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Pixel 4 face unlock is broken (again) for some users

It's not certain when there might be a fix.

Published onNovember 9, 2020

Pixel 4 XL back in hand 2
  • Pixel 4 and 4 XL owners are reporting that face unlock has once again stopped working.
  • The phones tell them to “clean the top your screen” even though that’s not an issue.
  • Google might have tried to fix the issue weeks ago, but problems persist.

Google Pixel 4 owners are once again grappling with face unlock problems mere months after the company fixed previous glitches. Android Police notes that users on Google’s Issue Tracker, the Google support forums, and Reddit have complained that face unlock is not working on the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.

If you’re affected, you’ll see a lock screen message asking you to “clean the top of your screen, including the black bar.” Face unlock won’t work no matter how spotless the area is, however, and restarting the phone only offers a temporary solution.

Related: Pixel 5 buyer’s guide

Some users report that face unlock stopped working when they updated the Pixel 4 to Android 11, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some have reported issues for months. Others have guessed that this might be tied to an earlier device sensor problem, and have pointed to a lack of data from the proximity and ambient light sensors as possible evidence.

It’s not certain whether or not Google has a fix ready for this latest Pixel 4 face unlock issue. There were hints it might have addressed the black bar warnings with the November Android update, but owners are still complaining of problems after installing the patch. The release notes don’t mention anything that would specifically address face authentication.

We’ve asked Google for comment. It’s not certain how far-reaching the glitches might be, although they add to a number of headaches for owners. This is also a particularly irksome problem during a pandemic. While you can’t really use face unlock while you’re wearing a mask, this could force you to enter a passcode even when you’re safely at home.

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