Skip to main content

Pixel 4's face unlock is inexplicably broken for some users

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL
Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Some Google Pixel 4 owners are finding themselves unable to log-in to the device using Google's face unlock system.
  • The problem reportedly started after the November 2019 update.
  • User remedies like deleting face unlock and factory resetting have only had limited success rates.

The Pixel 4 family has run into another user-facing issue. This time, with the Project Soli-backed face unlock system. Reports are emerging of users being hit with error messages reading "Can't verify face. Hardware not available" and "Can't verify face. Try again." when attempting to use the Pixel's biometric authentication.

Android Police reports:

The problem first popped up starting around November, escalating in frequency over more recent months. For many, the issue first appeared immediately after receiving one of Google's (recently delayed) monthly security updates, though it's also occurring without any apparent triggering action for others. Although there are reports of the issue at venues like the Pixel support forums, Reddit, and the XDA Forums, with some threads around 20-40 comments deep, the problem doesn't appear to be particularly widespread.

Although some users have attempted a factory restore, it hasn't always been successful, with the issue popping right back up. While the bug is a problematic one for users who are unlucky enough to fall victim to it, that not many users have it is a saving grace.

The Pixel 4's adoption of face unlock over the tried and tested Pixel Imprint was a divisive choice in itself. Despite its usefulness, speed, and secure nature, due to the aesthetic compromise and battery penalty, a few users would have preferred the Pixel 4 eschew face unlock entirely. Now, all those compromises would look that more glaring without functioning biometrics.

The Pixel 4 is a fairly good phone that's been beset with one issue after another. It's unclear what's causing this one, but what is clear is that whatever this is, it can likely be resolved with a software patch or two once Google pins down the root cause.

20 Comments
  • If Google stop making cloned iphones, then I'll care.
  • Fix your face
  • Lol....That's what Apple would say.
  • Hey pixel users are google's beta testers so not surprised another issue pops up. 
  • This. I don't get the title's "inexplicably broken." Pixel users get beta software, so why is anyone surprised at the number of bugs?
  • Well, unfortunately if you buy a Pixel, you get a Pixel.
  • It's fairly obvious Google is only interested in hoovering up personal data vs developing products.
  • No worries guys next Pixel all issues will be resolved. Says each year pixel users 😊
  • Nope, it's not broken! The solution is to take the Pixel 4 and bash your head against it...that will most definitely unlock it...
  • Can Google just stop making phones and just focus on giving all OEMs the same software features (ie: Call Screening/assistant).
  • A small percentage of ppl are experiencing this but you guys want to blow it up like they are the only phones with flaws... When Google stops making the pixel I'm out.. getting a iPhone immediately. The Android community is too toxic.
  • Exactly. They even title it "some users" and every other site has said a "small subset" but apparently it's a sky is falling issue. I've had none of the issues I've read about on reddit OR this one. It's not like bugs don't get introduced in update bundles. I've been using Samsung devices the last couple of years and they also have their fair share ... finger print sensor issues anyone? heh. It's just popular to hate on Pixels because they don't give Note 10+ level specs for $500.
  • But that's the problem: every Pixel user has the same software on the same hardware. It's not third-party apps or individual settings causing crap like this. So if you're one of the affected people, good luck getting relief any time soon. It's obviously not hardware, so wth is going on in the code?
  • Just happened to me with the latest security update (January) and only factory resetting the device fixed the issue.
  • People whined and cried about problems with the Pixel 2 XL I never had any significant problems. People have been whining and crying about the Pixel 4 and 4 XL ever since launch and again I haven't had any of the same problems and neither has my wife. I think some people just like to complain.
  • I've never had Ebola. Therefore, it must not exist. I like how even you, an apologist, has to use the qualifier "significant" rather than being able to say you didn't have any problems lol.
  • Ebola was affecting ppl long before you knew it exist however it was contained and not significant enough for anyone to give a **** but when it started to be widespread that's when it was a real issue and that's when the media doctors around the world started to care so if you want to use that analogy let's go. When there's a issue found in software that's only affecting a small amount of people, software company investigate but they drag their feet because anything at this point could be a factor like user error, app you downloaded or rooting your phone or some stupid **** you did to your phone when it's a bigger population then you know for sure it's something wrong with their code cuz it's affecting a great amount of their user base. No one is saying a problem isn't there we're just saying it's not significant for a whole article to be written about it because that kind of stuff brings nothing but hate and toxicity to the Android community look how many people jumped into the comments that never owned a pixel to say how much the pixel is a garbage phone...It's not solving anything
  • It's never a problem until it affects *you*. I sincerely hope Google gets their shіt together with the Pixel line. But every year, there is some major flaw that affects a significant amount of users, and it appears this year will be no exception.
  • Haven't had a single issue with my Pixel 4XL.
  • Some days it fails and fails and fails. In the end it demands a pattern to unlock. Fails when unlocking Bitwarden password manager. Fails when buying apps. Fails when unlocking the phone. Just fed up with it to be honest. It worked well when the phone was new. But getting worse every day.