Google explains why it axed face unlock for the Pixel 5

Discontinuing face unlock and reverting back to a fingerprint sensor on the Pixel smartphone is ‘a good trade-off’ to enable other premium features, a Google product manager has said.

The tech giant introduced facial identification to the Pixel 4 device for the first time in 2019 but decided to bring back the fingerprint sensor in this year’s Pixel 5.

Face unlock initially suffered an issue where it would still work when a person’s eyes were closed, though it was later fixed.

Soniya Jobanputra, a product manager on the Pixel team, told the PA news agency that while face unlock was removed it could be repurposed in a different form in the future.

‘When we set out on Pixel 5 what we really wanted to accomplish was get you a 5G device that still felt super premium and didn’t feel like you compromised on anything and so what we had to do to accomplish that was literally stack rank what we find users find most useful,’ she said.

‘We really wanted to maximise that value, that you are getting for every penny that you were paying for that product.

‘And as we stack ranked it, you’ll find all the traditional things like the camera is super important and processing and speed. That’s super important and memory is super important.

‘And so as we looked at that list face ID is awesome and it’s a great tool for unlocking your device, but you know what, a fingerprint sensor can meet those needs as well, just as efficiently, just as fast and in some cases even more securely and so, we really felt that it was a good trade-off for users to go with the rear fingerprint sensors so that we could enable some of these other premium features that users are looking for in a device.’

She continued: ‘We did a lot of work to bring that technology to life, so hopefully we’ll find a way to repurpose the work that was done in it because I think there’s some wonderful innovations that we have in that feature but it may not come back in the form that that you’ve seen it in the past.’

Google is currently preparing a movie giveaway to promote the speed benefits of 5G on the Pixel and also hopes to offer some entertainment during lockdown.

Users will be able to find the British Film Institute’s most rewatchable British films hidden on Google Maps to watch for free.

‘You will be able to go visit our special Google Map on the Mobile Cinema page and you’ll be able to zoom into different locations across Britain,” Ms Jobanputra said.

‘Symbolic clues will be left for people to find and we’ll also be adding batches of films every three days according to the genre.

‘We’ll be sharing some hints and clues on our Google UK Twitter page to kind of guide people through the process.’

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