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Every phone needs this Android 15 feature that locks your screen and saves battery life

Published Apr 5th, 2024 4:08PM EDT
Google Pixel 8 Software
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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As usual, the next-gen Android beta is already available to developers. They can test some of Google’s new features for the next-gen OS release. Or they can inspect the code for clues of what comes next. The latter is always a source of exciting findings. And it so happens that one of the cool features Google is developing for Android 15 on Pixel phones might have leaked.

It’s called Adaptive Timeout, at least in the Android 15 code. It should both improve user privacy and help save battery life. However, the feature might be restricted to Pixel devices, at least initially. Hopefully, it will roll out to all Android phones that can run Android 15 in the future. That’s assuming Google rolls out Adaptive Timeout at all once Android 15 launches.

Discovered by Mishaal Rahman, Adaptive Timeout will do something you already think your phone is doing. It’ll determine whether you are looking at the display and lock the screen if you aren’t. The immediate benefit concerns data security. You should always lock your screen. That’s what encrypts the data and safeguards it from prying eyes.

The second effect is also welcome. Turning off the display faster than usual means you’ll get better battery life. The smartphone consumes less energy if the screen is off.

How is Adaptive Timeout new, you ask? Doesn’t my phone already turn off the screen without requiring an update to Android 15?

Well, yes, it does. If you have a lock screen password, the smartphone will turn off the display after 30 seconds of inactivity and lock the handset after another five seconds. You can change these settings, but I personally choose the shortest time I can.

Google Pixel 8 Pro Camera Cutout
The Pixel 8 Pro’s selfie camera. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Like the iPhone, Pixel phones have a “screen attention” feature that detects when you’re using the handset despite not interacting with it and prevents it from turning off.

A discovery in the Android 15 beta code revealed a new Adaptive Timeout feature that can improve your security and extend battery life.

It almost sounds like you don’t need Adaptive Timeout. But this is where things get interesting. The Android 15 code has this description for the “contextual timeout” feature:

Automatically turns off your screen early if you’re not using your device

What does early mean? It is supposed to be faster than the 15-second or 30-second autolock setting in Screen timeout you might be using right now. I’d love it if it was nearly instant. If the phone determines you’re not using it or looking at it, it should lock immediately.

The feature could backfire and lock you out more times than you wish, but you’d eventually get used to it. I’d go even further and say this feature would work well on iPhones, where you unlock the handset with Face ID, which is very fast.

It’s unclear what sensors Android 15 uses for Adaptive Timeout. Maybe it’s the selfie camera, maybe it’s the way you interact with the content on the screen, or perhaps it’s an AI algorithm that takes several factors into account.

Whatever the case, if it works as well as intended, the feature should boost your security and battery life. Google will hopefully demo Adaptive Timeout at I/O next month. After that, we’ll have to wait for it to become available via the beta release that Pixel phones will get.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.