Google Issues Partial Fix for Pixel 6 Fingerprint Sensor Issues

Posted on November 17, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 47 Comments

If the Pixel 6 series has a serious problem—and it does—it’s the in-display fingerprint reader, which is slow and unreliable. But give Google credit for moving to fix this issue quickly: this week, it quietly released a surprise software update that seeks to address user complaints.

Google hasn’t documented what’s in the update, but Verizon was nice enough to do so, noting that it “improves the performance of your device’s fingerprint sensor. The release date is November 16, 2021 (yesterday).

Based on early reports, the update only partially fixes the fingerprint reader, which I consider to be this handset’s biggest problem by far. I did install it, but I’ve not noticed a difference yet.

I’ll publish my review as soon as possible. This one has proven difficult, given all the issues I’ve had, so I want to make sure I get it right.

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Comments (47)

47 responses to “Google Issues Partial Fix for Pixel 6 Fingerprint Sensor Issues”

  1. jason_e

    It is very slow and unreliable. So much so that I returned mine. The camera is a letdown too. Its a great camera but it is not the advancement I thought it was going to be. I will stick with my iPhone 13 Pro which takes just as good photos as the Pixel 6 and to be honest I just love FaceID.

  2. evictedkoala

    For those still having fingerprint accuracy issues with the 6, have you tried registering fingers twice (once with light pressure and once with heavier pressure)?

    That was what fixed the issue for me for the most part. I'm at 80% first time success rate, which is a win considering how poor the S21 reader was for me before I returned it. Obviously still not as good as the Pixel 4a which was 90%+, but good enough since the rest of the 6 Pro is pretty great.

    • bluesman57

      I ran that update, deleted all fingerprints, then registered my thumb twice like you say with light, then heavy pressure. So far it's working a LOT better, but like someone said here, it seems to degrade over time. We'll see.

  3. luthair

    I always wonder when this sort of issue occurs whether the device is bad, or whether other vendors decided to make the check less stringent.

  4. wosully

    My fingerprint reader on my 6 pro has worked well out of the box. I have the 5 for work and that hasn't been an issue, but was concerned after I heard people having issue. I don't know, maybe my prints are just simple.

  5. sykeward

    This is the same kind of baffling self-own that Apple’s butterfly keyboard was. Both keyboards and fingerprint readers have been solved for a long time now, actually solved, and yet here is the Pixel 6. There’s just no excuse for it.

  6. rickyhansen

    I have no problems using the in screen fingerprint reader on my 6 Pro. But then, I have registered the same fingers twice (learned from earlier inscreen readers).

    The reader works just as good as on my Huawei and Samsung devices (Mate 20 pro + Note 20 Ultra).

    By enabling haptic feedback on the scanner I have learned and gotten used to wait for the second vibration before I move my finger.

  7. peterc

    If you stand back and look at Google’s nexus and pixel adventures it’s pretty clear Google gets it right with handsets that utilise tried and tested component manufacture coupled with their core camera ai pairing, their version of android and deep integration with their excellent core apps (yes excellent apps even if I don’t like their privacy issues).

    So that’s their software on tried and tested mid-tier hardware. The exception maybe being the nexus 6P which was Huawei showing off what they could do at the time which was clearly great hardware design and manufacture.

    In my opinion if I were buying a pixel today, it would be the 5a and not the 6 series. Although you can’t buy it in most other countries…. Hmm I wonder why.

  8. markbyrn

    I've not had any fingerprint issues with my Pixel 6 Pro. I'm more concerned about reports (on the Google Issue Tracker as well) regarding the fingerprint sensor becoming inoperative for some when the battery is run all the way down. Apparently, the only fix is to do a factory reset.

  9. _stevenelliott

    Such a shame. As much as I hate Apple, their stuff is just more solid. I wanted to love this Pixel so much. Returning it and getting iphone 13 pro max. Sad

  10. dcdevito

    How did anyone at Google think this was acceptable when they tested this? It's just baffling.

