Chief Android designer responds to Face Unlock issue

Posted:  November 16, 2011   By:    17 comments   

Matias Duarte, the chief Android designer was on the first episode of The Verge show. During the show, he was asked about ICS Face Unlock feature which recently was proven to be unlocked with a photo.

His answer? Face Unlock on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is optimised for “common use cases”. He added that if someone kidnaps you, takes your face off and puts it on like John Woo’s Face Off Movie, it also could defeat Face Unlock. Basically it is just a small security measure to buy time for you to deactive and perform a remote wipe on your phone. For us, we prefer sticking to pattern unlock as our method of phone locking.

For those still having doubts on our face unlock video, someone by the name of Andrew McSweeney has repeated our unlocking test. He used the exact same set up, with a Galaxy Nexus which was programmed using his face and then unlocking it with a photo of himself on a Samsung Galaxy Note. Watch it after the break.

If you haven’t watched it yet, check out our Face Unlocking video where a Galaxy Nexus was fooled by a photo 3 times.


Android, Galaxy Nexus, Mobile Devices, Mobile OS, Samsung
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17 Comments for Chief Android designer responds to Face Unlock issue


Only thing I'll worry about using Face Unlock is when your friend snatches your phone from you and holds it up against your face forcefully to unlock it.


    you've got not very good friends 🙂


Only thing I'll worry about using Face Unlock is when your friend snatches your phone from you and holds it up against your face forcefully to unlock it.

The rest, if a person goes to the extent of obtaining a photo of you for the purpose of breaking into your phone, that person will go to even greater extents to break into your phone whatever the security is anyway.


    still, more fun than slide to unlock i think.


Obtaining someone's photo? We have this thing called Facebook


    u cant if you the thieves are someone who know nothing about you. ie if your phone stolen when you're in public. they dont know who you are, not even your name. so in this case its better than pattern and passcode lock which there're chances they can trace fingerprints on the screen.


I just happen to remember, sometime back, in Malaysia, a guy got his thumb chopped off because a group of mobs couldn't start the former's mercedes to be driven away. That car had thumb print identification. So, will the owner of this phone has his/her face scaled, or head chopped of by thugs wanting access to the phone? Scary thought, huh?

Wiz View

Perhaps this face unlock thing is just a novelty and a 1up on apple,
but it is good that you have exposed its weaknesses first
and made some people in google wake up !


    LOL @ 'weakness'. Pattern unlock has it's flaws too. You can literally see the pattern trail on the screen if you're not careful about oil stains in the screen. So does passcode. The same stains will indicate which buttons you pressed. Only a matter of time before a person permutates the numbers and gains access to the phone.

    I'd say face unlock is more secure than those just by the fact that a picture needs to be obtained. Oil stains are on the phone itself.

Dit Dot

This was a non issue until a Google staff confidently said that its impossible to unlock using a photo and soyacincau was able to prove it can. Now they have no choice but to admit that anyone that look like you or have a photo of you can unlock it.

It is a nice feature but it is also the least ways to secure your phone. Better than slide to unlock.


but i think its a good alternative for unlock. u can consider all consequences ie. people have your photo, force u to take picture of u etc. but so does other lock features. if people can have your photo they can also can get your pattern considering they're someone close to you. so does trace on the screen for pattern and passcode unlock. i've done that so many time on my friend's phone. not mention if the FORCE consequences which is what ever u put as lock they can force you to unlock it. Lock features has its flaws. same applied for any house security and what not. all can be breach provided sufficient time given. the function is to make the thieves have hard time only and perhaps u have time to swipe all your information in the phone.

his face unlock as other phone lock features is good option if the phone has been stolen by UNKNOWN thieves. they have no idea how is your face. they can trace nothing on the screen surface. but of course they can always do something to breach to your phone in period of time which hopefully sufficient for us to swipe the data.

Sid Acidic

how many of u store that ugly pose of your very own face in a phone ?


With this argument, all biometric security is basically not secure.

Better we all remember our own 128bit encryption key (any random meaningful sentence will do), much harder to crack by computers.

Malcolm Lim

what if u do a special pose as a face unlock, would that work with an ordinary photo to unlock i wonder (one without the special pose) ?

    Dit Dot

    Do a funny face that only you will know. Hehe. Smart. Just make sure you don't have that in your facebook party pics.


I'm just wondering, what happens if you wanna unlock your phone in a gloomy lighted room… I guessing that front camera won't be able to see you! lolz…


i just got an idea..

the unlock pattern shouldnt be static. i meant resize it and move it around to avoid stain detection.