Here’s how to unlock your phone automatically with Android Smart Lock

We unlock our smartphones countless times a day without thinking about it. But that doesn’t make typing in a PIN or passcode, waiting for your phone’s facial recognition to kick in, or swiping your finger across your phone’s fingerprint sensor, any less monotonous. If you happen to own an Android device running version 5.0 Lollipop or later, then you can save some time with a handy feature called Smart Lock which can automatically unlock your phone without prompting you to do anything.

Here’s everything you need to know about Android Smart Lock, including how it works and how to use it.

How to enable Smart Lock

Google introduced Smart Lock alongside version 5.0 Lollipop of its Android smartphone operating system, and it has evolved slightly since then. Smart Lock lets you specify conditions when it’s safe to bypass the PIN, pattern, or any other hoops you’ve set up to unlock your phone.

The path to enable Smart Lock is slightly different depending on the phone you have and the version of Android it’s running. If you have a stock Android phone or close to it, you’ll want to go to Settings > Security > Smart Lock, or maybe Settings > Security & Location > Smart Lock. If you have a Samsung Galaxy, then look in Settings > Lock screen and security > Smart Lock.

You’ll be required to enter your smartphone’s PIN, pattern, or password before continuing further.

With Smart Lock enabled, you’re ready to start configuring it to automatically unlock your phone. There are five possible options: On-body detection, Trusted places, Trusted devices, Trusted face, and Voice Match. Note that not all of these options are available on every device, so you will have to check with your phone’s manufacturer to see which works and which doesn’t.

How to use On-body detection

On-body detection, perhaps the easiest Smart Lock option to configure, uses the accelerometer and other sensors to keep your phone unlocked when it detects that it’s being carried in your hand, pocket, or bag. The caveat? If you give your device to someone else while it’s unlocked, it might stay unlocked. On some phones, though, On-body detection goes so far as to learn the pattern of your walk and lock your phone if it detects one that seems different.

Here’s how to enable On-body detection:

  • In Android’s Smart Lock menu, tap On-body detection.
  • Toggle on On-body detection.

On-body detection isn’t perfect. It can take up to one minute to lock after you’ve stopped moving, and between 5 and 10 minutes after you get into a vehicle, like a car, bus, or train.

How to set up Trusted places

android smart unlock

If you’re not thrilled at the prospect of your phone unlocking whenever you’re out and about, Trusted places is a good compromise. It uses geofencing — or geographic boundaries defined by your phone’s mapping software — to detect when you’re at home, work, or another location where you feel comfortable leaving your phone unlocked. As long as your phone has an internet connection and access to your location, you never have to worry about unlocking it again.

You have to check a few things before you can enable Trusted places. First, enable location mode on your phone. Here’s how:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Find the Location section (may have a different name, depending on your device, for example, on a Samsung Galaxy it’s Settings > Connections > Location).
  3. Tap Mode or Locating method. Then choose between these three options:
    1. High accuracy uses GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and other sensors to get the highest-accuracy location.
    2. Battery saving mode uses sources that use less battery, like Wi-Fi and mobile networks.
    3. Device only uses GPS to determine location.

Once you have enabled and selected a location mode, you’re ready to enable Trusted Places.

  • Add your home location by tapping Trusted Places from the Smart Lock menu. Tap Home, and then tap Turn on this location.
  • Add a custom location by tapping Trusted Places from the Smart Lock menu. Tap Add trusted place, and a map will open to your current location. (Pick a different location by tapping Search.) Name the trusted location, and tap OK.

Switch jobs or move to a new house? Not to worry. Here’s how to edit or remove a place:

  • In the Smart Lock menu, tap Trusted Places. From the list of trusted Smart Lock options, pick the place. Next, choose whether you want to delete it, rename it, or edit it.

How to assign Trusted devices

android smart unlock

Trusted devices lets you use a paired watch, fitness tracker, or car speaker system as a kind of wireless key. When you designate a Bluetooth device as “trusted,” your phone automatically unlocks the moment it pairs to it.

