Google's new way to unlock your phone with your Pixel Watch may be coming soon

Google Pixel Watch worn on a wrist
(Image credit: Namerah Saud Fatmi / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google's Watch Unlock feature, which debuted at CES 2023, now looks like it's ready to go.
  • The feature allows users to unlock their Pixel phone using their Wear OS device if their smartwatch is on their wrist and near their phone.
  • It's unclear at this point when exactly the Watch Unlock feature will be rolled out.

There’s no shortage of ways for users to unlock their Android phones, with most methods involving fingerprint scans or face activation. But now, a new phone unlocking feature will be coming from Google — at least, it will be available if you have a Pixel Watch or, perhaps eventually, another Wear OS device. 

At CES 2023, the tech giant debuted its Watch Unlock feature, a new function that enables users to unlock their phones with their Pixel Watch. However, since the introduction of the tool in January, the tech giant hasn’t given us any more details. But now it looks like the function is ready for prime time.

Mind you, Google still hasn’t announced any formal update. However, a new post on X — the platform that was formerly known as Twitter — did weigh in with crucial details about the Watch Unlock feature and a glimpse into what the function looks like. 

As seen in a screen recording posted by AssembleDebug, the Watch Unlock feature is available under “More security settings” in Pixel smartphones. According to a screenshot from the recording, Google explains that the feature “is another convenient way to unlock [your] phone, for example, when your hands are wet or face isn’t recognized.” However, it will only work if your smartwatch is on your wrist and within reach of your phone, which will allow you to connect both devices.

In terms of how the function works, it looks like if you’re unable to unlock your phone by face or fingerprint, it will check for your smartwatch, which, if connected and nearby, will unlock your phone. Your wearable will then send you a notification. This is not unlike the Apple Watch’s own version of this feature to unlock iPhones.

The Watch Unlock feature uses Android 13’s already existing Active Unlock API to tap into the phone’s locked state, but it seems to be more secure than the previous Smart Unlock feature, which has been rebranded to Extend Unlock.

However, it’s unclear right now whether the feature will be limited to Pixel Watches or if it will work on other Wear OS devices, such as Samsung’s recently launched Galaxy Watch 6 series. It’s also not clear yet when Google will roll out the feature to users. But since it’s already being tested, we might expect it to be released soon, perhaps alongside the Pixel 8 this year.