Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Communications

Google Quietly Discontinues NFC Smart Unlock Without Explanation (betanews.com) 81

Mark Wilson writes: Android users have been slowly discovering that Google has killed off NFC Smart Unlock. The feature, which makes it possible to unlock a phone with an NFC device such as a ring or bracelet, has been discontinued without explanation. Earlier in the month, Android users started to post messages on Google's Issue Tracker website, indicating that the feature was no longer available to them. Three weeks later, Google has finally responded, indicating that NFC Smart Unlock has been deprecated.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Quietly Discontinues NFC Smart Unlock Without Explanation

Comments Filter:
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday September 28, 2017 @01:48PM (#55271163) Homepage Journal
    I think this had so few users that there wasn't a good reason to keep it going in the face of the other unlocks offered. Android can use a place, the sound of your voice, a look at your face, the bluetooth MAC ID in your car, etc.
    • by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @01:53PM (#55271191) Journal
      Though I dropped a snark here already, your comment is probably spot on. Would be nice if they'd give some notice before doing these sorts of things.
    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @01:53PM (#55271197) Homepage

      Maybe, maybe not, but it is certainly yet another case of something being shut down without useful notice to the users. Why should I consider using their new features when they might just get disabled? It seems to me at that point I'd rather side-load a free software app that can do the same thing, so that I can't have the rug pulled out from under me.

      • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @02:35PM (#55271459)

        It seems to me at that point I'd rather side-load a free software app that can do the same thing, so that I can't have the rug pulled out from under me.

        100% this. If I have to rely on the whims of a company to continue using a product, I won't use that product for anything that is actually important to me. And yes, I keep copies of the apks I use on my phone, just in case.

      • You don't need to side-load an app to replace this feature. There are already apps in the Play Store that do this. Has been for years. The API that allows it has been around since Android 4.0.3

      • by Threni ( 635302 )

        Damn man, same here. Just bought a $4000 solid gold NFC ring and now it's going to be made useless.

        • Exactly. Your software freedom is worth very little.

          Mine is worth more.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            Plus the most likely reality, they found it was way too insecure, when combined with phone payment systems. Probably wouldn't have affected smart secure users but your typical mug punter, running as insecurely as possible for convenience, likely a major security issue. The more you can spend with a phone the greater the security risk it becomes, especially in conjunction with wireless access. Really all payment system should require a physical connection with the payment authorisation device. Likely the bes

            • by Threni ( 635302 )

              > Likely the best bet, a secured usb device, that you can attach to your body, maybe a ring or watch or pendant,
              > that contains biometric data, that can be compared with your presence or your password.

              Or a chip-and-pin card, protected with a pin number.

      • Google has a trend of trying everything... and then just giving up on anything that doesn't immediately take off.

        They're the Fox channel equivalent of technology. ::sigh::

    • Does Bluetooth LE obsolete NFC? If so, NFC won't be in new phones and that's a good reason to stop writing code for it.
      • Does Bluetooth LE obsolete NFC?

        It doesn't, really. The two technologies have rather different use cases.

      • NFC will be in new phones, Bluetooth LE doesn't obsolete NFC at all. Android Pay doesn't work without NFC.

        NFC and Bluetooth LE are different at a hardware level. You can't just upgrade millions of payment terminals to support BLE.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm sure you are correct on that. I imagine another reason is that it just didn't work well. I was one of those suckered in by the original NFC unlock ring. It was about $60. And it almost never worked. If you took off the phone case and moved the ring around on the back of the phone for about 30 seconds it might unlock - if you were lucky.
    • It's also obscure as heck, and insecure in the face of "cops can force you to biometrically unlock your phone" type legislation.

    • NFC Smart, location, the sound of your voice, a look at your face, the bluetooth MAC ID in your car

      one of those uses crypto and is not spoofable, guess which one

    • The feature was already complete, there was no further work to be done or maintenance. So just because few people use it is not a reason to remove it, which would have took time, money and effort.
  • Google will do as Google wills.
  • Show of hands: Does anyone here know anyone who uses this feature?

    I'm not doubting that some exist, but I'm curious about how many are out there.

    • I don't. I do use bluetooth beacons to accomplish a rather similar thing (but not for things that require security).

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

      I didn't even know this feature existed. If I did I wouldn't have used it. The way I see it, it kind of defeats the purpose of security if a simple device such as a ring can disable it.

      With that being said what gripes me is when companies have a feature on a device I purchased decide that I no longer need that feature and disable it. Like when Microsoft "decided" that I didn't need gadgets in windows 7 any more.

      • by steveha ( 103154 )

        it kind of defeats the purpose of security if a simple device such as a ring can disable it.

        I know! I just found out that the lock on my house can be defeated by a simple device... a piece of metal with some notches carved into it! How did they overlook this?!?

    • I have a Jakcom smart ring [jakcom.com] that cost less than a tenner. I have the older version because it has a jewel to show which way up it is.

      On one side I have my vCard, on the other my emergency info, including blood group and donor status.

