Skip to main content

Google wants to replace your password with your smartphone

chrome android data saver news google app os
bloomua/123rf
A fair argument could be made that passwords are more of a hassle than they’re worth. They’re a pain to juggle, recall, and enter, and in most cases aren’t even secure enough to protect from the most common forms of malicious cracking — according to a survey by cybersecurity firm TeleSign, 21 percent of people use passwords that are 10 years old and 73 percent use duplicated passwords. That’s why companies from Twitter to Microsoft, with the approval of the White House, have launched ambitious plans to “kill the password” in recent years, and one reason why Google’s eschewing passwords entirely: according to a Reddit user, the Internet monolith is testing a password-free login system that relies on a smartphone for authentication.

In a thread on Reddit, rp1225 reported receiving an e-mail invitation to test a new Google login method: smartphone-based sign in. Instead of relying on a pass phrase or two-factor authentication to secure your account, the new system leverages your smartphone’s location data and security settings.

Here’s how it appears to work: after formally enrolling in the program, accepting an invitation for a private Google Group, selecting a compatible phone, and enabling a form of screen lock on said phone, logging in to your Google account would no longer require a password. Instead, a prompt would appear on your smartphone when you sign in on the Web.

The program’s very much a work in progress, an FAQ included in the invitation notes. Depending on the circumstances, enrolled users “may be asked to complete an extra step or two,” and password-based login isn’t disabled entirely; you can still use your old pass code in case your phone’s dead, lost, or missing. There’s a mechanism for enrolling a new phone, too (although the criteria for “compatible” phones isn’t exactly clear), and a way to opt-out of the new login system altogether.

google-login-thing
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The new system’s the latest of Google’s attempts to reduce reliance on passwords. In Android 5.1, the firm introduced On-Body detection, a system that measures your smartphone’s sensors to automatically bypass the lockscreen in certain scenarios. It joined the FIDO Alliance to develop password-free standards. And in 2013, Google’s security team experimented with a Yubico cryptographic card that, when slid into a USB reader, could automatically log into an associated Google account.

And Google has some even wackier ideas. In a paper published in the engineering journal IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine, Eric Grosse, Google’s vice president of security, and engineer Mayank Upadhyay envision a “smartphone” or “smartcard-embedded ring finger” that can authorize a computer via nothing more than a tap. That may not come to pass, but if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the password is doomed. Might as well give your current crop of pass codes (“password12345,” anyone?) an early retirement.

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Google is making it easier to ditch your iPhone for an Android phone
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro in hand.

Switching phones is never a smooth process, even if you’re switching between two different Android phones. However, when you’re trying to switch from an iPhone to Android or vice versa, it can be extra complicated -- and you can lose data and apps that you rely on. This is especially the case with Apple-to-Android transfers because the iPhone has a much stronger ecosystem lock-in with things like iMessage, iCloud backups, and exclusive apps like Overcast and Hyperlapse.

The good news is that with its Data Transfer Tool (also called Pixel Migrate on Pixel devices), Google may be trying to mitigate some of the phone-switching problems that arise -- specifically, losing access to your Live Photos. According to an APK teardown from Android Authority, Google’s Data Transfer Tool will finally resolve the problem of migrating iOS Live Photos to Android. It will do this by converting them over as Motion Photos.

Read more
Your Google Photos app may soon get a big overhaul. Here’s what it looks like
The Google Photos app running on a Google Pixel 8 Pro.

Google Photos is set to get a long-overdue overhaul that will bring new and improved sharing and notification features to the app. With its automatic backups, easy sorting and search, and album sharing, Google Photos has always been one of the better photo apps, and now it's set to get a whole slew of AI features.

According to an APK teardown done by Android Authority and the leaker AssembleDebug, Google is now set to double down on improving sharing features. Google Photos will get a new social-focused sharing page in version 6.85.0.637477501 for Android devices.

Read more
The Google app on your Android phone is getting a helpful new feature
Google app on Android beta showing Notifications.

The Google app for Android phones is getting a helpful new feature to make search even better. The latest beta has a dedicated "Notifications" feed in its bottom bar. The feature was first introduced on the mobile version of Google for Android earlier this year. The app feature was first noticed by 9to5Google.

The app now includes a Notifications option at the bottom, next to Discover, Search, and Saved items. The Notifications section displays a continuous list of alerts from Google Search, weather conditions, flight information, sports scores, movies and TV shows, and more. The notifications are grouped under “Today” and “Earlier." This feature should prove handy if you miss a notification from the Google app, as it provides a more focused view than Android's system-level history.

Read more