The Pixel 4's face unlock now has that vital security feature it was missing at launch

Pixel 4 XL face unlock prompt
Pixel 4 XL face unlock prompt (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • On April 6, Google began rolling out the April 2020 security patch to Pixel phones.
  • It's been discovered that this patch includes a "require eyes to be open" toggle for the Pixel 4's face unlock.
  • This is something that's been missing since launch and makes face unlock much more secure.

The Pixel 4 has one of the best face unlock systems ever seen on an Android phone. It's incredibly fast, uses Motion Sense to engage itself without you having to press the power button, and is the first Android face unlock to work as a form of biometric authentication for major banking apps, password managers, etc.

Unfortunately, ever since the Pixel 4 hit the market back in October 2019, there's been a serious security vulnerability with the way it's set up — it worked even if your eyes were closed. This means someone could grab your phone, hold it up to your face while you were asleep or otherwise weren't paying attention, and have instant access to your device. Thankfully, this has finally been addressed.

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

As part of the April 2020 security patch that began rolling out to the Pixel 4 on April 6, there's a new toggle called "Require eyes to be open." When enabled, you'll need to have your eyes open and looking at the Pixel 4 in order for face unlock to work. If you want to enable the new feature for yourself, go to Settings -> Security -> Face unlock.

This is a feature we've been harping on Google to add for months at this point, so while it is disappointing that it took this long to come to fruition, it certainly is better late than never.

It is interesting that Google didn't explicity mention this addition in its forum post detailing the April 2020 patch, but in any case, it should be there waiting for you once you get your Pixel 4 updated.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Why is it a vital security feature?
    Being able to unlock with eyes closed (i.e. asleep) is different to someone using your finger on a fingerprint reader whilst you are asleep. Yet nobody ever made a song and dance about that 'security flaw'!
  • Because someone using your fingerprint requires them to touch you and press your finger against the phone. With face unlock, they just need to put your phone in front of your sleeping face.
  • Will it detect my face while wearing my face mask? Lol
  • If you're regularly falling asleep around people that made this a security risk you probably need to reevaluate a few aspects of your life.
  • In our case, it was houseguests that were staying with us when the pandemic hit. The woman is not a problem, but her daughter is. She's tried to unlock my phone several times while I was sleeping. She's also tried to trick me into it while I was awake by saying "Hey, look at this!" and holding MY phone up, but I foil her by looking with one eye closed.
  • It still unlocks if you have one eye open. If my kid wants to unlock my phone, all he/she has to see as hold open slightly one eye. Seems there could be a little more work.
  • They should have fixed that... maybe another update?
    HTC made it to require both eyes, don't know why Google is having a hard time getting it right.
  • 😀 @Akronevan2.. Your kids are not that mischievous are they?
  • Nooooo....I just got my p4xl trained to approve me with my sun glasses on.
  • "the first Android face unlock to work as a form of biometric authentication for major banking apps, password managers, etc."
    This is true, but only because Google decided to make it so. Other Android phones had secure face unlock before the Pixel 4 came along.
  • What Android phones exactly "had secure face unlock before the Pixel 4"? Also... Face unlock on the P4/XL works with one eye open, so no sure what it is you're talking about.
  • The LG G8, and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro had secure face unlock before the Pixel 4. Even the Note9 uses a secure iris scanning for Samsung pay. The reason why it seems the Pixel 4 is first is because Google released the new "Biometric API" and the Pixel 4 was first to take advantage of it. LG can easily update the G8 to use the same API but we know how LG is with updates.
  • I'm pretty sure he is going to say that bankrupt htc company had face unlock before anyone else and it worked perfectly. htc is trash.
  • Thank duck I'm using a P3a.