Google went all out with face recognition on the Pixel 4, removing the fingerprint sensor altogether. Google strongly believes in the speed and accuracy of its technology and, for the most part, that seems to be the case based on initial hands-on of the phones. Unfortunately, Google may have overlooked or at least neglected to consider the importance of actually paying attention to the screen when it’s being unlocked, something it has gotten a lot of criticism for. That eye detection is now promised to come in the future but it might take months before it rolls out to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
It’s not hard to understand why Google and Apple are yet again being compared in this context. Both have thrown out any and all fingerprint scanners from their latest smartphones and both boast that their face recognition technologies could not be fooled by masks, let alone photos. The similarities, however, end with the eyes.
Apple’s Face ID requires that users pay attention to the screen when unlocking it, which is to say they need to have their eyes open at the very least. This is actually an optional feature and can be turned off from iOS’ accessibility settings for users that may not have the ability to look at the phone. This feature prevents the almost comical yet actually serious scenario of someone unlocking your phone while you sleep or, worse, without your consent.
After an initial “no comment” statement, Google reached out to The Verge to say that it’s working on such a feature. That will be rolling out in the coming months, though Google doesn’t say when. Nor does it say if it will be optional but default requirement, just like Face ID.
This missing feature, or if it arrives but it disabled by default, could be useful not just for pranks but for people who want to force owners to unlock their phones against their will. In the meantime, Google is advising security-concerned Pixel 4 users to enable a lockdown option that requires a PIN or pattern for the next unlock. It also assures owners that, despite that missing eye detection, its Face Unlock is secure enough for payments and banking and can’t be fooled by masks.