Back in 2019, the Pixel 4 debuted with a rather elaborate face unlock system. For whatever reason, Google ended up rethinking its approach to biometrics, and the 4a and 5 worked with fingerprint sensors alone. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro came out in late 2021, and still there was no sign of Face Unlock returning. Following the discovery of some evidence suggesting that work may still be underway to update these phones with full face unlock support, a new report offers a glimpse into the plan.
Earlier this month, a Redditor setting up a Pixel 6 encountered a face unlock option, as reported by 9to5Google. The poster wrote that the face unlock option appeared during the “Choose a screen lock” step to set up the phone, which is when users choose alternative ways to unlock screens. The “Face” option appeared with options to enter a password, pattern or PIN. The Redditor wasn’t prompted to actually put Face Lock into action, and it didn’t show up in the settings later. Oddly, this happened in a stable Android release as well, not something like a 12L beta build.
9to5Google investigated the operating system and discovered that “face” has been buried in a piece of security-related code since 2021. For whatever reason, it appeared recently and randomly as an option. While face unlock appeared in some overseas marketing for the Pixel 6, upon release it seemed like Google had thought better of offering it.
Now the site is back with a new report that tries to both fill us in on a little backstory, as well as offer support for the idea that face unlock will eventually arrive via a future update. According to unnamed sources, face unlock was very much on the menu for the Pixel 6 Pro (but not the smaller Pixel 6), until relatively close to launch.
While we’re not privy to the reasoning behind this change of heart, efforts are reportedly underway to bring the feature to the phone, and it could still come with Google’s next quarterly update. While it’s a little strange to think of a major feature like this coming this far after a phone’s initial launch, we’ll take what we can get.
UPDATE: 2022/04/23 15:41 EST BY STEPHEN SCHENCK
Rumors of software update
Updated with 9to5Google’s latest report on changes to Google’s original plan and its ongoing efforts to deliver face unlock via software update.