Google Pixel 7 has Face Unlock — but it's way behind Apple's Face ID

Pixel 7 hands-on
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: Google Pixel 7 features coming to Pixel 6 — here’s what to expect.

The Google Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro have officially arrived, and they've brought Face Unlock with them. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, as it's been confirmed that the phones' fingerprint sensors are still your primary unlocking and security method.

Andreas Proschofsky of Der Standard (via Mishaal Rahman) confirmed with a quote from Google that Face Unlock isn't fully secure. The quote states:

"Face Unlock will launch as a Class 1 (Convenience) biometric, according to Android Compatibility Definition for phone unlock on Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro."

Google said something similar when speaking to Android Police, stating that Face Unlock on the Pixel 7 "doesn't pass the necessary biometric threshold" for more sensitive functions.

What that boils down to is that you won't be able to make payments with Face Unlock though, nor will you be able to sign into your Google account with only your face. For that, you'll have to resort to the fingerprint scanner.

Face Unlock is still a welcome feature for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro to have. This wasn't available on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, despite Google continuing to work on the feature based on findings within Android code.

The only Pixel phones with true facial recognition unlocking to date are the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. These used an additional infrared dot projector/reader array to verify a user's face, which even Google's clever machine learning can't fully replace.

So it's not really a rival for Face ID on the best iPhones, which has proved an effective replacement for fingerprint scanning. However, fingerprint readers are still very popular for their versatility, and in our hands-on time with the Pixel 7 so far, we've noticed its fingerprint scanner is a lot faster than the sluggish one on the Pixel 6 series.

Keep an eye out for our full reviews of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro coming soon. But for now, even with the underwhelming Face Unlock feature, it's safe to say we're quite impressed, particularly with its display, cameras, software and its agressive price.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.