The Stack Archive

Google introduces on-body detection and smart lock features

Mon 23 Mar 2015

Google is rolling out two new features across its Android smartphones, ‘on-body detection’ and ‘smart lock.’ These additions will use the in-built smartphone accelerometer which judges a device’s orientation – whether the phone is in use or if it is resting on a surface.

According to the Silicon Valley tech giant, the phone will remain unlocked when held in a hand or in a pocket. But once the device is rested on a table or flat surface, it will automatically lock itself.

The new detection system adds to the growing list of convenience features offered across the Android platform. However, as much as the on-body detection is a good idea for ease of use, it does not come without its clear dangers.

Firstly, when the device is left unlocked in a pocket it can dial random and expensive numbers.

More worrying still is that the accelerometer cannot identify between users, so even if the phone is handed over to an individual other than the owner the device will follow the same protocol. This raises certain concern in case of smartphone theft or unwanted handling.

“If you unlock your device and hand it to someone else, your device also stays unlocked as long as the other person continues to hold or carry it,” warned a statement alongside the new feature option.

The smart lock feature allows users to set secure zones, at their homes and offices, where the phone will remain unlocked once it has been unlocked for the first time in that location.


When made available, the user can opt to enable the features accessed from Settings –> Security –> Smart Lock. For now it is unclear whether the feature is limited to Android 5.0+ devices.

Currently the new features are limited to a number of Nexus smartphone models however Google is expected to roll it out gradually across its complete Lollipop range.


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