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Google just fixed the Pixel's big biometric security problem, but don't get too excited

The latest Pixel phones' biometric authentication is getting an often-requested feature, but there's a catch.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Google Pixel 8 Pro Actua Display
June Wan/ZDNET

I've been using the Pixel phones since they were first released to the public. From the first phone to the latest, the experience has (for the most part) been exceptional. 

Also: Every product unveiled at the Made by Google event this week

Yes, there was the dreaded Pixel 4 and it's shamelessly bad battery life but almost every Pixel I've used has exceeded my expectations.

With one caveat.

Biometric authentication has been a mixed bag. Back when Google first introduced front-facing fingerprint unlock, it was iffy and slow. Fortunately, they resolved the issue for the Pixel 7. At the same time, some apps used Face Unlock, while others didn't. Because of that, it was almost a guessing game as to how you would unlock one app over another.

This is especially true with banking apps, which were only able to use fingerprint unlocking.

Fortunately, with the Pixel 8, those same apps will be able to take advantage of Face Unlock. This is also true for payment apps like PayPal and other apps that have traditionally only worked with fingerprint unlock.

Also: Google expands its AI Search to younger users, offers publishers a new tool

Hopefully, this will also improve the overall Face Unlock experience. To date, I've found Face Unlock on my Pixel 7 Pro to be less than reliable. Sometimes it works immediately to unlock my phone and sometimes I have to resort to fingerprint unlocking. Fortunately, fingerprint unlocking is almost immediate, so it's not a deal breaker by any means.

The catch

Unfortunately, this new widespread Face Unlock support isn't inherent in Android 14 but, rather, specific to the Pixel 8 devices. In other words, if you have a Pixel device older than the 8, your banking and payment apps will still defer to fingerprint authentication. 

Why is that so? More than likely, the new Face Unlock in the Pixel 8 is tied to the Tensor G3 and Titan M2 security chip combination. Although the Pixel 7 uses the same Titan M2 chip, it includes the Tensor G2, so I'm guessing the feature is inherent in the Tensor 3 chip and how it works in conjunction with the Titan M2 chip.

Also: Google now lets you sign in with a passkey instead of a password

Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are officially available for preorder, with prices starting at $699 and $999, respectively.

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