Google Pixel 6a could fix the Pixel 6 fingerprint scanner problem

Google Pixel 6a reveal at IO 2022
(Image credit: Google)

Update: The Google Pixel 6a has a big problem in the form of the Pixel 6.

Although the Google Pixel 6a is meant to be a cheaper version of the Google Pixel 6, it could end up improving on one particularly irritating aspect of the original Pixel 6: its sluggish under-display fingerprint sensor.

According to Android Central, Rick Osterloh, Google's VP of devices and services, confirmed at Google I/O that the Pixel 6a will use a different fingerprint scanner than the Pixel 6. However, it isn't clear whether this changed sensor is definitely going to be an upgrade or not.

For one, we don't know who's making the sensor. The Pixel 6a could use another sensor made up by Goodix, which supplied the slow Pixel 6 sensors, or one from another company entirely. Additionally, when the original complaints were being made about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google said the fingerprint sensor's slow response it was due to its "enhanced security algorithms.” If it's a software issue, then that would probably mean changing the sensor out would make little difference.

The dodgy fingerprint sensor was just one of several Google Pixel 6 problems that impacted the phone after launch. However, it seemed to be the most widespread based on reports, and as we wrote at the time it spoiled an otherwise excellent pair of smartphones.

In some ways, Google may have been better off keeping the Pixel 5a's rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. Yes, it's a bit old-fashioned but having the sensor exposed rather than buried under the display meant it was super reliable.

The Pixel 6a's not arriving until July 28, so it's going to be a little while before we get to try out the sensor and compare its speeds with the Pixel 6 and other phones. Also, the Pixel 6a will get an older camera and not the flagship ones on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. But we are looking forward to seeing how well the flagship-grade Google Tensor chip performs in a non-flagship phone, and if its photography, enhanced by features like Magic Eraser, can put it among the best camera phones.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.