  11. bassoprofundo

    As someone who's used a ton of in-screen readers but recently switched to a Galaxy Fold 3 with a side capacitive reader, I'd forgotten how bad in-screen ones were in comparison. Even with the trick of registering my commonly used fingers twice, they were still far from 100%. Even weirder, I found that all of them actually seemed to get less accurate over time and required re-registering. That's with sans-screen protector, moisturized hands, and all the other little tricks and tweaks in play. The Fold's sensor is lightning quick and literally never misses other than me mistakenly brushing the wrong finger over it.

    I realize this is the definition of a first-world problem, but for something I use every single time I pick up the phone, it becomes annoying very quickly. Even with the Fold, I very much have Pixel-envy but can't imagine picking one of these up knowing I'd be frustrated by the reader.

  12. mulderjoe

    I also received the update but didn't notice a difference. Although, i haven't had much trouble unlocking. Yes, it takes a beat longer than I'm used to. I added in both thumbprints and index fingerprints. Seems to be working 90% of the time. I know I'm in the minority.

  13. wickets

    nearly as bad as the fingerprint scanner is the slow rollout of the update....whatever failings apple has, at least it doesnt take them a week to send out a critical fix

  14. pr4709

    I've had my Pixel 6 Pro for two weeks now and have had a great experience with the fingerprint reader - in fact (no joke!), I haven't had even a single misread. I just switched from a Galaxy S21+ and experienced a 75% fail rate with the reader. I'm not discounting anyone's issues, however it's so strange - could it be a hardware issue? MAYBE they sourced the hardware component from different vendors due to part shortages and the software needs to be optimized to ensure differently sourced components work the same?

    • thechise

      This is purely anecdotal but myself and others I know that ordered direct from Verizon had not really had any issues with it

  15. Trickyd

    I think the finger print reader issues are overblown. For me it is at least as fast as my pixel 5 which was poor for a conventional reader but way better than a galaxy s10 I had which was near unusable.

  16. yoshi

    Reading the comments on this post has been a journey. I can only imagine how Paul’s final review will be received.

  17. thechise

    I am coming from the Note 10 Plus which was an earlier generation of the Samsung in display reader and it was not great. So the Pixel 6 Pro for me has been a vast improvement at least on that front. The glacial charging speed not so much.

  18. ronh

    Using the Samsung S21 ultra.

    Registered my dominant hand thumb and pointer 2 times each. 90% of the time the first read works, no matter which finger I use.

    Face unlock works well unless it is dark, or I have on sunglasses

  19. troughley

    I will stick with the Pixel 5a. Nice size with a rear physical finger print reader.

  20. thomalexday

    This is why you get an iPhone folks

    • luthair

      I hardly see how consigning yourself to the idiocy that is face id is better.

      Not to mention the terrible UX of ios.

      • red.radar

        Bold, but obnoxious statement. I don't see how face-ID is worse than a in-screen fingerprint sensor. Different yes and it has its issues but they are relatively minor. And I think its perfectly valid for someone to have the opinion its better .

        • wright_is

          You don't generally wear a mask on your fingers... Gloves in winter or in certain hygiene situations, but generally out and about, no.

          • nbplopes

            Let’s stop pretending that finger print id was designed to deal with face mask situation.

            COVID just happened and too everyone by surprise. Otherwise Face ID would be the fastest, the the most and more convenient way to identify and unlock.

            Now, given the mask situation I think Apple should very well put a finger being reader in the on / off button. No need for under the screen.


            • wright_is

              Yes, FaceID is fine, and definitely better than under-screen readers.

              But at the current time, FaceID only devices have severe problems being used in public. Yes, it isn't Apple's fault that we are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are and their current solution leaves a lot to be desired at the current time. Post-pandemic, it will, again, be the better solution.

      • rob_segal

        I haven't used Face ID, but it probably works better than the fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6 and the Note 10+ that I own.

        Regarding the UX of IOS, it's smooth, simple, and the addition of widgets makes it appealing to me. I might replace my Note 10+ with an iPhone.

        • wright_is

          Not really, FaceID and face masks don't mix!

          We use our phones for shopping lists, so it means turning unlocking it every couple of minutes. With FaceID, no dice, you have to enter the PIN every time.

          With my Android phone, the finger print is usually ok, but it is a Samsung Galaxy S20+ with in-screen reader, which probably works only 70% of the time, so the odd PIN entry is also needed there.

