Google Pixel 8’s Face Unlock just got a killer upgrade — what you need to know

Google Pixel 8 display
(Image credit: Future)

There are quite a few upgrades offered with the Google Pixel 8, especially where AI and cameras are concerned. But it seems as though the Face Unlock feature has had some upgrades behind the scenes, enhancing the security of the feature. This means Face Unlock can now be used to authorize credit card purchases, banking transactions and unlock other apps.

According to Google (via 9to5Google), this change has been made possible thanks to the upgrades to machine learning and the Tensor G3. Perhaps most interestingly is that, unlike Pixel 4 and Apple’s Face ID, these new features don’t rely on any dedicated hardware — just the standard front camera. 

Previously, Face Unlock could only be used to unlock your phone. Any further verification required you to scan your fingerprint or enter a PIN code. Anyone who Face Unlocked their device would also have to do this second round of verification before their phone would authorize Google Wallet transactions.

For those worrying about security, Google says that Face Unlock on Pixel 8 meets the “highest Android biometric standard." It’s also said to be integrated with “the latest BioMetricPrompt API for app sign-in and payments.” Something Google says most app developers have adopted over the past several years.

It’s a bold claim, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this upgraded version of Face Unlock actually performs in the real world. Apparently there won’t be an improvement to how Face Unlock performs in low-light conditions, which is what puts this kind of camera-based system at a disadvantage compared to Face ID. 

So this isn’t going to be a perfect replacement for the fingerprint scanner, but it should still make using apps and making financial transactions more convenient.

The Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are available to pre-order now, and will be released on October 12. You can read our first impressions on both devices in our Google Pixel 8 hands-on review and Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on review.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.