While many complained about the performance of the fingerprint sensor in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro over the last six months, things might be different for the upcoming Pixel 6a. A change doesn’t guarantee that all problems will be solved, but Google has confirmed that the upcoming mid-range phone, expected to feature an in-display fingerprint sensor, won’t use the same in-display sensor that the prior phones did.
The news comes courtesy of a report from Android Central, which says it has confirmed the change with Google’s senior VP of devices and services, Rick Osterloh. More specific details weren’t revealed.
The Pixel 6a
While fingerprint unlocking issues on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro didn’t seem to affect everyone, many complained about problems, and our reviews at Android Police pointed out issues at launch. The best way to describe performance then was “inconsistent,” with the fingerprint sensor sometimes failing to work correctly, paired with seemingly random unlock times. Some device owners claim that subsequent updates improved performance, and Google’s changelogs corroborate that the fingerprint sensor has been tweaked in software over time. But even today, fingerprint unlock performance on Google’s last crop of phones doesn’t match other high-end devices.
At one point, Google claimed that its “enhanced security algorithms” could be responsible for observed performance. A change in hardware might not necessarily improve things by itself.
Previous digging indicated that the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro use a Goodix optical sensor, but prior attempts to confirm that with the manufacturer itself were stonewalled — agreements or other contracts may have prevented that. Other phones that have used the Goodix sensors have had fantastic fingerprint unlocking performance (like OnePlus phones), which made the Pixel 6 series’ problems all the more confusing. It’s unclear if the Pixel 6a will use another Goodix sensor (the company makes more than one) or if a different brand or technology will be used. Under-display sensors come in more than one type.
Google also has an ongoing issue with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro fingerprint sensor failing to be “calibrated” correctly after repairs in certain cases. A bug report for the issue indicates the problem still hasn’t been resolved, though the nature of the problem was inconsistent.
“Different” hardware doesn’t mean “better,” but it opens the door to improvements in fingerprint unlocking performance on the Pixel 6a, which has some huge shoes to fill as the follow-up to one of last year’s best products. The Pixel 5a is an excellent phone, and though the rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor had a shallow lip that made it hard to find without a case, it was consistent, fast, and reliable. Hopefully, we can say the same about the Pixel 6a.
Among other Pixel 6a hardware details you can ogle, the upcoming phone will feature a custom Tensor chipset like the Pixel 6 series, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage at a $450 price tag.
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