Recent reports have suggested that Chrome OS would remove Smart Lock in the near future, but instead Google is only adjusting the way it works, potentially to keep your account more secure.
For years, Google has been trying to make Android and Chrome OS “Better Together” device owners. A recent addition to this effort was the Phone Hub, a suite of phone management features set to be expanded with a full phone screen streaming feature for Pixels.
One of the first ways that Google tried to make Android and Chrome OS devices “Better Together” is through Smart Lock. A great feature on paper, the intention with Smart Lock was to automatically unlock your Chromebook when your Android phone is nearby. Unfortunately, ask around among those who have actually tried Smart Lock and you will probably hear that for some it rarely works as expected.
For the lucky ones who have Smart Lock that works flawlessly, Chrome OS actually offers an even deeper integration of the feature. By default, Smart Lock is only used when your account is logged in and your Chromebook has been locked, either manually or when it is asleep. With a simple switch in the Settings app – “Unlock your device and sign in to Google Account” – you can sign in to your Chromebook in full with Smart Lock only.
The folks at Chrome Story discovered a series of code changes that they claim point to the removal of Smart Lock from the Chrome OS, but that’s not quite what’s happening. So let’s take a closer look.
In one case, we find out that Google is preparing to phase out “Log in with Smart Lock” on Chromebooks, as explained in a new flag in chrome: // flags.
Remove Login with Smart Lock
Deleted Log in with the Smart Lock function. Hides Smart Lock on the login screen, removes the Smart Lock subpage in settings and displays a one-time message to users who previously had this feature enabled.
Additionally, in another code change, we see even more clearly that Google “removes login with the Smart Lock feature” and therefore removes the underside of Smart Lock in Chrome OS settings.
Note that in both places Google does not say that Smart Lock disappears, only “log in with Smart Lock.” In addition, the Smart Lock settings page today in Chrome OS is only used to switch between unlocking from the lock screen and unlocking on the login screen.
At the same time as this removal is happening, Google is simultaneously working on fine-tuning and improve Smart Lock in Chrome OS. For example, the feature will soon have a new animation where the arrow on the login button becomes a tick. Elsewhere, a Googler refers to Smart Lock on Chrome OS as getting a “renewal”.
Looking at the bigger picture, the only thing that changes for Smart Lock in Chrome OS is that it will only be able to unlock your device once you have already logged in. You will soon no longer be able to log in with Smart Lock after a restart.
It’s not clear why Google removes this feature from Smart Lock, though it may be related to keeping your Chromebook, its data, and your Google Account more secure from being used without your consent.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of Google’s “renewal” of Smart Lock for Chromebooks, but suffice it to say that the feature is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
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