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Pixel 6 fingerprint scanner could die if you repair the screen

Google Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor
(Image credit: Future)

Update: A new bug is affecting Google Messages, causing it to drain the battery and overheat affected phones - here's what you can do about it

Any Pixel 6 owners in need of a replacement screen should be aware of a potential problem: the fingerprint sensor might stop working after you get the new display installed. 

That's according to Louis Rossman, right to repair activist and owner of the Rossman Repair group store, who believes the problem is related to Google’s fingerprint calibration software. This tool was released to calibrate the sensor following any repair work, but a large number of reports have recorded it failing and Rossman has now released a video detailing the issue. 

As the video says, if the calibration fails the phone in question will flash up an error saying that it “couldn’t find unique calibration software for this device.” Google is apparently aware of the problem, but it's not clear at this stage whether it is working on a fix.

google pixel 6 fingerprint sensor calibration fail

(Image credit: Brayden Carroll/Google Forums)

The calibration tool was released so that Pixel phones could be repaired by someone who doesn’t work for Google, whether that's a user carrying out their own DIY repair, or a third-party repair shop. 

However, the fact you need to use software at all is a problem in itself — and this bug is just one example of why.

We’ve also seen other companies, notably Apple, locking repairs behind specialist software that’s only available to authorised technicians. In multiple high-profile cases, attempting a repair without it leads to hardware failures — the most recent example being the loss of FaceID on the iPhone 13. It’s an action that has been subject to plenty of criticism from right-to-repair activists.

Rossman points out in the video that this situation is odd, given that these calibration issues have been reported since at least last November. He’s not sure whether it's strictly a software bug or is actually something intentional by Google — though we don't have any reason to believe it's the latter.

There have, however, been countless reports of other Pixel 6 problems over the past few months, ranging from broken fingerprint scanners to ghost dialling to slow charging and even the camera app randomly restarting the phone. Most recently, an update designed to fix camera bugs ended up with some users reporting lost Wi-Fi functionality. So it’s not out of the question that this calibration tool is failing simply because of a software error.

Of course, as Rossman points out, there comes a point where ignoring a problem like this comes across as a deliberate action — even if that wasn’t the original intention.

However, because people aren’t likely to say anything when the calibration tool does work as intended, we don’t know what the relative success rate is and how widespread the issue is. Here’s just hoping Google fixes the problem soon.

Tom Pritchard
Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.