How to Fix Smart Lock not Working

Google Smart Lock (also known as Android Smart Lock) was introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system and it caters to the issue of users having to constantly unlock their phones. The Smart Lock enables you to set up scenarios and situations where your phone will automatically unlock itself for long periods of time. Think of it like this; while you’re at home, your device will stay unlocked but while you are at work, you will have to unlock itself.

Google Smart Lock
Google Smart Lock

Despite its usefulness and being a point of focus by Google, we came across several scenarios where the smart lock didn’t work. Below are variations of the issue which your Google Smart Lock might experience:

  • The smart lock might not unlock your device even if you are in a trusted location (such as your home).
  • It doesn’t unlock even if a trusted device is connected to your phone.
  • The smart lock settings are totally blank with no option whatsoever.
  • You are not able to use other smart lock features for unlocking including face recognition etc.

In addition to the above causes, there were also several other variations which are not listed here. You can follow the solutions listed below as they will cater for all the variations of the Smart Lock not working on your Android device.

What causes Google Smart Lock not to Work?

We received plenty of reports by users regarding the feature not working. We compiled all the possible causes as to why this issue was occurring and after experimenting on our own devices, we gathered all the potential causes. Some of the causes as to why Smart Lock isn’t working on your device are but not limited to:

  • Compass not calibrated: As you all might know, Android makes use of your in-built compass to select and retrieve location. If your compass is not calibrated or there is an issue with its hardware, Android will not be able to determine whether it is in a trusted location.
  • Location accuracy: If your location accuracy is set low, there might be instances where Google fails to determine your exact location and doesn’t unlock your device as expected. Setting the location accuracy as high solves the issue.
  • Bug in Android 8: Another issue which several users faced was a ‘blank’ Smart Lock screen when opened. This was a known bug in Android version 8.0 and can be easily solved if the version is updated to the latest build.
  • Location not set correctly: If your location is not set correctly (for example, the location is set to your main road instead of your house), the smart lock will not unlock itself.
  • Work email is associated: When you are registered in your device with your work email, your work policy will override all the lock settings in your device which includes the Smart Lock. In this case, you have to remove the work email and log in using your usual Google email.
  • Multiple devices using Google Account: If you have multiple devices using a single Google account, there might be instances where Google gets confused and doesn’t unlock any device properly.
  • Play services are battery optimized: The modules responsible for managing Google’s smart lock are Play Services present in Android. Recently, Google has added a feature where applications get ‘battery optimized’ which ‘sleeps’ the applications when not in use. We came across instances where Play Services were optimized and hence were not working when the user wanted to use Smart Lock.
  • Third-party applications: There are also several cases where third-party applications conflict with the Smart Lock and caused it not to work. Here, you have to boot your computer in safe mode and then diagnose which one was causing the problem.
  • Bad cache partition: There can also be instances where the cache partition in your phone gets corrupt or accumulated by bad data. We can try wiping it in safe mode and see if this does the trick.

Before we move on with the solutions, make sure that you have full access to your Android device (including the Google email and password). Save your work before proceeding.

Solution 1: Turning on High Location Accuracy

Before we start with other technical workarounds, we will first start with the basic troubleshooting techniques. The first one is ensuring that you have a high location accuracy set on your smartphone. There are several different location accuracy options present as listed below:

  • Phone only: Using GPS
  • Battery saving: Wi-Fi and Mobile Networks
  • High Accuracy: Wi-Fi, Mobile Networks, and GPS

As you can see, High Accuracy is the most precise location utility which allows users to use pinpointed location. If you don’t have high accuracy, Android might not be able to determine whether you are at the correct location and hence won’t unlock your device. In this solution, we will navigate to your settings and turn on the High location accuracy.

  1. Open your device’s Settings and then navigate to Connections.
  2. Now scroll down and click on Location.
    Selecting Location - Android Settings
    Selecting Location – Android Settings
  3. Here, you should have an option of Locating Method. Click it once.
    Clicking Location Method Android
    Location Method – Android Settings
  4. Here, all the options of the Location will be present. Make sure that you select High Accuracy.
    Selecting High Accuracy Location
    Selecting High Accuracy Location – Android
  5. Save changes and exit. Restart your device and check if Smart Lock is working as expected.