Here is how to add a trusted Bluetooth device:

  • In the Smart Lock menu, tap Trusted devices.
  • Tap Add trusted device > Bluetooth.
  • On the list of connected devices, tap a device. The list will show only paired devices.

Often when you pair a new device via Bluetooth, you’ll be asked if you want to add it as a Trusted device.

Trusted devices isn’t without limitations. Someone could keep your phone unlocked by imitating your Bluetooth connection, and if your phone determines that your connection isn’t secure enough, Trusted devices will fail altogether. There is the issue of range, too. If someone takes your phone and Trusted device with them, they could gain access to it. If the range of your paired Bluetooth device is long enough, a person might be able to unlock your phone from up to 100 meters away.

Smart Lock originally supported NFC-based unlocking, but as of September 2017, the option has been deprecated. Trusted near-field communication (NFC) tags, which have a range within inches rather than tens of feet, offered a more secure alternative. For example, you could set up an NFC sticker in your car or at your bedside, so that when you tap the sticker with your device, your device unlocks. Users who set up Trusted NFC tags can continue to use them, but they won’t be able to modify them or add new tags.

How to configure Trusted face

android smart unlock

Facial recognition is not the most secure way to unlock your smartphone, but it’s certainly one of the most convenient. After you set a trusted face, your phone’s front-facing camera will search for your face and unlock it if it recognizes you. This option is not present on some phones and you should be aware it’s not anywhere near as secure as something like Apple’s Face ID which employs special hardware. Smart Lock’s Trusted face can be fooled by a photo of you.

Here’s how to set up a Trusted face:

  • In the Smart Lock menu, tap Trusted face.
  • Tap Set up and follow the on-screen instructions.
  • When your phone starts looking for your face, you will see the Trusted face icon. If your phone doesn’t recognize your face, you can unlock it with the PIN, pattern, or password you’ve saved.

In some cases, your phone might have trouble distinguishing your face from someone else’s. Luckily, improving facial recognition is a cinch.

  • In the Smart Lock menu, tap Trusted Face.
  • Tap Improve face matching.
  • Tap Next and follow the on-screen instructions.

How to add Voice Match

Want to unlock your smartphone with nothing more than your voice? Smart Lock makes it possible. Voice Match recognizes the unique intonation of your phrasing and automatically unlocks your phone without you having to lift a finger. You can access it in a couple of ways.

  • From the Smart Lock settings menu, look for Voice Match.
  • Alternatively, go to Settings > Google > Search > Voice > Voice Match.
  • You can toggle on the “OK, Google” voice command in here and decide whether it should unlock your phone.
  • If you already set it up, but it’s not working well, you can also choose to Retrain voice model to improve it.

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.

Best deals on smart locks so you’ll never have to worry about unlocked doors

Is your front door locked? We found the best deals on smart home door locks that take the worry out of wondering if your home is secure. You can lock or unlock your doors remotely and some models let you control locks with voice commands.
Product Review

Spacious and intuitive, Samsung's Family Hub makes the case for the smart fridge

Samsung's 28-cubic-feet Family Hub fridge aims to not only keep your food cool, but also be the brains of your home via a large computer screen on the outside panel door. Just how smart is it?

Best free parental control software for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android

The internet can be a dangerous place, especially for your loved ones. Check out our selection of the best free parental control software for Windows and Mac OS X, so you can monitor your child and block unsavory sites.

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.

REI clearance sale extends discounts on Garmin, Fitbit, and GoPro devices

Beyond the things you typically expect to find at REI — like tents, skis, and jackets — there are tons of great deals on quality tech foryour outdoor adventures. From smartwatches to action cameras, here are the best tech deals.

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.

Protect your new iPhone with one of our favorite iPhone XR cases

Apple's new iPhone range is the toast of 2018, with beautiful style and more power than you can shake a stick at. But beauty can often be fragile -- keep the damage to a minimum with the best iPhone XR cases.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.

5G Coverage

Curious about 5G and what it means for you? Well here is our awesome one stop shop for all things 5g.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.