Chrome OS’s Newest, Coolest Feature: Proximity Unlock

Smart unlock is one of my favorite features in Android 5.0. The feature allows uses to unlock phones or tablets based on their proximity to other devices. The feature functions using Bluetooth connections, so I can keep my phone unlocked if it’s near my Android Wear watch, my MPOW Bluetooth headset, or usually when my phone’s connected to a Bluetooth speaker. This is a time-saving option.

Now, thanks to some improvements in Chrome OS, the smart unlock function is coming to Chromebooks (and possibly Chrome browser).

For now, smart unlock is a “Developer mode” feature, which means that it’s not quite ready for public consumption. To enable developer mode, simply go to Settings > About Chrome OS > More info > Change Channel.

about chrome os

The “upgrade” from Stable (or Beta) channel to Developer channel takes about 10-15 minutes.

updating chrome os

You should note that developer channel is not a stable release so you may experience some glitches or problems. There’s your fair warning.

After updating to dev channel, you can enable smart unlock in Chrome://Flags.

chrome flags

Incidentally, Flags give Chrome users the ability to enable or disable certain features in Chrome OS or Chrome browser. Messing with Flags could cause stability problems with Chrome, but they’re generally performance improvements.

Simply enable Easy Unlock and Proximity. You’re all set to activate Smart Lock back under the settings menu.

smart lock

You can find Smart Lock under Show advanced settings. If you don’t see Smart Lock, then you’re probably not on Developer channel.

Turn on Smart Lock and Chrome OS will prompt you to complete the setup process, which includes pairing your phone and Chrome OS device.

all set proximity

Setup took about 3 minutes — I had some issues getting my Chromebook and Nexus 5 to pair.

Update: One reader emailed me that he was having some problems getting his phone to pair with his Chromebook. His issue sounds exactly like mine. I suggest that if you’re having a pairing issue that you try pairing via the standard pairing method, rather than via smart lock. I also suggest restarting both devices and do a “clean pair” after restart. Once you’ve semi-successfully paired your phone and Chromebook, then begin the smart unlock process. It took me about 2 minutes to actually get my Chromebook to pair correctly, which was the hardest part of this who process.

From now on, whenever your paired device is within range of your Chrome OS device, Smart Lock recognizes your device and allows you to open it without a password.

lock screen

When you move out of Bluetooth range — about 30 feet — Smart Lock will require a password before signing in. If you’d like to like your Chrome OS computer even though you’re still within range — like when you step out of your office into a conference room 10 feet away — simply click the lock to require a password.

lock screen locked

Features like Smart Lock are how Google is beefing up security and providing easy access to users at the same time. Hopefully, we’ll see Smart Lock integration on Stable channel within the next few weeks.

H/T: Computerworld

Let's discuss this (you can use Markdown in your comment)

Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.