Google appears to have kick started a phased roll out of its Trusted Voice authentication tool onto certain handsets running Android Lollipop 5.1, though the extent to which the feature beefs up the operating system’s existing security options or betters third party apps offering similar tools is debatable.
Partial support for the Smart Lock feature appeared as a menu option with the Google Play Services 7.0 rolled out in March 2015, with some users now reporting that an additional update required to render it functional has started arriving on their handsets.
Security is widely perceived as the Achilles Heel for Android in comparison to Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows Phone and Blackberry devices favoured by business rather than consumer users. Rather than strengthening its authentication and protection mechanisms, Google seems more intent on making the device unlocking process more convenient and less cumbersome however.
Trusted Voice allows users to unlock their handsets simply by saying ‘OK Google’ to trigger a voice recognition algorithm, though Google itself warns that the feature is ‘less secure than a pattern, pin or password’ and could potentially allow ‘someone with a similar voice or a recording of your voice’ to unlock the device. Other Android Lollipop supported features include Trusted Face (facial recognition), Trusted Places (location based security which turns off when the phone’s GPS detects the user is within a pre-defined ‘safe’ place) and Trusted Devices (which turns off the device lock when the handset is in the vicinity of another gadget with which it might want to communicate).
A range of third party apps providing similar voice recognition features are already available from the Google Play appstore whilst voice recognition specialist Nuance which acquired Vlingo and launched an mobile version of its software - Dragon go! - for iOS and Android devices as far back as 2012.