Google’s latest and greatest smartphone, the Pixel 6, was recently launched without one key feature consumers expected: Face Unlock. The functionality would have enabled Pixel 6 owners to quickly unlock their devices by looking at them, a feature similar to the Face ID functionality found on iPhone. Though the Pixel 6 launch proceeded without Face Unlock, the feature may still be in the pipeline.
There were good reasons to assume the Pixel 6 would launch with Face Unlock as a key feature. Android users had noticed that Google’s Security Hub app included a section titled “Face & Fingerprint Unlock” with the app images presented on the Pixel 6 handset (the screenshots have since been updated to remove the ‘Face’ part).
Without Face Unlock, Pixel 6 users are instead reliant on the under-display fingerprint sensor. This isn’t a huge deal, as fingerprint authentication requires only a second or two of effort compared to having the nearly instant unlock when staring at the device. Despite that, many have grown fond of face-based authentication with increasingly common options like Windows Hello, plus the older Pixel 4 featured Face Unlock.
Though Face Unlock didn’t arrive with the Pixel 6 at launch, XDA points to some tweets from developer “Freak07” that provide evidence Google may bring the face authentication feature to its latest smartphone model at a future date.
It is possible Google may still plan a Face Unlock release for Pixel 6 (though it hasn’t said as much); if that’s the case, it may arrive as a future Pixel feature drop, which brings new functionality to supported Pixel phones every few months. However, despite their similarities on the user’s end, Face Unlock for the Pixel 6 wouldn’t be the same as Face ID on the iPhone and newer iPads.
Unlike the iPhone and certain iPad models, the Pixel 6 doesn’t have special hardware built into the phone that would offer more secure facial recognition. That’s a problem from a security standpoint, as signing into a device using only an ordinary camera leaves it more vulnerable to intruders.
However, years have passed since the early days of this more simplistic type of face authentication, and so software improvements may enable Google to offer a more secure version of Face Unlock — assuming it does, ultimately, add the feature to the Pixel 6.