Google Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor is the weakest part of a killer Android phone

Google Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor
(Image credit: Future)

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. 

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.

Google Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor

(Image credit: Future)

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. 

Google Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Roland Moore-Colyer

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. 

  • Carouk
    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.