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More Android phones are using encryption and lock screen security than ever before

Security lock on a Galaxy S7
Security lock on a Galaxy S7 (Image credit: Android Central)

We like to harp on security here from time to time, but it's for good reason. Many often have a false sense of just how secure their private data is on their devices — that is, if they're thinking about it at all. Your average smartphone user just wants to access the apps and people they care about, and not worry about security.

That's why it was extremely encouraging to hear some of the security metrics announced at Google I/O 2017. For devices running Android Nougat, roughly 80% of users are running them fully encrypted. At the same time, about 70% of Nougat devices are using a secure lock screen of some form.

That 80% encryption number isn't amazingly surprising when you remember that Nougat has full-device encryption turned on by default, but that number also includes devices that were upgraded from Marshmallow, which didn't have default encryption. Devices running on Marshmallow have a device encryption rate of just 25%, though, so this is a massive improvement. And the best part about Google's insistence on default encryption is that eventually older devices will be replaced by those running Nougat or later out of the box, meaning this encryption rate could get very close to 100%.

The default settings are immensely important.

Full-device encryption is particularly effective when paired with a secure lock screen, and Google's metrics showing 70% adoption in this regard definitely needs some work. It's a small increase from the roughly 60% secure lock screen rate of Marshmallow phones but a decent jump from the sub-50% rate of devices running Lollipop. The most interesting aspect of these numbers to my eyes is that having a fingerprint sensor on the device doesn't signal a very large increase in adoption — perhaps just a five percentage point jump. On one hand it's great to see people using secured lock screens even when they don't have something as convenient as a fingerprint sensor, but then again I'd expect the simplicity of that sensor to help adoption more than these numbers show.

The trend is heading in the right direction in both of these metrics, and that's a great sign despite the fact that secure lock screens show a slower growth rate. The closer we get both of these numbers to 100%, the better.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

15 Comments
  • I'll be honest, I only have a lock screen because I'm lazy. I want to be able to use the fingerprint scanner in apps. I set my watch as a trusted device, so I don't have to deal with the lock screen too often.
  • I'll be more honest: I'm only using a lockscreen because Google Forces me to do so in order to use Android Pay. In ten years on Android I've never lost my phone, its never out of my possession, its always in my pocket, and I don't flash it around to attract thieves. Everything that needs a password has a password, including my password vault. Yup, I know it is said to be theoretically more secure to keep the phone locked. I'm kind of skeptical about that, but I accept it as having some merit. Still not a month goes by without there being some article (some even here on AC) that tells us how easy it is to defeat lock screens. So the real question is DOES IT REALLY WORK? Everybody is going to give up that password in a heartbeat when a knife or a gun or a warrant is produced. And Google will quickly give up everything they know about you with just a letter from someone appearing to be a sheriff. So how is this different than the rest of the security theater we see every day?
  • You never lose your phone? It's the same argument people use when they don't use a seatbelt or a helmet because "they never had an accident". Use some secure fast unlock like fingerprint or iris scanner, and you don't really have to type a long password every time.
  • That's right. I never lose my phone.
    I would have thought that my post made it perfectly obvious that I was already using a lock method. Why did you feel compelled to suggest I needed to use crazy methods like iris scanners?
    Why did you feel compelled to compare a lost phone to death by car crash? Hyperventilate much?
  • Well I don't use​ a device that has a fingerprint sensor or Iris scanner but i lock my phone using a PiN because i don't want anyone snooping in without my permission... But for the encryption, i don't want anything messing up my memory card.
  • Not mine. My phone never leaves my side and i find it to be more of a nuisance than anything.
  • So like...80% of 4% of devices worldwide?
  • Was thinking the same thing. With such a small amount of devices on N, it really isn't that impressive. 
  • If only Google would publicize such statistics monthly or at least quarterly.
  • Welp, consider my Moto Z to be one of the 20% that isn't encrypted. It's because of a custom kernel. Dumb? Probably, but I had to do it just to make sure TWRP backups actually work.
  • So did the Nexus 5X have full disk encryption by default when it released?
  • I'm not surprised since a lock screen security is required if you want to use Android pay?
  • Why ? Lock your phone . I had more issues with the govt or businesses being hacked than my phone . It never leaves my sight and most apps need a password to buy or look into ..
  • I don't have car insurance because it's been over 8 years since I've been in accident, so I don't lock my phone either....
  • I like that it requires you to enter the code after a reboot and can't just use the finger print scanner. I just wish there was a faster way to disable the scanner. As it stands I use the fingerprint for convenience, and just hope I can reboot it in time when interacting with someone that demands I respect their athor-it-tie. Before people start the BS argument, I just prefer authorities to respect the law, and I make efforts to force them to follow the law.