Yes, I get the reason for safeguarding our accounts—especially our precious Google accounts—with lengthy “strong” passwords that are safe from all but the most determined of hackers.
Still, I resent the five or six extra taps it takes to open my password manager whenever I’m prompted to unlock my Google account yet again. Can’t there be an easier way of proving that I am, in fact, me?
Turns out there is. A relatively new Google feature lets you ditch your Google password (well, for the most part, anyway) and sign in to your account with a few taps on your Android phone or iPhone. Here’s how it works and how to set it up.
Access your ‘sign-in’ settings
The first step is to dip into the Sign-in & security settings for your Google account. There are a few different ways of doing this, depending on the device you’re using.
For Android: Tap Settings > Google > Sign-in & security, then tap Get started in the Tired of typing passwords? section, or try the Use your phone to sign in setting.
For iOS: First, you’ll need to have the official Google app for iOS installed. Once you’ve got it and you’re signed in, tap your Gmail address in the top-left corner of the screen, then tap Google Account settings > Sign-in & security, then tap the Tired of typing passwords? banner.
On a desktop: Log in to your Google account from a web browser, click your profile image in the top-right corner of the page, click the blue My Account button, then click Sign-in and security and finally the Tired of typing passwords? box.
Note: If you don’t see the Tired of typing passwords section, it could be because you’re using two-step authentication to protect your Google account; you’ll need to turn that off before you can start signing in with your phone. Another possibility is that Google hasn’t rolled out the “sign-in-with-your-phone” feature (which it only started testing late last year) to your account yet.
Turning on the phone sign-in feature
Next, you’ll probably be prompted to enter your Google password again—one of the last times you’ll ever do so, if all goes well—and then you’ll need to click the blue Set it up button.
Now it’s time to pick a phone to use for signing in to Google. From the drop-down Your Phone menu, pick a device—ideally, your primary phone. You can also add additional phones if you wish, although your account will be the the most secure if you only enable a single “sign-in-with-your-phone” handset.
You’ll also need to make sure that the phone you pick is protected with a screen lock; if it isn’t, you’ll be prompted to change your phone’s security settings. If you chose an iPhone as your “sign in to Google” device, using Touch ID will do the trick. Once you’ve picked a phone and it’s set with a screen lock, tap (or click) Next.
One the next screen, tap the blue Next button under your Gmail address. When you do, a Trying to sign in? banner will appear at the top of your sign-in phone’s screen. Tap the banner, tap the Confirm screen lock button, and enter your PIN or swipe pattern. Finally, tap the Yes button when asked Trying to sign in? A Sign-in approved message should appear.
That was just a test run. The last step is tapping the blue Turn on button at the final confirmation screen. Tap it, and your Google password days are (mostly) over.
When you sign in to Google with your phone
The next time you try to log in to Google from a computer or another device, you’ll enter your email address as usual and click Next. Then, instead of a password entry field, a two-digit number will appear on the screen, along with a prompt to unlock the phone you’re using to sign in with Google.
Back on your phone, the Trying to sign in? banner will appear. Tap the banner, and you’ll be asked to unlock your device with your PIN, a swipe pattern, or Touch ID.
You’ll then need to confirm that you’re trying to sign in to Google by tapping Yes or No, and then you’ll see three more buttons, each with a two-digit number. Tap the number that matches the number on the screen where you were trying to sign in, and you’re done.
As Google gets to know which devices you use most frequently, it may drop the numbers match game and simply ask you to unlock your Google sign-in device, then tap Yes to confirm it’s you who’s trying to log in.
Why you’ll still need to keep your Google password
If you’re ready to wad up your old Google password and toss it into the trash, hold your horses. There are a couple of cases in which you’ll want to keep your password handy.
One is if you want to sign in to Google but you’ve lost (gulp!) or otherwise don’t have access to your sign-in phone. In that case, you can click the Try another way to sign in link to get the standard password prompt. Once you’re signed in, you can also go back to your sign-in settings and delete a lost device from your “sign in with your phone” settings, if need be.
Also, Google may ask for your password if it thinks something fishy is going on with your account, or if you’re trying to change an important account setting (for example, turning off the “sign in with your phone” feature).