Smart Lock -> Smart Unlock -> Nearby Unlock?
Earlier this year, Google showed off one of the features it planned to bring to Wear OS, allowing you to unlock devices like Chromebooks or your Android phone using just your Wear-powered smartwatch, much like the Chrome OS Smart Lock. A later teardown indicated that the feature might be called Smart Unlock, but more recent information shows that Google has changed gears and might call it Near Unlock.
For those who naturally didn’t follow along, Google announced in January that there would be a new system allowing Wear OS devices to unlock not just your phone, but also your Chromebook and other devices. A more recent Play Services teardown spotted a feature called Smart Unlock being worked on for “eligible Wear OS 3 devices”, which would allow them to automatically unlock your Android phone, although details at the time said that it could be exclusive to the Pixel Watch.
An image of text strings associated with the new feature name, courtesy of @MishaalRahman.
The recent news here is that Esper.io’s Mishaal Rahman spotted a new unlock name nearby in another teardown. Oddly enough, this appears in addition to the name Smart Unlock right now. If it’s under active development, we might see a name change happen, or it might be slightly different features. But it’s definitely related to a watch based on the two text strings included in the edits such as “use your watch to unlock your phone” and an animation the feature has been associated with:
A name may seem like a small thing, but there’s a more complicated story here. In April, rumors swirled that Google would kill/remove the Smart Lock feature on Chrome OS, which lets you sign in on a Chrome OS device using only your phone if it’s nearby. At the time, changes to the code indicated that it was “obsolete”. Some were upset and thought the change meant the feature was going away, but other code changes indicated it was still in development. While there’s no hard evidence, in the context of these recent teardowns and Google’s announcement in January, the feature could simply be rebranded as part of a larger device unlocking effort. and more unified that calls the feature of the same name across platforms – a potential move very similar to Apple’s.