You might soon be able to unlock your Android phone with a Wear OS watch

Google Pixel 7 review with Pixel Buds Pro and Pixel Watch
The Google Pixel Buds Pro, Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch (Image credit: Future / Alex Walker-Todd)

There’s no shortage of ways to unlock the best Android phones, with most of them having a fingerprint sensor and face unlock, on top of the classic gamut of PIN, password, and pattern options. But it looks like Google is about to add one more option. At least, for owners of the Google Pixel Watch, and possibly other Wear OS watches too.

You see, a ‘Watch Unlock’ feature that Google showed off for the Pixel Watch way back in January at CES 2023 looks like it’s finally about to launch, as AssembleDebug (via GSMArena) has found the feature buried within Android. It’s not yet active, but you can see a video of the setup process in the post below.

Based on that, it appears the Watch Unlock feature is designed to be enabled alongside another unlock option, such as face unlock or a fingerprint, and would kick in when one of those options fails, such as if the screen is wet and can’t read your fingerprint.

See more

In those circumstances, with Watch Unlock enabled you’d be able to swipe up on the lock screen, and then tap a notification. This would then unlock your phone.

For your Pixel Watch or other Wear OS watch to be able to work with Watch Unlock, it needs to first be connected to your phone, on your wrist, and unlocked itself, all of which would generally apply anyway if it’s your main or only smartwatch.

Not so secure

While this security option could be convenient at times, enabling it makes your phone a lot less secure than any of the other security options. The setup screen for Watch Unlock specifically says that it might be less secure, and worryingly also notes that in some cases your watch might unlock your phone, even if the watch isn’t on your wrist or within reach.

So whether you should activate Watch Unlock really depends on how you balance security with convenience. If you’d like to though, we imagine you might be able to do so soon.

There’s no word on when exactly Watch Unlock will roll out publicly, but given how complete the setup process appears we’d imagine it will land soon. Perhaps it will be an Android 14 feature – with that OS upgrade expected in September, or maybe it will land alongside the Pixel Watch 2 and the Pixel 8, both of which are likely to land in October.

We’re not sure for now, and it’s also unclear what devices it will actually work on, but we’d imagine that initially, at least, it may require a Pixel phone, and it might also only work on the Pixel Watch for now; as that's what it was advertised for at CES. But either immediately or later we'd think other Wear OS watches will probably get access to this too.

You might also like

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.