We’re still waiting for the ability to use Wear OS to unlock Android devices and Chromebooks. Watch Unlock was demoed earlier this year, and ongoing work reveals how Smart Lock will be sticking around as “Extend Unlock.”
About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.
The old Smart Lock feature can “Keep your phone unlocked while it’s on you, at specific places that you trust, or near your connected devices.”
Watch Unlock will work when a Wear OS device is brought near a paired Android phone or tablet, as well as Chromebook. The wearable has to be unlocked, and there will be an on-watch confirmation that auto-unlock was triggered with the ability to quickly “Lock again.” Your phone will also note that it was “Unlocked by Watch.”
This was demoed at Google’s CES 2023 booth between the Pixel Watch and phone, with the company telling us earlier this month that it’s still coming:
Enabling these experiences that help your devices work better together across different brands is a huge challenge we’re solving for. There’s a lot of work to get done, and we are taking the time to make sure that we’re able to deliver a high bar of quality with these experiences.
Version 23.03.13 of Google Play services continues work on “Adding watch to Watch Unlock.” We’ve learned that the paired phone or tablet needs to run Android 13 and that the setup process starts from Settings > Security & privacy > More security settings.
Watch Unlock will appear under Smart Lock (more on that below), and you’ll simply select your paired wearable from a list:
- Use your watch to unlock this phone when your face or fingerprint isn’t recognized. This can be helpful when you’re wearing a mask or your fingers are wet.
- Your watch must be unlocked, on your wrist, and close to this phone. You won’t need to unlock your watch again while it’s on your wrist.
- When this phone is unlocked, you’ll get notified on your watch. To lock this phone again, tap the notification.
- You can remove your watch from Watch Unlock at any time in Settings.
Notably, strings frame Watch Unlock as an “upgrade” over Smart Lock (Trusted devices):
Upgrade to Watch Unlock?
Enabling it will disable “Extend Unlock (previously Smart Lock),” but you can “add your watch back to Extend Unlock at any time in Settings.”
We learn that Smart Lock will be rebranded to “Extend Unlock” and stick around, though we can’t be sure whether the other two capabilities (On-body detection and Trusted places) will remain available.
”You’ll be able to unlock this phone with %1$s.nnYour watch will no longer keep this phone unlocked with Extend Unlock (previously Smart Lock).nnYou can add your watch back to Extend Unlock at any time in Settings.”
Removing watch from Extend Unlocku2026
It’s interesting that Smart Lock is staying all these years later. Even with Watch Unlock, the company is preserving the old option. Ultimately, it’s too legacy a feature for Google to remove without providing an alternative, and even that’s not enough.
Thanks to JEB Decompiler, from which some APK Insight teardowns benefit.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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