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Google Pixel 6 could finally get Face Unlock — but only on Pro model

pixel 6 pro standing against basket with display on
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Face Unlock for the Google Pixel 6 was missing when the phone launched, despite pre-reveal leaks suggesting it would be returning. Now that feature may finally be on the way — but only for Pixel 6 Pro owners.

After rooting around in the code for the Android 12L update, 9to5Google was able to discover code strings that referenced the long-rumored feature. The code is linked to settings allowing the users to enable face recognition, fingerprint scanning or both at once, and the fact that you can switch between the two indicates that it's new code, and not a leftover from older Pixels. This had been previously hinted at by other code findings shortly after the Pixel 6 launched.

The curious thing about it, though, is that this code wasn't present when 9to5Google looked for it on a base Pixel 6 running Android 12L. That seems to indicate that it'll be exclusive to the Pro model, which is strange if true. Although the bigger phone does have a higher resolution selfie camera with a wider field of view, there doesn't seem to be any good reason why the non-Pro Pixel 6 couldn't get Face Unlock, too.

One final caveat: it's tagged as an experimental feature, which could suggest that we won't see it on the Pixel 6 series for some time, or perhaps not at all. Maybe Google will keep us waiting for the Pixel 7 before we get another Pixel with Face Unlock?

Face Unlock, after being introduced on the Pixel 4 series, was dropped for last year's Pixel 5. However rumors from before the Pixel 6's launch claimed that Google would be bringing the feature back, despite the fact the Pixel 6 series has an under-display fingerprint scanner and no additional sensors to make Face Unlock fully secure, as it is with Apple's Face ID.

December Pixel update

While Face Unlock is likely some time away for Pixel 6 Pro owners (and may never come to the Pixel 6), Google's latest Feature Drop has now dropped, after being delayed for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro

It comes with a bundle of welcome changes, including enhancements to Now Playing and Nearby Share. You can read the full list of changes here, but the bottom line is that it contains multiple bug fixes and improvements, the most important of which relate to the under-display fingerprint sensor. This was one of the most common Pixel 6 problems found by users after launch, so it's good that Google's finally addressed this, hopefully for good.

There are a few actual new features in this update, too. You can now see more battery charging information on the notification shade, plus battery temperature and wireless charging performance should now be better.

You'll also see some updates to graphics support, Material You dynamic theming for the boot-up screen, refinements to the quick settings menu and upgrades to the already excellent Pixel 6 camera system, relating to stability, color and autofocus.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. 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.