Apple has just rolled out the iOS 14.5 to developers and beta testers, and one of its key features is the ability to keep your iPhone unlocked when your Apple Watch is nearby. As these things tend to go, Android has actually had the same feature for years, although it isn’t quite as polished.
Google’s Smart Lock feature allows the phone to remain unlocked in trusted environments, with the aim of reducing the barrier to entry with a strong lock screen passcode. Entering an alphanumeric passcode or even a 6-digit PIN can be difficult every time you pick up your phone with gloves or a mask, so eliminating the need to unlock when there are no major threats streamlines things drastically.
Turn on smartwatch unlock
You will then see a screen that tells you how Smart Lock works. Here, tap on ‘Got it’ to go to Smart Lock’s main menu, where you’ll want to select ‘Trusted devices’ to put your smartwatch (or any other Bluetooth device for that matter).
Tap “Add Trusted Device”, then select any Bluetooth device you have previously paired with and tap “Yes, Add” in the popup to confirm. If this device is now actively paired with your phone, the phone will remain unlocked. So keep in mind that the Bluetooth range is generally 20 to 50 feet and know that when you are away from your phone, but within that radius, someone else can unlock the device.
To be fair, this is a bit different from Apple’s implementation. iOS only verifies when the Face ID system on newer iPhones sees someone with a mask covering part of their face. Even then, the phone will not be unlocked unless the watch is also unlocked. When it authenticates, the watch will buzz to let you know your phone has been unlocked.
These security measures pretty much eliminate the Smart Lock problem of someone you know who can sniff your phone when you are in the other room. However, the downside is that it only works with the Apple Watch (instead of each Bluetooth device) and the feature is currently only available to a limited number of users.
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