Smart Lock is already one of Android's best-kept secrets, allowing you to keep your phone unlocked when you're paired to a trusted Bluetooth device or carrying the phone on your person. It's something Android borrowed from Motorola and then upgraded six ways to Sunday, and while you're working from home, Smart Lock will become your best friend, especially if you're also using a Chromebook.
See, when I'm working from home, there's always something to pull me away from my computer just long enough to put it to sleep — grabbing a snack from the kitchen turns into doing dishes, for example — and then coming back and having to log in again, and then again in 20 minutes when I get lost in thought, and then in another 20 minutes after that, and then another 20 minutes after that.
Smart Lock lets me avoid that nonsense and get back to work faster on both my phone and my Chromebook.
Smart Lock: The best thing Android ever stole
Smart Lock has a long and mostly ignored history on Android. It originated back in 2013 on the Motorola Moto X as Trusted Bluetooth, which kept your Moto phone unlocked as long as it stayed connected to a designated Bluetooth device such as a smartwatch, or the Bluetooth stereo in your car. It was an addictive feature and was one of several that Google took from Motorola and added to AOSP so all could enjoy it.
Since then, Android Smart Lock has added and subtracted methods of keeping your phone unlocked when it's securely on you, but the two that remain the most faithful and functional — especially for the work from home crowd — are trusted Bluetooth devices and trusted locations. Android can keep your phone unlocked around a small location that you designate, such as your home or your office.
It's a small feature that is phenomenally useful, and while manufacturers never really tout this feature, the Android system itself makes enrolling Trusted devices a breeze. The first time you pair a Bluetooth device, Smart Lock will ask if you want to make it a Trusted device. If you want to, you tap the notification, enter your fingerprint, and tap the device you want to trust.
Having Smart Lock keep your phone unlocked while you're at home is infinitely useful whether you live alone or have a huge family driving you bonkers in quarantine. Smart Lock means that while you're home, you can get back to the notes you were referencing on the small screen, or re-join the meeting you had to leave to break up a fight between your kiddos. So long as you come back to your phone within four hours, your phone will still be unlocked and waiting to get back to work.
And of course, Smart Lock on your phone can also help keep the Smart Lock on your Chromebook unlocked.
Smart Lock is even better on a Chromebook
Smart Lock came to Chromebooks when Google debuted the connected phone suite originally called Better Together back in 2018, and ever since it arrived, I have been in absolute love. I spend most of my days on my Chromebook, and so long as my phone is close enough for a Bluetooth connection and unlocked, the only time I need to put in my full Gmail password is when I first log in each morning.
As I mentioned before, working from home is getting called away just long enough for your Chromebook to fall asleep several times a day. Smart Lock means you can get back to work quicker without sacrificing security since Chrome re-locks whenever it goes to sleep and then re-authenticates through Smart Lock each and every time.
If you're not comfortable with having your security tied to a location — which if you live in an apartment or a densely-populated city is a reasonable concern — Smart Lock can still help you keep things unlocked but secure. Most days, my Smart Lock chain is as follows: my smartwatch keeps my phone unlocked, and my phone keeps my computer unlocked.
One thing that's especially wonderful about Chromebooks is that your connected device — and Smart Lock — sync along with the rest of your Extensions and apps. You set Smart Lock up once, and then you can use it on every Chromebook you own until you either disable it or switch it to a new phone.
Smart Lock is security made easy, and while it's not Fort Knox, it's an Android feature I couldn't live without at this point. I open my phone far too often to hassle with the S20's fingerprint sensor — or any fingerprint sensor — a hundred times a day, and this simple security feature means that I don't have to. The only thing more mind-blowing than how easy Smart Lock is to use is the fact that over five years since its inclusion into stock Android, Apple still hasn't copied it for the iPhone.
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When you're at home with little company and many distractions, it's the perfect time to try it out. You can get started with Smart Lock in three minutes, and once you've used it for a week, I'm willing to bet you'll never turn it off again.
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.