to be waiting for several months.

Updated on October 22, 2019: We’ve added comment from Wells Fargo.

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