In fact, Smart Lock might even get a new name
Smart Lock in Android is a handy feature that keeps your phone unlocked when connected to a Bluetooth accessory, at a trusted location, or carrying it with you. Admittedly, the feature is not that smart or secure: when used with a smartwatch, Smart Lock will keep your phone unlocked even if you’re not wearing it. Google wants to change that with Watch Unlock, which the company showcased at CES 2023. But by no means will Watch Unlock replace Smart Lock. In fact, you might even see it under a new name.
Mishaal Rahman, senior technical editor for Esper, has found strings in a Google Play Services v23.02 APK that refer to Smart Lock being renamed as Extend Unlock (via Reddit). This naming scheme will make sense, as Smart Lock only keeps your phone unlocked when certain conditions are met. It does not automatically unlock your phone, which is what Watch Unlock will do.
Your watch will no longer keep this phone unlocked with Extend Unlock (previously Smart Lock). You can add your watch back to Extend Unlock at any time in Settings.
Watch Unlock is being developed for the Pixel Watch potentially along with other Wear OS 3 smartwatches using a new Active Unlock API in Android 13. It will automatically unlock your phone after face/fingerprint unlock fails, provided you are wearing your watch. An on-device confirmation message will appear on your smartwatch along with a ‘Lock again’ option. For such unlocks, your phone will show a toast notification saying that it was “Unlocked by watch.”
9to5Google further notes that Watch Unlock will require the paired phone or tablet to run Android 13. The option will appear as a separate listing below Smart Lock in Settings > Security & privacy > More security settings. The feature should also make its way to Chromebooks, as teased by Google back at CES 2022.
Once Google rolls out Watch Unlock, you will be prompted to upgrade to it from Smart Lock. Doing so will disable the latter, but you can always “add your watch back to Extend Unlock at any time in Settings.”
Use your watch to securely unlock your phone after you wake it up. This can be helpful to access notifications and your digital assistant, or when your face or fingerprint isn’t recognized.
There’s no word from Google on when it will roll out Watch Unlock. But given the pace of development and considering the company showed off the feature publicly at CES 2023, its public release should happen in the next few months.