Android Intelligence Advice

How to fix Android's Smart Lock Trusted Places feature

A 60-second workaround to make Android's location-based Smart Lock start working again.

Android Smart Lock Trusted Places
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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. 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, or passcode 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 -- from both the perspective of an individual consumer and that of a company that wants to minimize the hassle of proper security for its users. The only problem is that one of the most useful Smart Lock options has been broken for way too long.

I'm talking about Smart Lock's Trusted Places feature, which lets you set a specific physical location -- like your home or your office -- at which your phone will automatically stay unlocked. When you aren't at that location, your standard security method will show up and apply.

The feature 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.

I was excited, then, to see word last week that Google had supposedly fixed the glitch. A message posted by a Googler in an official help forum said an update to Google Play Services was rolling out and would bring proper functionality back to Smart Lock Trusted Places. Huzzah! At last, a solution.

Or so it seemed. The Play Services update was already on my current phone (a Pixel), my old phone (a Nexus 6P), and my wife's phone (a Nexus 5X) -- and yet Trusted Places still failed to work for any of those devices.

Hang on, though: There's a silver lining to this story.

I mentioned my disappointment with Google's ineffective fix on social media, and someone had a suggestion. I gave the proposed workaround a go on all three of the aforementioned phones -- and after a week of testing and observation, I'm here to tell you that it absolutely works.

It doesn't make much sense, mind you, and there's no reason you should have to do this. But if Smart Lock Trusted Places is flaky for you, it's worth giving a whirl.

Here's all you've gotta do:

  1. Head into the Security section of your system settings and find the option for Smart Lock. You'll probably have to enter your security code before moving on to the next menu.
  2. Select "Trusted Places," then tap the line for whatever location isn't working properly and select the option to edit it.
  3. Tap the map that appears, then slide your finger around to move the red pin to the most accurate location. Even if the location looks right from the get-go, shift it around a teensy bit to force the system to update it. This will likely change the text you see on the screen from a specific street address (which you probably typed in at some point) to a set of latitude and longitude coordinates.
  4. Tap the "Update" command at the bottom of the screen, then hit your device's Home key to exit back to the home screen.

That's it -- and nonsensical as it sounds, it should do the trick. At least, it did for all three phones I've been testing in my house, all of which have experienced flawless Trusted Places functionality more or less since the moment I made this change.

For whatever reason, it appears Trusted Places' reliability issue has something to do with locations inputted via a numerical street address -- ya know, the way most people would input them. Once you set a location by physically moving the red pin on the map instead, things seem to go back to normal.

I sure as hell can't explain why this feature is broken in that weird-seeming way, but I can tell you it's spectacular to have it working again.

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