Note: In order for optimal smart lock experience, make sure that your location is always turned on. It might not work if you keep it off or turn it on only occasionally.

Solution 2: Calibrating Compass

Another thing to try if you are not able to use Smart Lock at your saved location is calibrating the compass on your device. All mobile devices use the compass utility to help the phone decide which way it is facing and where it is. The more calibrated your compass is, the more accuracy you will achieve in Maps. The more accuracy you achieve on Maps, the more chances there are that you will not have any issues with Smart Lock.

Calibrating Android Compass
Calibrating Android Compass

Since Android doesn’t have a compass calibration application or option, you will have to do it manually. Here, you have open Google Maps application on your device and then create an 8 rotation as done in the Gif above. Make sure that you repeat the actions several times before you try using Smart Lock again.

Solution 3: Re-enabling Smart Lock from Trusted Agents

Numerous users reported (especially users in Android 8.0) that they were unable to see the options of Smart Lock in their Android devices. This was a very common issue which arose in late 2017 and is present in Android devices to this date. The explanation behind this behavior is that there is nothing wrong with the modules; there is only a bug which can easily be solved by resetting the trusted agents from your device.

A trusted agent is a service which notifies the system whether the environment in which the device currently is can be trusted or not. The parameter of ‘trusted’ is only known to the agent and it determines it using its own checks. Here, we will reset the smart lock from trusted agents and see if this does the trick for us.

  1. Open your Settings and navigate to Lock screen and security > Other Security Settings.
    Clicking Other Security Settings in Android
    Other Security Settings – Android
  2. Now scroll down until you find the entry of Trust Agents. Click it.
    Clicking Trust Agents - Other Security Settings in Android
    Trust Agents – Other Security Settings
  3. Here you will see Smart Lock (Google) and it will most probably be checked.
  4. Uncheck the option and restart your device completely. After restarting, navigate back to these settings and check the option again.
    Re-enabling Smart Lock - Trusted Agents
    Smart Lock – Trusted Agents
  5. Now you can try setting up smart lock again and see if this fixed the issue at hand.

Note: The steps demonstrated here are of Samsung devices. If you have some other device, you can make alterations to the steps.

Solution 4: Updating Android to the Latest Build

Google Engineers noticed this particular issue of Smart Lock not working as expected in smartphones. They released an update which targeted this situation specifically. Google updates contain more than just fixes; they also contain new features and improvements to existing architectures. Here in this solution, we will navigate to your Settings and check if there are any updates pending.

  1. Click on the Settings application and navigate to Software update.
  2. Even if you have Download updates automatically checked, you need to click on Download updates manually.
    Downloading updates Manually - Android Settings
    Downloading updates Manually – Android Settings
  3. Now, the Android system will automatically start searching if there are any updates available. If there are any, you will be asked to download and install them accordingly.
  4. Install the updates and then check if Smart Lock is working properly.

Solution 5: Using Coordinates for Trusted Places

Another workaround in making Smart Switch work is using coordinates instead of location as you would conventionally. This isn’t an option present in your Android system; a fellow techie discovered that if you disable the GPS on your settings and then go to trusted places to add a location, the Android system will prompt for permission. When you grant it, the location will be used in the form of coordinates. You can set the location from there and then check if Smart Switch is working or not.

  1. Navigate to the location settings as we did in Solution 1. Set the location to Battery Saver.
  2. Now navigate to Lock screen and security > Smart Lock. Now click on Trusted Places.
    Clicking Trusted Places - Smart Lock in Android
    Trusted Places – Smart Lock
  3. Here, you might be asked for permission for GPS. If prompted, click on Yes.
  4. Now select your location using the pin which is provided. Note that instead of full addresses, you will be presented with coordinates when selecting the location. Save the location and exit. Now check if Smart Lock is working as expected.

