Some Pixel 2, Pixel 3 owners can't use their phones after installing December update

Some Pixel 2, Pixel 3 owners can't use their phones after installing December update
Yesterday, we told you that the Pixel line had received its monthly update. While there were several functional updates for the Pixel 2 through Pixel 4 models, the security update (for the last time) also included the OG Pixel series. And in typical Google fashion, following the update, some of the features that debuted on the Pixel 4 are now available for the 2017 and 2018 models including the Styles & wallpapers feature that allows you to customize your Pixel.

Meanwhile, the update created a problem for Pixel 3, Pixel 3a and some Pixel 2 users. According to several Reddit members (via Android Police), the update has caused the Pixel Launcher to crash on some of those units. One Redditor complained that as soon as he restarted his Pixel 3 XL after installing the December update, the Pixel Launcher crashed and the new navigation gestures were broken. Clearing the cache and data of the launcher had no effect although disabling the gestures and returning to three-button navigation helped a little.

It appears that those who sideloaded the Pixel 4 launcher on their earlier Pixel model are having a serious problem with their phones

Another Pixel 3 user found a way to uninstall the latest update and that seemed to do the trick. When the launcher crashes and the force close menu appears, open the app menu. Quickly tap on the three-dot menu at the top right of the screen to get the uninstall updates option. The problem is that the force close popup appears so quickly, you need to perform these actions faster than a speeding bullet. One Pixel 3 owner was about to perform hari-kari and factory reset his phone when he came upon the workaround and stopped it from crashing; that gentleman needs to purchase a lottery ticket immediately! Consider this post from another poor Rediitor: "Had the same issue on my Pixel 2 XL last night. Ended up factory resetting it.. ugh."

Interestingly, one of the new Pixel 4 features that Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a users now have on their handsets allow gesture controls to work with third-party launchers. And this came in handy for many whose Pixel Launcher started crashing after they installed the update; several noted that even with the Pixel Launcher crashing like a drunk driver, the Nova launcher now supports gesture navigation and they were able to get around their handset with it (assuming that they had the launcher installed on their phone prior to the release of yesterday's update).

One theory is that the units crashing had the launcher for the Pixel 4 sideloaded. This is not a good situation because with the launcher crashing constantly, those affected by the issue simply cannot use their phone. A Pixel 3 XL user had sideloaded the Pixel 4 launcher when the phone was released in October; following yesterday's update, he was forced to factory reset the device.

We aren't sure whether Google is aware of this issue, but we would expect this serious problem to be resolved with a future update. While Google often gets ripped for having to push out software updates to fix initial problems with the Pixels immediately after they are launched, that is not the problem here at all. Still, it will be up to Google to disseminate an update that will fix this issue. It seems that there is enough evidence to show that uninstalling the December update will end the hell that affected users are going through. We'd say that it's a good bet that those who ended up with the Pixel Launcher crashing on their phone will think twice before they sideload another APK.

We have asked Google to comment on this situation, and if they respond we will update this article so feel free to check-in at any time.

Related phones

Pixel 2
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 2700 mAh
Pixel 2 XL
  • Display 6.0" 1440 x 2880 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 3520 mAh



1. RevolutionA

Posts: 481; Member since: Sep 30, 2017

Obvious. Beta testing for life for pixels. Never ending story. There's issue with almost every update.

2. Vancetastic

Posts: 1761; Member since: May 17, 2017

Shocking. Seems like Google really does want to copy Apple with these updates...

3. cmdacos

Posts: 4325; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Pixels... The iPhone of the Android world...

4. AlienKiss

Posts: 265; Member since: May 21, 2019

It seems to me that Google should actually hire people from XDA forum as their programmers. Almost every day I read some news about the pixels having serious software problems. Good thing I have one major rule when buying a new phone : SD card slot. If it doesn't have it, I instantly scratch it off the list.

5. Chrissimari

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 04, 2019

I dealt with this for a while after receiving the December update on my Pixel 2XL. If you had side-loaded the new launcher, Pixel Launcher goes nuts after this update and will repeatedly force-close even if you set a new default home launcher (I tried Nova anyway). It took some time but I was able to get back to the Play Store and "uninstall" Pixel Launcher. Once the uninstall ran from the store, my Pixel Launcher was back (from the new security patch) and the error went away. Unfortunately, WiFi is still a disaster. The error modal is very persistent and it takes some patience to navigate through the UI back to a usable state. Hope this helps!

7. AlienKiss

Posts: 265; Member since: May 21, 2019

I've tried a lot of launchers like Go Launcher, Nova, Apex but I have to say that the best one is Buzz Launcher. It has free gesture controls, you can resize anything, you can even set GIF files as icons. All for free, unlike Nova or Apex where everything that matters costs.

6. mrtenthirty

Posts: 1; Member since: 4 days ago

Had the same issue. Then received the following email from my phone company Visible. They handled it better than I ever expected. Recently, Google released the Android 10 security patch. If you’ve installed this patch, you’ve probably noticed you're unable to call or text on your Pixel device. This isn’t an experience we want for our members in any way, so here’s what’s going to happen next: To keep you humming on Visible, we are sending to you a brand-new Pixel 3a XL at no charge, and it should arrive by the weekend or soon after. All we care about is giving you a great mobile experience, and we'll continue to do that even during times like this

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