back to article Pass the Lollipop: Google creepily warms to body contact with Android lock function

Google, it would seem, has quietly released a new smart lock mode feature for Android-powered devices. The function, which appears to have been dubbed "on-body detection", apparently allows a mobe to remain unlocked while it is carried in a customer's hand or pocket. According to the Android Police blog, the feature uses a …

  1. phil dude

    already does this?

    I have android 5.0.2 on my Moto-E LTE and it seems to already do this.

    I am not sure it isn't a proximity sensor detecting the phone is in the pocket, but the phone will lock when placed on a table, which is ok.

    However jostling the table (or rocky bar table) will also wake up the phone, and that is a bit annoying...


  2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Not creepy enough yet

    Let me guess, sensor data is uploaded to Google for complex analysis and it is retained for long periods of time as AI training data?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Not creepy enough yet

      No, in order to have this feature in Android 5 they've already been collecting this data in Android 4.0-4.4.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not really that different

    A thief could already grab your phone while you were using it and just keep touching every minute or two to keep it unlocked. Now they have to jiggle it around. I don't see that there's a huge amount of difference. If anything, the jiggling might be slightly less convenient.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Not really that different

      I thought MOST phone stolen from people (rather than smashing a car window) ARE snatched while in use.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>Of course what would be more useful is simply making it ring when moved violently, and capturing an image or video with both cameras, thus drawing attention to the theft and recording the moment for future automatic upload.

      This would indeed be a surprising feature to somebody who's late for work and violently grabs their phone or the bag that's containing it.

    2. Craigness

      "lock if it suddenly moves more than a metre or so"

      That makes a lot of sense.

      Coincidentally I had the "unlock if walking" idea myself a few days ago but quickly realised all it would take to unlock a stolen phone would walk. For the article to make sense the phone would have to be unlocked when you put it in your pocket, but that would mean the screen would have to be on. If it could detect walking shortly after being turned off, that might be useful, though insecure, but it would lock when you stop to cross a road so is not a lot of use.

      As for setting an alarm off when you grab your bag, I assume the phone would be locked in the bag and therefore not considered stolen when it moves.

      1. DropBear

        "lock if it suddenly moves more than a metre or so"

        You better make sure never to get on a bus.

        1. MrZoolook

          Oddly enough...

          "lock if it suddenly moves more than a metre or so"

          You better make sure never to get on a bus

          I was thinking the opposite, knowing our bus service and traffic queues.

    3. 's water music

      Of course what would be more useful ... when moved violently, ... capturing an image or video with both cameras

  5. petur

    The other way around!

    I have a small tool on my phone that locks the phone when a acceleration threshold is passed...

    1. phil dude

      Re: The other way around!

      Name of aforementioned app?

      Sounds useful ;-)


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    seems useful but no

    It sounds good for casual use but what if a cop or robber were to take it out of your hands. Unlocked = pwnd

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Arguably, it's a feature that could increase the chance of violence against an Android mobe owner, if the thief clocks that they have to wrestle the thing out of a victim's hand in order to keep the device unlocked."

    This feature is mainly for people who generally don't lock their phones as they find it too inconvenient. Once the phone is locked it needs to be manually unlocked so you cannot unlock a phone by walking or holding it.

    Anyone who really cares about their security will just keep it locked using the normal pin, password, pattern, face, fingerprint etc as they normally do. So a thief would need to know in advance that the phone has been set to this type of lock and that it was last left unlocked before being carried and then before stealing it. I can't believe a thief will care - they will steal a phone and then decide whether it is any use afterwards.

    1. Owain 1

      Pure lazy

      "This feature is mainly for people who generally don't lock their phones as they find it too inconvenient. ".

      My goodness me people are lazy. Honestly it's not something I think twice about.. Dont you just up the unlock time, or turn it off (and lock with off button). Surely there are better features than this to concentrate the great minds of google on. I take it this just a tick box in the menu structure that says, "don't lock if being jiggled". Personally I'd like them to spend more time on the wifi stack to get it to roam between SIDs in the same network properly. I have an old house (thick stone walls) and 2 wifi spots (same SID same psk), and you can walk from one spot to the other and even stand on top of the router and the darn thing will not roam even though the signal is orders of magnitude higher. Arrrgh.

  8. Richard Cranium

    but surely part of the purpose of locking is to stop the phone "doing its own thing" in your pocket - used to be just random dialling but on modern phones there's rather more scope. This may explain why my Android 5 unexpectedly emitted a burst of unfamiliar music from my pocket last week.

  9. Yugguy

    Just don't walk along with it

    My phone stays in my pocket unless I have to do something with it, at which point I will stop, find somewhere against a wall, do what I need to do with it and then put it back in my pocket, all the while remaining aware of my surroundings.

    I do not walk around with it like a gormless, shuffling moron completely oblivious to external happenings.

