The Pixel 8 Pro’s face unlock is the best of both worlds

Ryan Haynes / Android Authority

Like it or not, Apple has cornered the smartphone facial recognition market. Despite the bulky, notch-based (or island-based) hardware, Face ID sets the gold standard for security with its locked infrared setup. The best most Android competitors do right now is offer a less secure version of unlocking the phone with the selfie camera, but that’s usually not secure enough for mobile payments. Now, the Pixel 8 Pro has a way to rewrite the story with a little help from the Tensor G3 and some advanced machine learning, and it feels like the best of both worlds.

Google has offered Face Unlock on its Pixel flagships for a few years now, albeit with varying levels of security. Before the Pixel 7 rolled around, the Pixel 4 included a secure infrared and infrared setting. Now, security is on the rise again. The most important part of the Pixel 8 Pros face unlock puzzle is that it’s secure. (Although we’ve seen a fellow user trick it before, we haven’t seen many reports to confirm this.) Not only is it not secure enough to unlock your phone, it’s not secure enough to make mobile payments and access banking apps. It is safe. It’s even secure enough that if your phone is already unlocked and you go shopping, you won’t have to unlock it again like you did with the Pixel 7 series.

Google’s magical combination of machine learning and Tensor gives the G3 a Class 3 Face Unlock certification, which is just as good.

The Tensor G3 achieves this level of lock-in thanks to several advanced machine learning algorithms and an updated chipset. If you start from the lock screen and hold your Pixel 8 Pro up to a card reader, face unlock is probably faster than your thumb can find the fingerprint sensor. Google’s enhanced security is most noticeable when opening a banking app. In the days when you’d reach for the fingerprint sensor immediately after tapping an app, the Pixel 8 Pro’s face unlock is so fast that you’re in your app almost instantly, no need to use your thumb.

In addition to being more secure than the Pixel 7 series, the Pixel 8 Pros’ face unlock feels a hair faster. I don’t have a good way to measure the difference with a stopwatch, but as long as I have enough light, the unlock message flashes almost instantly on the Pixel 8 Pro. Whether it’s faster or not, the upgrade in biometric security (the Pixel 8 Pro qualifies for Class 3, the highest level) is enough of an upgrade over the Pixel 7 series. Sometimes it even seems to lift up on my face and unlock the phone without having to swipe the lock screen like I do.

google pixel 8 pro face unlock

Ryan Haynes / Android Authority

Despite being simple and secure, face unlock on the Google Pixel 8 Pro still doesn’t work with sunglasses, and it doesn’t work in the dark (or in a heavily backlit scenario). That’s the main problem with Google’s selfie camera approach, which can’t match Apple’s infrared reliability. That said, I’m happy to take off my sunglasses every now and then if it means a pinhole selfie camera instead of a dynamic island or a notch.

what do you think? Is the Pixel 8 Pros phone lock really good enough? Or should Google bring back its IR settings from the Pixel 4 days? Let us know in the poll below and check out the best Pixel 8 deals.

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