Apple versus Google. Android versus iOS. Every Android-powered phone brand and model going against the giant known as the iPhone. It has been this way for quite some time now. This tech cold war and arms race has been waging since smartphones became a central part of people’s daily lives. Apple and its iPhone are deemed superior by mobile device experts over other brands and models not sporting the fruit logo. However, it may change this time. Google’s Pixel 4 offers a security feature that brings it to level with its competition’s most celebrated innovation. It may even have surpassed it.
Changing of the Guard
Android phones’ face unlock system has existed for years now. Unfortunately, the convenience it has intended to provide has fared poorly. A user can easily fool the feature just with photos of oneself. On the other hand, the iPhone’s Face ID requires a more rigorous process. Aside from unlocking the phone, it was secure enough for one to transact and buy stuff just with a scan of the face.
The Pixel 4 is now shipping to those who have pre-ordered it. As they are released to consumers in a few days, the flagship phone sports a new and secure face unlock feature. Most Android phones also include a fingerprint reader. Instead, Pixel 4 does away with that. This newly-developed face-scanning system is the only biometric option included. Now that this latest version works just like Apple’s system, it could become the killer feature to boost demand for Android devices.
Pixel 4 and the Android-wielding World
Some smartphone brands have already tried to duplicate the iPhone’s face unlock technology. Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro is one, though unable to support mobile payments. Samsung also put an end to its iris-scanning feature just this year after a three-year run. Hence, such developments essentially made Apple as the only game in town.
Consumers today become more aware of the value of their privacy. So, Google’s newfound capability in providing a secure face unlock makes it more viable than pin codes and fingerprint scans. Catching up with Face ID also produces some great results. Google gains an edge over other Android-powered brands such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, etc. The Pixel 4 is now available across all major US mobile networks. With a history of poor sales, the time is ripe for Google to make its flagship a household name.
Finally, the system adoption’s most significant result will be its game-changing effects across all Android devices. If proven successful, the face unlock feature is guaranteed to run on every flagship and mid-range smartphone. An estimated 90% of all mobile devices use the Android platform.
The Whys and Hows of Face Unlock
Face unlock technology is the leading biometric method for identity verification today. It’s a hands-free, quick, and convenient alternative to fingerprint scanning. It frees up space on the phone screen. A user can focus solely on the front to unlock the device. It also can validate passwords necessary for mobile payments. The system works by taking a scan of one’s facial features and making a stored image. The smartphone then compares this image to the user’s face whenever he or she attempts to unlock the device.
As already mentioned, the iPhone and now Pixel 4 run a similar process. They use an infrared sensor which projects a grid of invisible dots onto the user’s face. Then, a pair of cameras read and create a 3D map of it. This depth map contains detailed information on the length, width, shape, and span of one’s facial features. Additionally, Pixel 4 sports a radar-driven motion-sensing feature called Motion Sense. It recognizes when one reaches for the phone, which triggers the screen to unlock. Gesturing and glancing are now its calling cards.
Early Bumps and Future Fixes for the Pixel 4
Unfortunately, an issue has arrived early for consumers awaiting their Pixel 4 units. It seems that the phone will unlock even if one’s eyes are closed. Google has issued a statement vowing to issue a fix in the form of a software update. This update will include an option that requires users to open their eyes to unlock the device. The full statement reads:
“We’ve been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months. In the meantime, if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern or password for the next unlock. Pixel 4 face unlock meets the security requirements as a strong biometric, and can be used for payments and app authentication, including banking apps. It is resilient against invalid unlock attempts via other means, like with masks.”