Samsung Galaxy S11's face unlock could rival iPhone and Pixel - but do we need it?

Samsung Galaxy S11
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (Image credit: Future)

Several smartphone companies use advanced facial recognition as a way to unlock a smartphone, among them Apple and Google, and it seems Samsung is set to get in on the fun too, as new information about the Samsung Galaxy S11 points to it toting the feature.

That news comes from Max Weinbach (a writer for XDADevelopers), who noticed lines of code in a facial unlocking app, which points to the Samsung Galaxy S11 using the tech as a fundamental part of the device.

Picasso is a code-name for Galaxy S11 – we've heard this from many leaks, and it makes sense given Samsung's tendency to name its devices after painters and artists (da Vinci was the code-name for the Galaxy Note 10). On top of that, the artist Pablo Picasso was particularly known for his portraits, so the use of face unlocking – of positioning your face in front of the camera – is thematically apt.

Previous phones from Apple and Google, like the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4, have relied on an advanced face unlock, doing away with the physical or in-screen fingerprint sensors that most other handsets use. But is facial recognition a good way of unlocking your smartphone?

Is face unlocking the new in-screen fingerprint sensor?

It's worth pointing out that most smartphones (including the Galaxy S10) do have basic facial recognition to complement other means of unlocking your phone, but these are 2D picture-based, which is less secure (though quicker) than the more complex systems of Apple and Google.

Weinbach is quick to point out that what he's found doesn't prove that 3D facial recognition is coming to the S11, but with Samsung working on the feature at all it suggests some improvements.

In our testing of the Galaxy S10, we found the face recognition to be rather slow, which is a problem we've had with Apple's products in the past, but at least the latter is more secure.

Even the snappiest face unlocking we've found in a phone is still significantly slower than simply using an in-screen, rear-mounted or side-mounted fingerprint sensor, as those are both quicker to use, and found in locations on the device that make them more natural to use.

Fingerprint scanners are more secure too, as people have found it rather easy to use pictures of people, or sleeping people, to unlock a handset using face recognition. 

If the Samsung Galaxy S11 uses facial recognition as a primary way of unlocking your phone, that makes three companies who have embraced the tech, even though there's limited evidence of people actually wanting this.

Now that three of the biggest smartphone makers are using the feature, it could be a sign of the times to come, so in the future smartphones from smaller brands could use the tech too.

Via T3

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.