Pixel 4’s face unlock finally catches up to the iPhone. It’s about damn time


Face unlock on the Pixel 4 could inspire other Android phones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With the blink of an eye, Google’s Pixel 4 accomplishes something that no other significant Android phone-maker has. It finally caught up to iPhone’s Face ID — a biometric unlocking feature that Apple popularized two years ago — to unlock the phone and buy things with a scan of your face. Now that a secure version exists in Android phones, face unlock will be the killer feature every Android user will want. 

The face unlock feature on Android phones has existed for years, but mostly as a convenience that’s been flimsy enough to fool with photos. Face ID’s more rigorous process meant it was secure enough for transactions. 

Some Huawei phones, like the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, use the same technology as Apple to unlock the phone, but they don’t support mobile payments. This year, Samsung killed its iris scanning after three years. That left Apple as the only real game in town.


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With consumers more aware of the value of their privacy, being able to offer secure face unlock is potentially even more convenient than scanning your fingerprint or entering a pin code. Closing the gap with Face ID also gives Google an edge over Samsung, LG, Huawei and all the rest at a time when Google can sell its phones across all major US carriers, providing an opportunity to make the Pixel, which hasn’t historically sold well, more of a household name.

But more importantly, the Pixel 4’s adoption of this…