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.

Michael Allison