How Google’s New “On-Body” Lock Can Shield Your Phone From Spies


Adriana Lee

March 24, 2015

Google just released a new security feature that locks your smartphone automatically when you put it down, one first tipped by Android Police. (Google describes the feature here; scroll down to “When you’re carrying your device on you.”)

Designed to prevent unauthorized access to your phone’s data by thieves, the “on-body” feature uses the built-in accelerometer to detect motion, so it knows know when the device has been left open and unattended. That’s when the feature kicks in to lock the gadget down.



In most cases, you’ll still have to unlock your phone manually when you pick it up. But so long as you’ve got it stashed in your pocket, you’re holding it in your hand or you’ve passed it to a friend, the device remains unlocked.

There’s a side benefit, too: People are most likely to leave their phones around unlocked when they’re home, so the “on-body” lock should ably block the prying eyes of a spouse, parent or roommate. 

Android Police reports that the “on-body detection” feature, discovered on a Nexus 4 with Android 5.0.1, has since been spotted on several other devices, including most Nexuses. It further explains:

This doesn’t seem to be a feature related to Android 5.1, but you probably need 5.0+ for it to work. We do know our tipster has the most recent version of Play Services (we tried with the same version on our Nexuses, and no dice), and we know trusted places is enabled by Google Play Services, so it seems likely this on-body detection mode is probably activated similarly, and isn’t part of the core OS.

The security feature is Google’s latest, but certainly not only smart lock. Lollipop (Android 5.0) offered a convenience feature that unlocked Android mobile devices when a saved Bluetooth gadget, like a smartwatch, or a gadget previously connected via wireless NFC came near.

Photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite


This article was written by Adriana Lee from ReadWrite and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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