Google has explained the shift to its ‘Biometric API’ in a new blog post on their Android Developers Blog.
With the recent release of its latest flagship smartphone, the Pixel 4, Google has also released Android 10, the newest operating system, and debuted Face Unlock, its newest form of biometric authentication. The 3D facial recognition security feature works similarly to Apple’s own Face ID, and replaced Google’s previous biometric fingerprint-based system.
Face Unlock is powered by the new ‘Biometric API’, which takes over from the previous ‘BiometricPrompt’ API that was released with Android Pie in 2018, and had a common design developers could use to take advantage of fingerprint authentication as well as a growing need for face scanning systems which were starting to become more common in Android phones. The biometric API before ‘BiometricPrompt’ was ‘FingerprintManager’, and it was simply for fingerprint scanners with no common design UI provided by Google.
Now, with Android 10 and Face unlock coming to market with the Pixel 4, Google has made the switch to ‘Biometric API’, and in the blog post Google explains:
“…in Android 10, the team introduced some pivotal features to turn the biometric API into a one-stop-shop for in-app user authentication. Biometric Manager enables developers to check whether a device supports biometric authentication. Furthermore, the setDeviceCredentialAllowed() method was added to allow developers the option to use a device’s PIN/pattern/password instead of biometric credentials, if it makes sense for their app.
The team has now packaged every biometric feature you get in Android 10 into the androidx.biometric Gradle dependency so that a single, consistent, interface is available all the way back to Android 6.0 (API level 23).”
Because the Pixel 4 requires apps to support this new API, Google is pushing for faster adoption from the developer community, though it isn’t forcing it. Should developers choose to have their apps support the ‘Biometric API’, they will benefit by having access to a consistent UI that is supported all the way back to the Android Marshmallow version of the OS.