Google Pixel 6 problems — fingerprint sensor, flickering displays and more

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro cameras
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro certainly impressed us when we tested both phones. But as with any device, Google's new phones ship with their fair share of issues. Anyone familiar with the Pixel line in general shouldn't be surprised by this, since Google still has work to do with its quality control, even on the sixth generation of its flagship handset.

Some issues either have or will have solutions, though some are defects in manufacturing. We'll break that down in each section.

Some issues, like the fingerprint sensor, seem to be more features than bugs. Others, like the second hole punch that's appeared in some Pixel displays, look like complete accidents that shouldn't have made it through quality assurance in manufacturing. Sadly, things like this happen, but Google could stand to do better to keep defects from slipping through the cracks.

Here's a roundup of all the known and reported issues with the Pixel 6 thus far.

Display flickering when powered off

Status: Fix coming

This is an odd issue, but basically, the display will flicker inconsistently when you press the power button when the phone is off. This is an extremely specific use case, and I'm left wondering who just intentionally presses the power button instead of holding it when the Pixel is off.

How to fix it: Google has acknowledged the issue and says a fix is coming in its December update.

Slow fingerprint sensor

Pixel 6

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Status: Fixed?

This is an issue I noted in my Pixel 6 Pro review. The fingerprint sensor is a bit picky and finicky, leading to many false rejections. The reader area seems smaller than other Android phones. But all of that has to do with hardware.

Google has said the Pixel 6's fingerprint is slow because of "security algorithms." Apparently, the phone is crunching a lot of numbers to ensure that your fingerprint is the right one. However, though Google hasn't directly acknowledged the problem, it does appear that a mid-month update could go some way to fixing the Pixel 6's fingerprint problems. The update is rolling out now and early reports say it improves the performance.

Anecdotally, the fingerprint sensor on my Pixel 6 Pro feels faster. I had to sideload the OTA file to get the update, but so far it seems worthwhile. Perhaps it's a placebo effect, but I could swear the phone reads my fingertips quicker now.

How to fix it: Check for update. You may to have to sideload the OTA if you're impatient.

We had worried this problem would come to the Pixel 6a too, but it now seems that the new budget Pixel will be using a different sensor.

Fingerprint sensor failure after battery dies

Status: Acknowledged

Another fingerprint sensor issue has popped up, but this one is definitely a bug. Some users have reported that if their Pixel 6 battery dies, the fingerprint sensor permanently fails. They can no longer use it and trying to retrain it ends in failure during setup.

Google has acknowledged the issue, but the only known fix right now is a factory reset. That's not ideal, but a timeline for a fix remains unknown — though it is possible that the above update also solves this problem.

How to fix it: The only known fix is to factory reset your Pixel 6 and never let the battery die.

Randomly ghost-dialing contacts

Status: Fix rolling out

Reports surfaced of another weird issue in which some Pixel 6 models randomly ghost-dialed contacts at random points in the day. While we didn't experience this issue with our Pixel 6 review units, it could be cause for some concern. If your contact doesn't have Do No Disturb enabled and a ghost call from you comes through in the middle of the night, conflict is inevitable. 

How to fix it: Download the latest version of the Google app, making sure it's version 12.43.18 or newer. A Pixel community manager has confirmed this update includes a fix for the issue.

No 30W charging

Status: Ongoing

When the Pixel 6 launched, Google said it had upped the charging wattage to 30W. This was quite a jump from the 18W previous Pixels supported. However, further testing from Android Authority shows that the Pixel 6 charges instead at 22W, even on a 30W charger (sold separately).

How to fix it: There is likely no solution for this problem. It's possible that something in the software is limiting the charging wattage, but it could also be a hardware issue. We'll need to wait for Google to comment.

Carrier network is temporarily unavailable

Status: Ongoing

Most of the reported issues of this are from the UK, but I have run into this problem using an unlocked Pixel 6 Pro on Verizon. The phone will sometimes report that the carrier network is temporarily unavailable and you won't get cell or data signals. Sometimes this resolves itself on its own, sometimes I've noticed that it needs a reboot.

It's possible that this has something to do with 5G, though only official word will confirm that.

How to fix it: There is not anything you can do directly. Some have reported that the issue resolved itself on its own. Others, like me, continue to experience the problem despite giving it time.

Wi-Fi calling not working properly

Status: Ongoing

Wi-Fi calling isn't working for some Pixel 6 owners — including me on my Pixel 6 Pro — with the issue seeming to affect people using the Google Fi wireless service. The phone outright refuses to make calls or send texts over Wi-Fi, especially if the cell signal is weak. No tweaks or settings changes have helped me (on Verizon) at all. 

How to fix it: Some said the issue resolved itself after a few days. Meanwhile, if you need to make a Wi-Fi call, turning on airplane mode and Wi-Fi back on will sometimes work. Then again, the phone might throw a fit and refuse to make the call anyway.

Erratic adaptive brightness

Status: Ongoing

A long-standing Pixel issue, it seems that the erratic adaptive brightness issue also impacts the Pixel 6 for some users. This is where the phone's brightness will jump up and down randomly, sometimes wildly. On the Pixel 4 XL, I noted it at night after I'd turned off my bedside lamp.

How to fix it: Whenever you notice the "wrong" brightness, simply set the brightness slider to whatever you want. This will help retrain the adaptive brightness algorithms. It requires you to be proactive for a while, but it should help resolve the issue over time.

Second hole punch

Status: Defect

This is the weirdest Pixel issue that we've seen. Some people have reported that their displays have a second hole punch in them. There should only be one for the front-facing camera.

How to fix it: You can't fix this and need to get a new phone from Google. Contact whomever you bought your phone from, whether it's Google, a retailer or a wireless carrier.

Despite all these problems, the Pixel 6 is still a killer Android phone. In fact, the Google Pixel 6 is the Android phone managing editor Roland Moore-Colyer has been waiting for. And so far he's not been disappointed.  

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.