The Pixel biometric sensor is the perfect illustration that not everyone can be liked


Jack Wallen responds to outrage over Google’s move of the Pixel fingerprint scanner from the back of the device to the front. How dare they!

Image: sdx15 / Shutterstock

Disclaimer: Part of what you are about to read is said with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

The Pixel 6 is coming out and the excitement should be as palpable as that of a new version of the iPhone. But, alas, here in the US the Apple phone is the only smartphone that people still have fanboy / girl. It shouldn’t be, but yet … here we are.

SEE: Electronic communication policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The point is, the Pixel 6 is exciting. Not only will this display Android 12 exactly as it should be seen (which is pretty wonderful), but that’s exactly what a flagship device should do. Thankfully, Google received some well-deserved hard love with the release of the Pixel 5, and the company has learned from its mistakes. Yes, the Pixel 5 was a good phone, but it lacked power and included a camera that was a bit too long in the tooth to be considered a flagship. The sixth iteration of the Pixel will correct the error of Google’s methods.

Rumored specs include:

  • Display: 6.4 inch FHD + 90Hz screen
  • Chip: Google “Tensor”, Titan M2
  • Biometrics: fingerprint sensor under the screen
  • Cameras: 50 MP standard, 12 MP ultra-wide
  • Battery: “All day” (according to Google)

It is this fingerprint sensor that I want to address. Why? Because I have seen users of all types (in many different forums and online comments) express their dissatisfaction with Google’s choice not to revert to facial recognition. This, in itself, ironic, given how many Pixel users are so loud about how they hated facial recognition in the Pixel 4. It just goes to show that you can’t please everyone.

But here we are, on the precipice of the Pixel 6’s launch, knowing that Google is stuck with the fingerprint sensor, but this time they’ve gone for a subscreen version. And, if the rumors are true, they go with an optical sensor (meaning the use of a camera, which means the sensor will be location specific).

SEE: How to always take the perfect photo with a Pixel phone (TechRepublic)

And again, users are complaining.


These complaints clearly indicate that the fingerprint sensor belongs to the back of the device. The back! The back is the only logical location for a fingerprint sensor! Ack!

To this I ask, but why? What makes the back of the phone the perfect location for a fingerprint sensor? Of course, I understand that the way most people hold their devices makes the addition of the sensor on the back easy to access for that precious index finger. Moving the sensor under the front glass makes that fingerprint tap a bit awkward. Why? Because … inches. Who uses the thumbs?

The point is that the index is not the only number that can be used for biometrics. Remember you have opposable thumbs. Still with the thumb? Consider this: This thumb is the perfect place to access your device. Take your Pixel, place your thumb on the screen and you’re done! You are in it. It’s easy and, to call my good friend’s logic, you can actually see where you place your thumb on the front of the screen, instead of guessing where to press that pesky phone stuck index finger. So no more guessing about the location of the sensor.

I would also say this: with the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device, it seems to me that I always accidentally open the Notification Shade. Eventually I have to turn this feature off, as it can get frustrating when you try to read something and your finger slides the sensor to lower the shade. Yeah, it’s boring.

But … but … speed!

OK, OK … I hear you complaining about another problem. Yes, the back of the phone’s fingerprint sensor is faster than the on-screen reader. Or else history has shown it to us. However, we haven’t really experienced what the Pixel 6 has to offer yet. It reminds me of how users have complained about the speed (or lack thereof) of facial recognition in the Pixel 4. In my experience, it was almost instantaneous. My wife is still using her Pixel 4, and it continues to unlock immediately as soon as she looks at her device.

SEE: How to activate Extreme Battery Saver on a Pixel (TechRepublic)

Again, we’ll categorize it as “you can’t please everyone”.

I haven’t been disappointed with Pixel biometrics yet. But then again, I tend to try to find the positive in everything. Was he perfect? No. But what has? Nothing, if memory serves. Pixel 4 biometrics worked well. The Pixel 5’s biometrics worked well. And I imagine the Pixel 6’s biometrics will work as well. In fact, I rely on the Pixel 6’s in-screen fingerprint reader to work so well that it will silence any naysayers.

Personally, I don’t care where the fingerprint sensor is (or if Google has chosen to revert to facial recognition). What matters most to me is that the device performs like a flagship phone, makes the most of Android 12, has an all-day battery, and includes a best-in-show camera. That’s what I want, and that’s what I think we’ll see from Google.

To those who are complaining about the change in biometric sensors, I would say give the Pixel 6 a chance. I guess the phone’s performance will eclipse any disappointment you might have with the on-screen fingerprint sensor. Plus, after a day or two of use, you’ll probably forget that you ever thought the back of the device was the perfect location for the sensor.

Sometimes change can be for the better.

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