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The Best New Android Feature Is a Smarter Lock Screen

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Brand new design, better battery life, seamless device switching! The newest version of Android brings a lot to the table. But its best feature is a little further under the surface: Smart lock screens that will let you be super secure without ever entering a PIN again.

Teased back at Google I/O but now appearing in the developer build of Android Lollipop, the new feature works like this: Pair a gadget with your phone—maybe a watch or a speaker or a pair of bluetooth headphones—and Android will ask you if it's a "trusted device." If you say that it is, you can set up your lock screen to disable whenever your phone and that device are paired. So when your phone is close to the fitness tracker on your wrist or connected to the speaker in your bedroom, there's no lock screen. But if there's nothing familiar around, lock screen engage! Phones like the Moto X have had features like this before, but now the functionality is coming to stock Android.


It's a simple little change, but one that can make all the difference for security. Yeah, we all know we should have lock screens—preferably passwords over PINs—to stay safe, but it's easy for convenience to win out. I'm ashamed to admit I haven't had a lock screen on my phone for months, and I love every second of it. With this new feature I can—and will—set up some wildly obnoxious password that's insanely secure, but that I'll almost never have to type in. Strong security I never have to see! It's the same logic behind phone-unlocking NFC tags like Motorola's Skip (or whatever insane DIY setup you can gin up), except it works with the gadgets I already have.


The catch, of course, is that its utility is limited to how many Bluetooth devices you have and use. Folks without a smartwatch or other Bluetooth wearable will get way less use from this than nerds who are all gadget-ed up. That and constant Bluetooth connections will gnaw away at your battery life ever-so-slightly. The alternative is to disable the lock screen when connected to trusted Wi-Fi, but that still takes a little tweaking. Still, this is a step in the right direction: More secure and less annoying. Now if only two-factor authentication could be this smooth. [h/t Android Police]

Image via Android Police