Does Face Unlock on the Pixel 8 work for payments?

Hands-on with the Google Pixel 8
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Does Face Unlock on the Pixel 8 work for payments?

Best answer: Yes, and it’s a huge upgrade for the new Google Pixel 8 and higher-end Google Pixel 8 Pro. Now, you can use Face Unlock to automatically authorize a contactless NFC transaction via Google Pay, do banking online, and sign into other apps. It’s a step up from the previous generation Google Pixel 7, with which you could only use Face Unlock to actually unlock the device.

What to know about Google Pay and Face Unlock on the Google Pixel 8

Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

As noted, the Google Pixel 8 sports a massive upgrade when it comes to Face Unlock and mobile payments. With the Google Pixel 7, if you wanted to pay for an item at a contactless terminal, you could use your face to unlock the device (or enter your PIN code), but then you would have to go to the mobile Google Pay wallet app and authenticate a purchase from there. If you unlocked and tried to use your face to pay, the phone would require that you use your fingerprint or PIN code to finalize the transaction first.

Now, thanks to the new Google Tensor G3 processor as well as advanced machine learning algorithms combined with the Titan M2 security chip, Face Unlock on the Pixel 8 can be used to confirm a purchase and get in and out of the store more quickly. However, there’s one caveat: the front-facing camera of the Google Pixel 8 does not support autofocus. This is only supported in the step-up Google Pixel 8 Pro. Thus, you might still run into issues if the camera can’t quickly focus on your face to identify that it’s you, especially if you’re in a low-light area.

Google Tensor G3 showcase at Made by Google event

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

It's too soon to determine how well this feature will work compared to other devices that permit it. There’s no dedicated hardware in the phone that allows for secure payments using the Face Unlock feature. It’s only enabled through machine learning and artificial intelligence and uses the BiometricPrompt API for both payments and app sign-ins. Nonetheless, if you can eliminate that one step to make purchases at the grocery store, local coffee shop, or other places that accept contactless payments, it’ll save you time all around.

Bottom line: try it out somewhere that isn’t busy, and if it doesn’t work, resort to the old method, use a smartwatch that supports Google Pay to tap and pay (loaded with your banking credentials), or pull out that old, dusty physical card. But you might find it works better than you think. Either way, the capability is technically there.

Christine Persaud

Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.