Following a big 2021 for Wear OS, Google is continuing the momentum with the upcoming ability for watches to unlock Chrome OS and Android devices. On a similar front, Google is expanding what digital car keys can do this year.

Google has two big auto-unlock features that are both named “Smart Lock.” On Chrome OS, Smart Lock lets a paired Android phone unlock your Chromebook and skip the long password or PIN. Meanwhile, the old Android version lets a nearby Bluetooth device keep your phone unlocked.

The newer auto-unlock capability is now coming to Wear OS. Once set up, your smartwatch can unlock your Chromebook and Android phone or tablet when pairings are close by. The wearable has to be unlocked, and there’s an on-watch confirmation with the ability to quickly “Lock again.” Your phone will also note that it was “Unlocked by Watch.”

This feature increases the utility of wearing a Google smartwatch by a great deal. It comes as most affordable and mid-range (though that’s slowly changing) Chromebooks lack a fingerprint sensor. Auto-unlock capability brings the Wear and Chrome OS cross-device experience inline with the Apple Watch and macOS.

Wearable unlock for Android and Chrome OS will be available in the “coming months” on “eligible Wear OS 3 smartwatches.”

Similarly, digital car keys on Android will support Ultra Wideband (UWB) and sharing. Car keys currently work over NFC and require tapping your device to a car door for the unlock. With UWB’s “accurate ranging and spatial orientation” capabilities, you “won’t even have to take your phone out to use it as a car key,” says Google.

Google is also working on the ability to “securely and remotely share” the phone key with trusted people who need to borrow your vehicle. This is coming “later this year” as Google also works to expand device and car support beyond Pixel, Samsung, and BMW.

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Abner Li

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