      I use TapUnlock from the FDroid repos to unlock my phone.
      • I have a Jakcom smart ring [jakcom.com] that cost less than a tenner. I have the older version because it has a jewel to show which way up it is.

        On one side I have my vCard, on the other my emergency info, including blood group and donor status.

        I use TapUnlock from the FDroid repos to unlock my phone.

        Thank you for your reply. I sincerely wanted to know if anyone here was using this. Do you know if the FDroid will keep the feature?

        • I doubt the feature will go away as long as NFC is present on phones unrestricted.
          The Jakcom program has an unlock function; there are many similar on the GPlay shop.
          I imagine it [f-droid.org] will though.
  • by butchersong ( 1222796 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @02:05PM (#55271259)
    Well this NFC ring I have on my finger just go less useful..
  • Guess it rode a wave outta here.

  • Might've been some scenario involving security compromise incident with NFC Unlock that got Google in the tort docket, cleaned out of a few million off-the-record (undisclosed settlement), and the corporate-tool sharks looked at future liability and were like: 'Ax this. Ax this NOW.' The hush-hush of the feature going behind the barn like that makes me wonder.
  • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @02:31PM (#55271417)

    Just because it's no longer core functionality, there are still apps that provide the feature.
    They were around before NFC unlock was part of Android, and they're still around now.

    It's not like another ecosystem that fights against apps that provide the same functionality as the OS.

  • The Cloud, where features disappear into The Fog.

  • by markhb ( 11721 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @02:48PM (#55271607) Journal

    The linked article includes a comment by someone who apparently has a sub-dermal NFC tag implanted. Either he's one of the nerdiest people around, or he's just revealed that he's actually a dog. (Actually, though, are those commonly used by the disabled to make unlocks easier?)

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      The linked article includes a comment by someone who apparently has a sub-dermal NFC tag implanted. Either he's one of the nerdiest people around, or he's just revealed that he's actually a dog. (Actually, though, are those commonly used by the disabled to make unlocks easier?)

      A large amount of cutting-edge technological innovation today helps the disabled. Self driving cars, AI virtual assistants, humanoid robots, snuggies, etc. I may have read somewhere that many products meant for the disabled are pitched to the mass market as a way to defray the cost of development.

      80%+ of "As-seen-on-TV" products seem to fall into this category. "Has this ever happened to you"? is normally a "No, never" for most people, but it might happen multiple times a day for people with certain

  • Typical Google (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @02:53PM (#55271657) Homepage

    Google already has earned a reputation for taking things away without recourse. You are Google's bitch if you use their stuff. Like Apple, Google will decide what is useful to you, regardless of your input.

  • Half assed bets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Thursday September 28, 2017 @03:18PM (#55271845)

    This is all that Google has been in recent years. Half assed blind bets with zero focus. They'll announce some big feature, big service, interesting tech application, and then instead of making it better and more accessible they'll just stay quiet for months and years, abandon it, and then "deprecate" it silently. Empty promises, premature ejaculation.

    On the other hand, if there's some hype around some sort of functionality, instead of integrating it on their older services, they'll create new ones, like not only one or two but sometimes 4 or 5 different versions with different names for no good reason, and then screw up the entire ecossystem fracturing userbase towards multiple overlapping services. And then, when understandably none of the versions have good adoption because everyone is left confused at the prospect of trying multiple apps to do something they already use another app for, then the strategy falls back to the standard. Keep quiet, abandon it, and deprecate.

    Google isn't evil anymore... it's just stupid. It became a victim of stretching itself out too thin, and creating an internal culture that lives in small bubbles. They cannot get their dev teams together to come up with a unified concept of anything anymore. The company cannot think big anymore. It doesn't seem to have unified concepts for whatever pure functionality, it's just a bunch of scattershot ideas. Most of the Google mainstays are all getting up to a full decade old. The search engine, maps, Gmail, Chrome, Android. What has Google produced internally in the past 5 years or so that is still going strong?

    This has been proven by payment systems, by chat apps, by new stuff like Google Assistant not integrating well or making use of other Google services, by different apps that overlaps functions of others... it's like different parts of Google have absolutely no idea what other parts are making, and they keep churning out whatever, deciding what to do with what's left behind later on.

    I'll just avoid new Google stuff as much as possible. You have no way of knowing what will survive, you can't rely on it, and channels of communication on development are as opaque as they can be. We are basically alpha testers. It's easier for me personally to invest on apps and services that have devs or a company focused on it, and dependant on it for the sake of their businesses.

    The worst part of it all is that at least when the company was still young, it used that sort of strategy for new ideas. Now it only picks crap from the hype pile, re-hashes it, and see if it sticks. Crap like Allo and Duo. They don't even have a spine to risk completely eliminating Hangouts and several other chat platforms to consolidate into one thing and offer it as a single chat solution. It's all half assed and without focus.

  • Google search is next...

  • Look like my old phone that I have to re-connect with my old car radio that receive a update at my dealer, do not offer smart unlock this time... didn't think about it until now!

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

Working...