Solution 6: Checking if Google Account is used in more devices

If all the above methods fail and you are still unable to use Google Smart Lock, you should check whether your Google Account is being used in multiple devices. This should not affect the operating of Smart Lock but it seems it does. Here in this solution, we will navigate to your Google Account settings in the website and then check if there are other devices which are synced to your Google Account. Here, you should make sure that only one device (the one which you are using) is synced fully with Google and remove all other devices.

  1. Navigate to Google and click on your profile picture present at the top-right side of the screen. After clicking, select the option of Google Account.
Selecting Google Account
Google Account – Google Settings
  1. Once you are in your account settings, navigate to Security and then see Your devices. All the devices will be listed here which are associated with your Google Account.
Selecting Your Devices in Google Account
Google Account – Google Settings
  1. Skip computers and chrome books etc. Only check for smartphones. If there are more than one smartphones registered against your Google Account, consider logging out of it.
  2. After you are completely sure that only one smartphone is registered against your account, try using Smart Lock and check if the issue is resolved.

Solution 7: Removing Work Email

Another common culprit for Smart Lock not working is you having your device registered with a work email. When you are registered with your work email, all the lock screen settings which you set manually are overridden with your work policy. The work policy is the same for all users having their smartphone registered with a work email address.

Here, we will advise you to check whether you have a work email address used in your smartphone. If you do, consider removing it and then checking whether your smartphone works as expected. Below is the method on how to check which email is registered with your smartphone.

  1. Open your phone’s Settings and then click on Cloud and Accounts.
  2. Now, select Accounts. Here all the accounts which are used in your smartphone will be listed.
    Opening Accounts - Cloud and Accounts Settings in Android
    Accounts – Cloud and Accounts Settings
  3. Check the Google Account and see which one it is registered to. If it is your work email, make sure that you remove it completely and then try using Smart Switch.

Solution 8: Setting Multiple Locations

If you still unable to use Smart Switch as required and your phone still doesn’t unlock itself when you reach home or some safe space, you can use a ‘workaround’ in which you set multiple location tags at a single location. For example, if you are in your home, you can set the location tags at different ends (one at the porch, one at the backyard, etc.). This will remove the issue of your smartphone not detecting the exact location where it is supposed to unlock.

Setting Multiple Locations in Smart Locations
Setting Multiple Locations

However, do note that this will comprise the security just a little bit. You can make sure that you remedy this by not taking the circle (of the location) too outside your trusted place. After you have set multiple pins, restart your device, ensure that you have a good internet connection and check whether smart switch works or not.

Solution 9: Checking Play Services

The main service responsible for managing the Smart Switch in your Android Device is Google Play Service. Usually, nothing goes wrong with these services but there are instances where your smartphone might place the service in the ‘battery optimization’ list. When a service is in this list, it doesn’t work completely as Android keeps placing it to sleep. In this solution, we will navigate to the battery optimization settings and make sure this service isn’t present.

  1. Open Settings in your smartphone and navigate to Device maintenance (or some other option leading to battery options in your specific smartphone).
  2. Now click on Battery. Here, usually, there is a list of applications which you can limit to save power. Scroll down below until you locate Unmonitored apps.
    Adding Unmonitored Application in Android
    Adding Unmonitored Application
  3. Once inside unmonitored apps, click on the Add apps Now add Google Play Service and save changes.
  4. Now check if the voice functionality works as expected.

Solution 10: Checking in Safe Mode

If all the above methods don’t work out, there is a chance that you have a problematic application which isn’t allowing Smart Lock to work as expected. There are several third-party applications which exhibit this behavior and are known to be problematic. Instead of disabling each application one by one, you can try booting your smartphone in safe mode and see if the smart lock works or not. If it does, it means there was an application causing the trouble.

Each smartphone has its own way of booting in safe mode. You need to navigate to your manufacturer’s website and then follow the instructions there. Once you boot in safe mode, you can check smart lock whether it works or not. Make sure that you enable your GPS manually as in several cases it is disabled in safe mode. If it works, boot back in normal mode and start disabling each application one by one until you find the culprit.


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.