          • Walter Parker

            If you add the Apple Watch, you can unlock with FaceID and a mask.

          • mattbg

            Agree. I'd been using Face ID fine for years... and then I went back to work and had to ride transit with a mask on. The issue isn't so much that you have to use a PIN to login, but that so many things that authenticate me use Face ID frequently simply because it's normally so low-friction.

            Example: unlock my phone; Face ID fails; open work e-mail container; Face ID fails and falls back to password; get password from password manager; Face ID for password manager fails and requires master password; switch to browser and login to website; Face ID on my password manager fails again, etc.

      • winner

        It was a good UI in 2010.

    • thewarragulman

      You are an idiot and I say this on behalf of all other iPhone users, including myself.

    • winner

      Tons of bugs on iPhones. Like the time the calculator delivered wrong math. Also many security issues.

      • wright_is

        Or the recurring Emergency Pizza problem.

        I coined that term over a decade ago, when an Apple apologist (I was also an iPhone user at the time) claimed it wasn't a mistake that you could dial any number from the lock screen, not just 112/911/999 (depending on country). He stated that it was deliberate, that if someone found somebody lying in the street, they could use their phone to call a loved one - my comment or an emergency pizza!

        Funny, Apple fixed the problem a couple of weeks later. But it has cropped up again several times over the years.

    • winner

      There is a setting to improve finger sensitivity. Turn it on and it seems to improve the reader quite a bit.

  21. pgiftos

    I also installed the update but don't notice any improvement.

  22. brettscoast

    Thanks for the update Paul. It's a serious issue for this particular phone as we were originally promised much in the way of improvements over previous pixel models. I was so keen (still am) to get one but the fingerprint sensor issue is a deal-breaker unfortunately otherwise it's a terrific looking smartphone with hardware to match. Look forward to your upcoming full review.

  23. brettscoast

    As a follow up why oh why didn't the Google Pixel team go with the already proven far more reliable fingerprint sensors\readers on the Oneplus Pro & recent Samsung Galaxy smartphones? I know you have covered this extensively in your articles on the Pixel 6/Pro.

  24. briantlewis

    Google is bad at hardware. The Pixel line has so much promise and it's delivered every year with a dealbreaker. In Android land, you're always better off with a Samsung. Top notch hardware that can overcome the blunders Samsung commits in their OneUI.

    • ghostrider

      Google is actually getting very good at hardware - extremely good infact. The Pixel 6 is a brilliant handset all round, and Google will, I'm sure, make the inscreen reader work fine. Apple devices are also loaded with bugs and security holes - Apple release fixes very regularly. I don't hear anyone moaning about them - oh hold on, people who pray at the alter of Cupertino won't hear a bad word said against their idevice, because they're perfect aren't they - totally perfect?

      • dcdevito

        Your fanboyism is showing a bit there, bud. I experience lots of wriggling issues with my apple devices but in no way shape or form do I experience the ones this phone has.

    • brettscoast

      Fair comments, I would agree that Samsung is on the whole very solid across the hardware, design, finished product, maybe not so much with the associated software cruft that comes along on their phones.

    • wosully

      I can't stand the bloatware on some Samsungs, soni went with Pixel a few years ago and have not regretted it.

  25. JerryH

    I guess this is another of those "it depends on how you use it" things. For me, the fingerprint sensor is almost never active. I use my FitBit as a trusted device to keep the phone unlocked and also set my home as a trusted location. So it should, in theory, never be locked unless I have not used it for four hours. The biggest two issues I have (and others share them as there are large threads about both on the Google support site) are:

    • Device comes on when picked up about 1/2 the time even though all such features and settings are turned off. Since it is unlocked at the time, simply sliding it into a pocket like that can cause butt dials, etc.
    • It mysteriously locks in a way that requires the PIN and not the fingerprint. You pick it up and it says "device was manually locked" which forces the PIN. It wasn't manually locked as I have the "lock immediately when power button used" disabled and there is no other manual lock.

    Both seem to be software problems - again shared by many other people based on the posts to the support forum.

    As far as fingerprint use for apps that use a biometric - it seems to work just fine for me for that.