Forgot the PIN or pattern lock on your Android smartphone and want to unlock your phone? In this article, we are going to tell you what to do if you ever end up in a situation like this. Although there are various methods and tools that claim to unlock your phone, it should be noted that as of 2021, every single method is fraught with data loss. Keep this in mind before proceeding.
Forgetting the lock code or pattern lock on your Android smartphone is very common. In some cases, when you try to unlock your phone a few hours later, you can remember the code or pattern. However, what will you do if you can’t remember the lock code or pattern at all?
Can I recover data from a locked Android smartphone?
The simple answer to this question is no.
While there are some steps that you can take to get your phone back to use, you cannot get back the data saved on the locked phone. This applies to any smartphone running a relatively new version of Android, including Android 9, Android 10, Android 11, and the upcoming Android 12.
While you may come across several websites / tools and videos that claim this, upon reviewing you will find that these methods are either misleading or only work on very old versions of Android. The truth is that starting in 2021, Google has inherently made the process of regaining access to locked Android devices more difficult.
While this can be extremely frustrating (or even unfair) for someone who just wants to regain access to their own smartphone or a loved one’s smartphone after they die, it is important to note that all of these measures are in place to help ensure that your personal information remains secure under all circumstances and cannot be accessed by anyone with malicious intent.
Today’s smartphones are extremely personal devices and a treasure trove of personal information. Chances are, as well as detailed financial information on your phone, it may also contain data of a very intimate nature – the kind that you don’t want anyone but you to have access to. And the only thing preventing others from accessing this data is one of the many security systems the phone has in place to ensure that only the rightful owners have access to this data.
It therefore becomes counterintuitive when Google makes it easier to unlock your smartphone. Because that would also mean that the process of unlocking (and accessing data) would also be easier for the people out there to steal your data – and trust us when we say that, there are a lot of people like that out there!
As of 2021, most smartphones can still be “unlocked” by performing a factory reset. However, it also means that anyone who steals your phone will be able to use it as a new device after a factory reset. To counteract this, many new smartphone models require users to enter the password for the Google account that the phone was originally signed in with. In the future, there may be a chance that all Android phones have this feature enabled by default.
Now that you know why it is impossible to get your data back if you forget your PIN or unlock pattern, let’s take a look at how you can at least get your phone back so that you can use it as new after unlocking it .
How do I unlock an Android smartphone using the Smart Lock function?
Note: For this method you need to activate the Google Smart Lock function beforehand.
A few years ago, Google introduced a feature called Smart Lock for Android smartphones. As of 2021, this feature will still be available on most Android devices. The limitation, however, is that to unlock a locked phone, it should have been activated beforehand.
Depending on how the Smart Lock function has been activated on your phone, the device unlocks itself as soon as it detects that it is in a “trusted area” or in the immediate vicinity of a trusted device. This can include, for example, Bluetooth headphones or a smartwatch.
For example, if you have set your office as a trusted area using the Smart Lock feature, the phone will unlock itself as soon as it uses GPS to determine that it is in the trusted area. Just bring the locked phone to the trusted area. The phone will then unlock itself without you having to enter the PIN or use a pattern lock.
For more information on setting up the Smart Lock feature, see here.
How to Unlock an Android Smartphone Using the Google Find My Device Tool
Another tool that you can use to unlock your phone (albeit with data loss) is Google Find My Device. On most new Android devices, the Find My Device feature is automatically activated when you sign in to the device with your Google Account.
If you want to regain access to a phone with a forgotten PIN / pattern and you know which Google Account was used on that phone, you can use the Find My Device tool.
- To access the Find My Device tool, open a web browser on your computer (or other smartphone) and click this link.
- Sign in to the Find My Device tool with the same Google Account that is used on the phone
- You should see a screen listing devices signed in with the same Google account.
- Select the phone that you want to regain access to.
- In the left corner you will now see three options: Play sound, Safe device, and Delete device
- Choose the third option – Delete device.
- You may be asked for your Google account password to continue.
- Once the data is cleared, your phone may ask you to sign in to your Google account again.
- Once you have access to your phone, you can set a new PIN / password and this time make sure you don’t forget it!
Older versions of Android had an option to use the Find My Device tool to reset the screen lock code and use a new lock code to access your smartphone without losing any data. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.
Use your Google account (works on very old phones with Android 4.4 and lower)
Note: This is a very old trick that worked on devices running Android 4.4 and lower. If you have a newer device this option won’t work for you.
There used to be an option on old Android phones that would allow you to unlock your pattern / screen lock through your Google account. However, this is no longer the case with new devices.
- Try to unlock the pattern five times (maybe you get lucky and guess / remember it!).
- After the fifth attempt, you will be locked, but you will see the “Forgot Pattern” option at the bottom of the screen. Click on it.
- Sign in to your Google account.
- After authenticating with your Google account, you can choose a new PIN, new pattern, new lock, etc. and unlock your device.
How do I reset a smartphone in recovery mode?
In case none of these options worked for you, the last resort is to factory reset the phone. As expected, this process will also result in the loss of all data currently stored on the phone. But hey, you will at least get the phone back for normal use.
The method of resetting the hardware to the factory settings is different for each device. However, in general, you need to hold down the Power button and Volume down button when your device is off. Note that this may vary depending on the make and model of your phone.
How to factory reset a locked phone with standard Android
- Turn off your phone.
- Press and hold the Power key and Volume down key for a long time.
- Wait for the phone to start in fastboot mode.
- Use the volume up / down buttons to navigate to option / recovery mode.
- Use the Power button to click on Recovery Mode.
- The phone will restart, display a Google splash screen, and then display the image of the Android mascot on its back. Underneath you will also see the words “No command”.
- Press the on / off button and the volume up button in quick succession (first the on / off button and immediately afterwards the volume up button). You may need to practice this a little to find the right order.
- You should now see a screen with several options.
- Use the volume rocker buttons to scroll downDelete data / factory reset. ‘
- Your phone will reset and restart in a few minutes.
- After the reset, you can use your device as a new smartphone.
How can I reset a locked Samsung phone on Android?
Note: For newer Samsung smartphones like the Galaxy S21 series, you need to connect the phone to a PC to start in recovery mode.
- Turn off your locked smartphone.
- Press the power button and the volume up button at the same time for a long period of time.
- Your phone will boot into recovery mode right away.
- Use the volume keys to navigate up / down and select the ‘Delete data / factory reset‘ Possibility.
- Have the phone restart and you can now set up the phone as new.
For most of the other Android smartphone vendors, the process is almost similar. You have to press the power button and the volume up or down button to get into recovery mode and do a factory reset.
Note: On some newer devices, even after a factory reset, the phone may ask you to enter the password for the Google account it was last signed in with. This is a security measure to ensure that the phone – even after performing a factory reset – cannot be used or sold by thieves, making it an unattractive proposition overall.
Do you have any other tips on how to bypass the lock screen on Android? Have your attempts to reset your PIN code been successful? Let us know in the comments.
This article was last updated in May 2021. Older comments have been retained.