April 15, 2024

Security Pix Your World

Redefining Vigilance

How to fix Android’s Smart Lock Trusted Places feature

4 min read

Android’s Smart Lock feature is spectacular — that is, when it actually works.

Smart Lock has been around since 2014’s Android 5.0 era (which, according to my calculations, was approximately “an eternity” ago by 2020 standards). The basic idea behind it is to make securing your smartphone less inconvenient, thus making it more likely that you’ll actually use a pattern, PIN, passcode, or person-paw press (also known as a fingerprint) to keep your data safe. The sensational headlines about big, bad malware monsters lurking in the dark and waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims may be scary, after all, but here in the real world, you’re far more likely to suffer from your own self-made security shortcomings than from any sort of theoretical threat.

So, yeah: Smart Lock makes an awful lot of sense — not just for average phone-ownin’ folk but also for enterprises and businesses of all sizes that need to enforce proper security and want to make the measures as palatable as possible. There’s just one teensy weensy little problem: One of the most effective Smart Lock options for Android is constantly breaking and failing to do its job.

I’m talking about Smart Lock’s Trusted Places feature, which lets you set a specific physical location — your home, your office, the ostrich habitat you for some reason frequent at your local zoo, or whatever — at which your phone will automatically stay unlocked. Whenever you’re at that location, your phone will skip over the standard lock screen and let you get stuff done without the need for any authentication. And when you’re anywhere else, your standard security method will show up and apply.

The Trusted Places part of Smart Lock was fantastic when it first came along, but at some point, it just stopped working consistently. It’s something I’ve experienced with numerous Android devices, including my own current personal phone, and something I’ve heard about from Android users endlessly over the past several years. And despite the occasional proclamation that some under-the-hood adjustment has delivered the fix we’ve all been waiting for, the issue just never seems to go away.

Hold the phone, though: There’s still hope. While we may not be able to fix the finicky nature of Android’s Smart Lock Trusted Places feature at its source, we can tweak our own settings to give it a metaphorical kickstart and get it working on our devices, at least for a while, once more.

The secret is a simple little workaround I’ve refined and relied on personally over the years, and it absolutely works — not always forever but typically for a fair amount of time. And it takes all of roughly 60 seconds to do.

The Android Smart Lock Trusted Places fix: Part I

First things first: We need to force Google’s location system to reset its memory for whatever trusted location you’ve created. I know it sounds silly, but for whatever reason, this seems to be the key to getting the Trusted Places part of Smart Lock working properly again.

So here’s the trick:

  1. Open up the Google Maps app on your phone.
  2. Tap your profile picture in the app’s upper-right corner, then select “Settings” followed by “Edit home or work.”
  3. Tap the three-dot icon next to the line labeled “Home,” “Work,” or whatever location is giving you trouble, and then select the “Edit” option (“Edit home,” “Edit work,” etc.) from the menu that comes up.
  4. On the map that appears next, use your finger to drag the pin representing your location ever so slightly — enough that the address at the top of the screen changes (even if it changes to something that’s no longer the exact correct address). Tap the Save button at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, but this time, drag the pin back to your location’s correct address. Be sure to tap the Save button again when you’re done.

Got it? Good. What we just accomplished, nonsensical as it sounds, is forcing the Smart Lock system to reset and associate itself anew with your proper Trusted Place address. And if the change went through correctly, you should see a notification show up at the top of your screen:

Android Smart Lock Trusted Places JR

That takes us to the second part of this process, which couldn’t be much simpler.

The Android Smart Lock Trusted Places fix: Part II

There’s not much left to do here: Just tap the notification shown above, and you should be taken into the Trusted Places section of your Android Smart Lock settings. There, your phone should prompt you to use the “new” address as your Trusted Place location. And all you’ve gotta do is tap “Yes.”

If for some reason you didn’t get that notification — or maybe you dismissed it inadvertently — just head into your system settings, search for Smart Lock, then head into that section and tap the “Trusted Places” line. (You’ll probably have to enter your PIN, pattern, or password first as a security measure.) Tap the line labeled “Trusted Places,” then tap the line representing the location you just adjusted and look for the “Turn on this location” prompt at the bottom of the screen.

Tap that, and you should be back in business — with your Smart Lock Trusted Places feature working properly again.

You certainly shouldn’t have to do any of this, and it’s annoying that you do. But now you know the trick. And if things get wonky again in another six months, you know exactly what to do to set ’em right once more.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

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