Update – Google has commented on the reason behind removing NFC smart lock, see below for the full statement.
One of the security features of Android is the NFC smart lock/unlock feature, where users can tap a trusted NFC tag to unlock their device. This means that in addition to passcodes, fingerprints, pattern unlocks, and more, this is another option that users can choose. It is a clever idea but for some reason Google has decided to do away with the feature.
In a post on the Issue Tracker on Google’s website, one user writes, “Smart Lock with NFC was available and worked perfectly fine when the phone was running Android 6.0.1. After updating to Android 8.0.0 by following the instructions on the “Factory Images for Nexus and Pixel Devices” page, the option to enable Smart Lock with NFC is no longer available.”
Initially thought to be a bug, it was later confirmed by a Google employee that the feature had been deprecated. “SmartLock NFC feature has been deprecated for new users. If you are not existing NFC users, the option will be hidden.” If you have enabled the feature since the start, it should not be an issue but if you’re someone who has only recently made a Google account in the past few months then you won’t have access to it.
It has also been suggested that those who do have it to remain signed into their device lest they lose access to it as well. Like we said it is unclear why Google removed it, perhaps it wasn’t as widely used as they had hoped and maintaining it would have been unnecessary, but either way we guess you shouldn’t expect to see it in future devices or Android updates anymore.
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.