Google Pixel 7a could get a much-wanted security upgrade over the Pixel 6a

Google Pixel 6a in chalk, sage and charcoal laying screen side down on a wooden table
Press image of the Google Pixel 6a (Image credit: Google)

We've heard a lot about the forthcoming Google Pixel 7a: when it's likely to launch, potential pricing and release dates, its design, key hardware and what software it'll run. With so much already on the table, new rumors and leaks are now giving us more detailed insights into what to expect; with this latest one touching on a key security feature that would signal a notable upgrade for the series.

In a quartet of leaked screenshots shared by established Twitter tipster SnoopyTech – attributed to the Pixel 7a – it looks like the Google's next affordable phone will boast Face Unlock functionality; a first for the Pixel A-series.

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Face Unlock is a pretty commonplace security feature on most phones nowadays, usually accompanied by fingerprint unlocking as a secondary biometric unlock method. In the case of the Pixel family, however, after debuting on the Pixel 4 series in 2019, Face Unlock was then noticeably absent from every entry after that; including the Pixel 4a, 4a 5G, 5a, 6a and even a pair of the best Pixel phones around – the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

While Google never formally addressed the feature's removal and subsequent absence, the main school of thought seems to be that the company decided it was too big of a power drain to implement against the battery life targets they wanted to hit (something that was, undoubtedly, at the fore of the Pixel 5 team's mind after the famously-abysmal battery life of the Pixel 4).

Why is Face Unlock returning now?

Google Pixel 7 review front camera

The Pixel 7's front camera was the first in several generations of Pixel to reinstate Face Unlock. (Image credit: Future / Alex Walker-Todd)

While fingerprint unlock (initially capacitive and subsequently in-screen optical – starting with the Pixel 6 series) exclusively was enough to tide Pixel users over for a few generations, it appears Google was always planning on reinstating Face Unlock, which it managed with the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

The improved power efficiency of the company's Tensor G2 chipset is presumably the reason behind the feature's return within this current generation of Pixels, and, if true, that adds weight the the legitimacy of this latest Pixel 7a leak.

We're still a few weeks away from the Google Pixel 7a's expected debut at Google IO 2023 on May 10, but if the picture that's currently been painted holds true, we should be in for a capable new camera-centric mid-ranger from Google.

Alex Walker-Todd
Senior Phones Editor

Alex joined as TechRadar's Senior Phones Editor in June 2022, but brings over a decade's worth of experience to the role, with an expertise in smartphones, tablets and wearables. He's covered keynotes hosted by the biggest brands and attended the launches for some of the most influential mobile products of the last few years. His experience was amassed at some of the most reputable consumer technology publications out there, including GSMArena, TechAdvisor and Trusted Reviews.