    1. Horridbloke

      Re: Just don't walk along with it

      What if you can't find a wall?

      1. Yugguy

        Re: Just don't walk along with it

        I revolve endlessly, like a cat with a slice of buttered toast strapped to it.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just don't walk along with it

      Ah, so you're a drug dealer?

  10. jb99


    I have no understanding at all of this.

    My phone already stays unlocked while I'm using it. It locks when I turn it off. It unlocks when I unlock it. It doesn't randomly lock itsself while I'm holding it. What am I missing?

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: What?

      Most phones will lock when not used for a certain (customisable) length of time. The idea being that if you forget to lock it, get distracted, or whatever, it won't just sit there draining the battery and open for anyone to use. The problem then being that different activities generally want locking times of different lengths - if you're not doing something that involves constantly touching the screen it can get quite annoying having it repeatedly lock itself, but if you change or disable the locking then obviously it won't be doing what you want the rest of the time.

      Various people are therefore coming up with different ideas for some sort of "smart" locking feature, which tries to somehow figure out if you actually want the phone locked or not at any given time. Samsung, for example, will track your eyes and only lock the screen if you're not looking at it. This appears to be a similar sort of idea where as long as you're holding the phone, and therefore presumably interested in doing something with it even if not currently actively doing so, it will avoid locking, but will then automatically lock when you put it down. The obvious problem being that while having it stay unlocked in your hand sounds nice, keeping it unlocked while in your pocket, a bag, or whatever, it utterly retarded. As Richard Cranium notes, phones accidentally doing things while in a pocket is one of the main reasons locking was invented in the first place.

      1. jb99

        Re: What?

        Ok I see.

        Doesn't sound all that useful to me then.

  11. Jim 59

    If it like the existing "stay" feature thing, where the screen won't blank so long as you are looking at the phone, then it will be nothing more than a battery consuming gimmick which nobody will actually use.

    Like much smartphone functionality (apart form the camera), accelerometers in these devices are just toys.

  12. Rimpel


    Firefox lost all of my add-ons this morning when it updated itself so this is the first time I have seen the images here since I blocked them after the site redesign. And what a day to pick - that is a truly revolting image on this story. I'm immediately blocking the images again...

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. DrGoon

    Movie idea

    Due to a faulty accelerometer the protagonist has to drive a bus at 50 miles per hour in order to prevent the phone from locking.

  15. Tom_


    This sounds like SPeed. Don't let the bus drop below 50mph or it'll explode!

    Meanwhile, if you accidentally leave your phone on the bus, will it stay unlocked due to the movement of the vehicle?

  16. stephajn

    An even more useful feature

    ...would be if the phone could detect that it is in use while you are on the move and make these annoying teens walking around staring at their phones oblivious to the world around them have to look up and actually watch where they are going and who they are going to bump into.

    I can just see it now... Someone walking and texting at the same time. The phone can tell it is pointed toward the ground and is moving, and suddenly it pops up a screen that says, "HEY! Shouldn't you be watching where the hell you are going? JEEZ!!!" And that screen stays on until they stop moving, or turn their phone off and stop behaving like an oblivious idiot in public.

    (Getting off ranty soap box now)

  17. Old Handle

    I think it's the other way around

    I don't think this works the way the article implies. My interpretation is that it's not for detecting when the phone leaves your person, but rather stopping the phone from auto-locking as long as someone is carrying it. (Presumably as indicated by slight motion.)

    So the idea is you set it to lock after say 5-minutes, but it won't do so while it's in your pocket, only if you set it down for that long. I suppose that's moderately useful for certain threat models, but robbery clearly isn't one of them.

  18. Keith_C

    Lot of guesswork and supposition here - as someone actually using the feature I'll try to clarify.

    Smart Lock is the term used, and it controls whether a *secure* lock is used based on certain criteria - these criteria are trusted devices, trusted locations, trusted face and now on-body detection.

    Trusted locations means that when I am at home I only need to swipe to unlock, but out of the house I need to enter a PIN to unlock.

    Trusted devices means that when I am connected to in-car bluetooth I again only need a swipe to unlock vs needing a PIN.

    Trusted face means what it says - not actually ever tried this one myself so can't comment

    On-body detection means that if you have previously unlocked the phone and then placed it into a pocket/bag, the PIN lock will *not* engage until it no longer detects that it's on-body. Swipe lock is still in play to minimise pocket dialling, but it means you can pull the phone out of your pocket and do something without needing to put a PIN in all the time.

    I'm finding the whole smart lock very good - I have it secure locked when I need it without it being an inconvenience when I don't. It seems to fail 'safe' in that I occasionally need to put the PIN in when at home, but that's so far only been the case first thing in the morning after a night of charging - maybe it has a time-out to force a PIN entry after X hours of not being used?

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