Quick Tip: Smart Lock Makes Unlocking Your Android Phone A Breeze

A picture of the Smart Lock menu on the OnePlus 8 Pro
Cam

Having a secure lock screen on your phone is important, especially if it were to get lost or stolen. But in a situation where that’s unlikely to happen—like when you’re just chilling at home—it can be annoying to input a code, PIN, pattern, or even a fingerprint every time you want to use your phone. That’s where Smart Lock can help.

Welcome to Quick Tips, a series where we offer tips and tricks that aren’t necessarily new but may have gone under the radar or otherwise not be well known.

Android’s Smart Lock feature can be a bit confusing, mostly because Google uses the same name for similar but unrelated features—Smart Lock for Android, Smart Lock for Passwords, and Smart Lock for Chromebooks all have the same name but aren’t the same thing. Good times.

Smart Lock for Android is a way to quickly and easily bypass your phone’s lock screen when certain criteria is met. For example, you can keep your phone unlocked when it’s “in motion” (in your hand or pocket), when you’re at home or work with geofencing, or when a specific Bluetooth device is connected.

The latter two options make the most sense, but the former seems like a bad idea. After all, there’s no way to confirm it’s your pocket or hand the phone is in. So yeah, I don’t recommend using that one.

A screenshot of the options in Smart Lock's security settings A screenshot of the on-body detection option in Smart Lock settingsProbably don’t use on-body detection if you care about security. 

You can find these options by jumping into your phone’s Settings > Security option most likely, though some manufacturers like to move things around, so it might be nustled under some other menu entry. You can always just search the Settings menu for “Smart Lock,” which every Android phone out there should support by now.

Once in the Smart Lock menu, you’ll see the aforementioned options. If you want to keep your phone unlocked at home, work, or any other place, use the Trusted Places option. Like most geofencing options, I find it to be pretty hit and miss, but your mileage may vary. When it works, it works.

My personal favorite is the Trusted Devices option. I wear a smartwatch pretty much all the time (Samsung Galaxy Active 2 is the bee’s knees, y’all), and it’s the perfect Smart Lock companion. When set as a Trusted Device, my phone stays unlocked as long as my watch is connected over Bluetooth. But as soon as the watch is out of range, it immediately re-enables the secure lock screen.

Because Bluetooth has roughly a 30-foot range, that means if someone were to steal my phone or I were to lay it down in a store and walk off, it would be locked up tight pretty quickly. This works with any Bluetooth device, so if you have headphones, a speaker, or anything else that’s commonly connected to your phone, you can enable it.

I find Smart Lock to be one of Android’s most underrated and underutilized features, so if you’re looking for a way to keep your phone unlocked in “safe” situations, give it a shot.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and serves as an Editorial Advisor for How-to Geek and LifeSavvy. He’s been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. Read Full Bio »

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