Some users on Android have noticed something was missing.
Android’s Smart Lock has had NFC as an option for some time. Now, it’s being removed with recent updates. Some users had noticed the option was missing and had submitted the issue through Google’s Issue Tracker, only to find out today that this is not an issue, but a decision.
Google responded to the questions with the following statement.
“Thanks everyone for your comments.
Smart Lock provides seamless and secure methods of unlocking your Android phone. For example, you can keep your device unlocked when it’s connected to your Bluetooth device such as your smartwatch or car, or when it’s in a trusted place, such as your home. Since Smart Lock was launched in Android 5.0, we have added more methods of unlocking, such as On-Body detection and made several security improvements to the different unlock methods. Today, many Android phones also support Fingerprint authentication which provides another convenient way to unlock your phone.
We constantly evaluate unlock mechanisms and evolve them. Our end goal is to provide the best possible experience for you that balances security, simplicity and convenience. We constantly make product decisions based on multiple factors including usage, the value we provide, your feedback, and the availability of alternatives.
In the case of NFC unlock, we’ve seen extremely low usage. At the same time, there are alternatives available now that are easy to use, are secure and have much wider adoption. Given this, we decided to disable NFC unlock. However, if you have NFC unlock currently set up, you can continue to use it until you reset your device, switch to a different device, or explicitly remove the NFC tag from Smart Lock settings.
We apologize to those of you who are affected by this and we’re sorry for any inconvenience. We encourage you to use a different unlock method in Smart Lock, such as Trusted Bluetooth devices, Trusted Places, or On-body detection, all of which we believe to provide a better user experience.”
Unfortunately, not all users believe that these other options provide a better user experience. Some have taken to the Issue Tracker explaining how they use it, which is precisely how it was meant to be used. Many users have NFC tags within their automobile docks so that all they need to do is place the phone in the dock and go. Some question the facts that other methods of unlocking don’t work as easily in certain situations. For instance, fingerprint sensors with a gloved hand, and “Places” won’t work in your car, obviously because your car won’t always be in the same location.
But those that should be most upset by this are those that have had subdermal implants who will find out that these will no longer work to unlock their future phones.
I can understand not developing something that is only used by a minority of users, but is there really a reason to take it away? Especially when there are users that have had products implanted under their own skin?
Hopefully Google rethinks this position and adds it back, because short of the fingerprint sensor I can’t think of another Smart Lock method which I would want to use more than NFC.