Google says it’s improving fingerprint scanner performance with a Pixel 6 update

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Google quietly rolled out a Pixel 6 update that addresses fingerprint scanner issues, as first reported by XDA Developers. The update details have been confirmed in a post on a Google Support page, which vaguely notes that it includes “minor bug fixes and some fingerprint sensor performance improvements for Pixel 6 and 6 Pro,” without really giving us any details about how the sensor was improved.

Dan Siefert called out the fingerprint reader in our reviews of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro last month, noting that it’s often finicky to use or slow to recognize your print. Google responded by saying that the scanner’s “enhanced security algorithms” may result in sluggish or unreliable performance. Google never really indicated whether the scanner’s performance had something to do with issues in the device’s software or hardware, and its initial response implied that the scanner was supposed to be slow for its security features to work properly.

But now that Google has rolled out an update, the issue might be software-related after all. To see if the update actually made a difference, I asked some of my colleagues at The Verge about their experiences with the fingerprint scanner after downloading the Pixel 6 update. Here are our findings:

I haven’t noticed a difference in the scanning, but it seems like it’s making me use my fingerprint less to unlock the phone. —Richard Lawler

I think the fingerprint reader does work better — I never had trouble with the left thumb, but the right thumb always took two or three tries, and now it seems to work pretty quickly. —Barbara Krasnoff

It’s certainly not so much faster (or more accurate?). But even best case, it’s still slower than an S20. —Dieter Bohn

Overall, the results of the Pixel 6 update are a mixed bag. It seems like it offers some improvement, but it still doesn’t put it on par with fingerprint scanners from other companies. Reactions from users on Reddit offer the same kind of varied results; while some say the update fixed the problem, others say the difference is there, but only slightly. It’s unclear whether the update to the fingerprint scanner will be the last of its kind or if Google has another one planned in the future. Then again, the issue may be related to the fact that Google decided to use an under-the-screen optical scanner instead of an ultrasonic one — and in that case, Pixel 6 owners may be stuck with the issue. For now, the sensor seems to be just good enough.

Google says that the update — which consists of two software builds: one for Verizon-specific devices (SD1A.210817.037.A1) and one for international models (SD1A.210817.037) — has started rolling out today and will “continue over the next week.”

It’s also worth noting that while the update is just 14.56MB, Google says it takes about 25 to 30 minutes to download and install depending on the number of apps you have, which my colleagues can also attest to. The update will be available to you in November if your device is on any of the major wireless carriers in the US or Japan, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Google Fi. You can view the full list of carriers on Google’s website. If your carrier isn’t listed, the update will be pushed to your device in December.

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