Pixel 6a Review (20)

Some Google Pixel 6a units are unlocking with unregistered fingerprints

We could be in for another rocky Pixel launch

The Pixel 6a arrives on store shelves this week, and by all accounts, it’s as good as we’ve come to expect from Google. Speedy performance, excellent build quality, and a great camera all make for the best Android phone you can buy right now for under $500. Prior to launch, we learned the Pixel 6a used a different fingerprint sensor than the controversial module built into last year’s flagships, one seemingly speedier than before. Just days before release, a couple of videos are drawing that fingerprint sensor’s reliability — and, more importantly, security — into question.

ANDROID POLICE VIDEO OF THE DAY

A post published on r/Android links to two different YouTube videos demonstrating the fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6a failing to prevent unregistered users from accessing the phone. The first clip comes from YouTuber Geekyranjit, who discovered his device unlocked using either of his thumbs, despite only having saved his right thumb’s fingerprint in settings. He then compares the device to the Nothing Phone 1, which — through its ultrasonic in-display sensor — does prevent Geekyranjit’s left thumb from unlocking the phone.

The second video, published by channel Beebom, is more concerning. Instead of simply unlocking with multiple fingers from the same user, several different people are able to unlock the Pixel 6a despite only two of them having registered fingerprints. It could present troubling security concerns surrounding the device, especially if it’s an issue that continues after this week’s launch lands the phone in the hands of countless customers.

While these clips are undoubtedly troubling, it’s worth noting that two writers at Android Police with Pixel 6a units could not recreate the experience seen in these videos. In both cases, unregistered fingerprints did not unlock the phone, no matter what either user tried. Likewise, early reports showcased similar issues with the Pixel 6’s fingerprint scanner, though those bugs seemed to spawn from users with screen protectors applied to the device. In that case, Google recommended specific screen protectors from a handful of brands and pushed out software updates to iron out some release window bugs.

These security concerns may spawn from specific circumstances, much like the screen protector issues affecting Pixel 6 owners last November. That said, neither device appears to have a protector applied in these videos, and the unlock conditions for each phone appears in line with normal everyday use. Despite being unable to recreate this issue, it’s something to keep an eye on — especially just days before launch.

We reached out to Google, but the company declined to comment.

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