Update: Google has pushed out a Pixel 6 update that fixes some irritating bugs, and seems to make the fingerprint scanner a little snappier. And the Google Pixel 7 Pro fixes the biggest Pixel 6 Pro problem.
In our Google Pixel 6 review, we praised the latest pure Android phone for its impressive camera performance, smart features, interesting design and a very competitive price. As such, I was excited to give Google's latest phone a spin.
But out of the box, there’s an immediate annoyance with the Pixel 6: the under-display fingerprint sensor. While it's neatly positioned in the lower center of the display where one's thumb can easily reach, I've found the sensor's performance a little unreliable so far.
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And I’m not alone, as my colleagues over at TechRadar have reported some inconsistencies with the fingerprint scanner. Assorted Pixel 6 chatter on Reddit has also surfaced that the scanner isn't perfect.
The most notable issue is that the Pixel 6's version is just a bit slower than other under-display fingerprint sensors. There’s a split-second delay between touching the scanner section of the display and the phone unlocking, at least when compared to my Oppo Find X3 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, both of which use optical under display scanners. And I’ve found the scanner needs a firmer, more direct press of a finger than other Android phones I’ve used.
I’m not the most impatient man, so I’d not usually begrudge a slight delay when unlocking my phone. But I’m a big user of phone-based contactless payments, especially when traveling on London’s Underground. And at rush hour the split-second disparity between a phone unlocking can mean the difference between gliding through an aisle gate or getting rear-ended by an onrushing commuter.
The Pixel 6 is the first Google phone to come with an under-display fingerprint scanner, so a few teething problems are to be expected. But after the simple but oh-so-snappy and responsive rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner on the Google Pixel 5, it’s a little jarring to now have a sensor that isn’t as snappy and lags behind those found on some of the best Android phones.
A noticeable delay is one thing, a lack of responsiveness or reliability is another, And that’s the main sticking point for me with the Pixel 6 and its fingerprint sensor.
The phone seems to reliably open when I use the scanner with my left thumb, but struggled to recognize the fingerprint on my right hand thumb, despite the fact I’ve scanned it in twice.
What’s more befuddling is I’d have assumed my left thumb would be the problem child, as it has a lump of scar tissue in it after I chopped the front of it off in an accident with a gun. But it works fine, albeit with the aforementioned split-second gap between scanning and unlocking the phone. Yet my perfectly non-deformed right-hand thumb seems to really mess with the Pixel 6, to the extent that it then bounced me back to needing to enter a PIN to unlock the phone.
It’s unclear if this is a hardware or software problem. I’ve not dismissed user error, though two scans of the same finger usually gets past fussy scanners; maybe I’m just better with my left hand. Regardless, I’m hoping Google does some software tweaks to optimize the scanner to be a little more responsive.
Should these concerns put you off from getting the Pixel 6? Well, no. I need to use the phone for a little longer to gather my thoughts, but our review was glowing and I’m liking the Pixel 6 so far. And at $599 with a lot of very good features the Pixel 6 is not a phone that can be easily dismissed for a few minor flaws unless you are exceptionally fussy; that can happen if you’ve spent years of your life reviewing phones!
I've also been using the Pixel 6 Pro, and while its fingerprint scanner isn't ideal, I feel the Google Pixel 6 is the Android phone I've been waiting for.
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Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.
I increased the sensitivity of the sensor which didn't seem to make much difference. Then I added a tempered glass screen protector, which I thought would give the sensor no chance. But strangely, with the protector on, the sensor now works so much better.Reply