What you need to know
- 9to5Google discovered a reference to Smart Unlock in the latest Google Play Services Beta.
- It would enable you to unlock your phone with your Pixel Watch, similar to Samsung's Smart Lock tool with the Galaxy Watch 4.
- It would work through the "Google Pixel Watch app" rather than the Wear OS app.
At CES 2022, Google promised to bring Smart Lock to Wear OS 3 watches, so you could keep your Android phone unlocked whenever you're nearby while wearing your Android smartwatch. Now, we've seen the first hint that it could arrive soon — only not through the Wear OS app.
Looking through the code of the Google Play Services Beta version 22.22, 9to5Google found a reference to a Smart Unlock Settings page. Once enabled, "When your watch is unlocked, on your wrist, and close to your phone, it'll unlock this phone." You can then add your watch.
Curiously, the page description also mentions that to sync your watch, you must "connect it to your phone with the Pixel Watch app."
It's also not guaranteed that this feature will be available when the Pixel Watch launches this fall, as Google features often take months from when they first appear in APK form.
However, this leak brings up several curious points of interest. It's the first reference to a Pixel Watch app, which suggests the Google Pixel Watch will use it instead of the Wear OS app to sync to your Android phone. That, in turn, suggests the Pixel Watch could receive some exclusive features that don't appear in the Wear OS app, in addition to Smart Unlock.
For context, most Wear OS watches rely on Google's Wear OS app, while the Galaxy Watch 4 uses its own Galaxy Wearable app and currently supports a similar Smart Lock feature to keep your phone unlocked while it's nearby.
By using its own app, Samsung is able to keep its Galaxy Watch 4 much more distinct than stock Wear OS watches that rely more on Google.
Google will likely bring Smart Unlock to Wear OS 3 watches at some point — it'll just come to the Pixel Watch first, if this leak is accurate.
What's more important is that by using its own Pixel Watch app, Google can push other exclusive features like Fitbit software or Material You UI to its own watch first, then bring them to the stock Wear OS app down the line. This spells good things for Pixel Watch owners, but not so much for Fossil or Mobvoi owners who have been waiting since last May for Wear OS 3 features.
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Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.