Here's why the Google Pixel 6's fingerprint sensor isn't very reliable

Pixel 6 Fingerprint Scanner
Pixel 6 Fingerprint Scanner (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has responded to complaints from Pixel 6 owners about the phone's unreliable fingerprint sensor.
  • The company says the Pixel 6's fingerprint sensor uses enhanced security algorithms, which require "more direct contact with the sensor."
  • It isn't clear if Google will release a software update to improve the performance of the in-display optical fingerprint reader.

Google's Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are among the most impressive phones released this year, offering great value and class-leading camera performance. However, the fingerprint scanners on the two phones aren't the most reliable. Google has now finally responded to complaints regarding the slow and unreliable fingerprint sensors on the Pixel 6 series (via Engadget).

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Google has told users that the Pixel 6 fingerprint utilizes "enhanced security algorithms" that take longer to verify than conventional sensors and also require "more direct contact." Since Google's statement suggests there is no actual issue with the fingerprint scanners on its best Android phones of 2021, it remains to be seen if future software updates will make things better.

While Google is blaming the inconsistent fingerprint sensor performance on its security algorithms, some owners are speculating that it might be due to the use of optical in-display sensors. Ultrasonic sensors, such as the ones used in Samsung's Galaxy S21 series, are usually faster and more secure than optical fingerprint sensors. That said, there are several Android phones with optical sensors that offer a faster and more reliable fingerprint sensor experience than the Pixel 6 series phones.

An unreliable fingerprint sensor experience isn't the only thing that Pixel 6 and 6 Pro owners are complaining about. Some owners of the Pixel 6 series are experiencing weird screen flickering issues, while a few others are affected by a phantom calling bug. Fortunately, Google has acknowledged both issues and promised to roll out a fix soon.

Babu Mohan
News Writer
  • Seems like every Pixel ever released has a fatal flaw. Why couldn't they implement face ID like Samsung does and put the fingerprint reader on the back like the Pixel 3?
  • I think I remember reading there's no infrared component to any of the Pixel 6 sensors, something even Samsung has which makes face unlock work in the dark and very low light.
  • We made it a bad user experience by design.
  • Nothing beats a hardware finger print sensor. Additionally is the problem with placing your finger on it, you actually have to line your finger up, whereas on the hardware one, it has a divot for your finger to naturally rest, no careful lining up needed. I will give the in-screen readers this: They do look cooler. Usability wise, they're two steps back. It's nice having your phone ready before you've even positioned it in front of you after pulling it out of your pocket.
  • Agreed. Whoever thought an under the screen fingerprint sensor was a good idea vs a reliable hardware sensor is a total ffuucckkiinngg moron of the highest order...
  • The point of an under screen scanner is about reducing the number of UI interfaces you have with your phone. I need to tap over here for the phone I need to tap over there for the power. I need to go to the other side and tap over here for screenprints. I need to tap over there to turn the volume up and down. I need to turn the phone around to do this. It's too much and that's the reason why there's an underscreen fingerprint sensor. It just makes sense. I think I'd rather have a face ID, but when you're talking about having to wear a mask and pulling the mask down so that the thing can see your face, it gets a little annoying and the underscreen fingerprint sensor seems to be pretty neat and it works well with the Google pixel 6. I don't have a problem with it. I don't have any more of a problem with it than I had with the Samsung ultrasonic sensor and I had to put my fingerprints in on that phone two or three times. It's just not a fatal flaw like many of you would have us believe. Go buy the phone and find out for yourself. It's not a fatal flaw! Oh, and by the way, this was all typed out on my Google Pixel 6 with voice typing. It's amazing and it makes texting and writing articles like this 150 times easier than trying to swipe it or type it.
  • You are trying to hard to justify this. Unlocking the phone is an every time action and need to work efficiently and reliably. Find some other way to do some of those other things. The last think you want trouble with is unlocking.
  • Your point of view regarding in screen fingerprint sensors is quite strange to me... My pixel 5 is unlocked and ready to go as I'm taking it out of my pocket... Try that with your in screen fingerprint sensor 🤷‍♂️ And cool, your voice typing on your pixel 6 (which works just as well on my pixel 5 and any other Android phone I've had in recent memory 🤷‍♂️) helped you write a whole lot of nonsense really quickly... Good stuff 👍
  • I haven't experienced any of these bugs with my Pixel6. I did enter my fingerprints 2 times for 3 fingers and I use AOD. And, it seems that my fails which have never really been more than 3 have improved dramatically. I find it agitating to talk about this because I had the same issue with Sammy's s21 ultra. They have both gotten way better with repeated use. It's really a non issue!
  • The Pixel 6 is turning out to be as big a disappointment as Joe Biden.
  • NOT! Name one disappointment you have with the phone from your own personal use? And, then tell me how it's "a big disappointment. " Remember, please cite from your own personal use! If you have no personal use, then SHHHH!
  • That's quite a statement... That would mean the pixel 6 is the worst phone ever in the history of phones... That's obviously incorrect, so try again... Nothing in the universe is as terrible as sleepy Joe
  • Joe Biden is to the Presidency what the Note 7 was to smartphones.
  • Joe might not be the best prez to ever hold office but he is so much better than the obese old scoundrel he replaced.
  • Not even close... and I'm no Trump fan either... but you couldn't be more wrong...
  • Lol another pixel, another slew of bugs (software and hardware). Pixel users are the beta testers for Google and Google always seems to lay an egg with their phone launches whether it be plagued by software or hardware issues. 
  • So context is we installed a defective piece of **** for cost-cutting which has slow reading. Google hides flaws behind the name of security.