Face Unlock breaks on Pixel 4 forcing users to factory reset their phones

Face Unlock breaks on Pixel 4 forcing users to factory reset their phones
Every week it seems that there is a new issue with the Pixel 4 series. And Google is then forced to play catch-up through the monthly release of functional patches. The latest bad news to hit the phones has to do with the secure facial recognition system known as Face Unlock. Several Pixel 4 users have posted on the Pixel support site and Reddit how the Face Unlock feature just broke on their handset.

The first sign that something is amiss comes via the receipt of a message to the user telling him to re-enroll his face with the feature or else Face Unlock will not work. And keep in mind that like the iPhone, there is no fingerprint scanner on the phone as a biometric backup. So the Pixel 4 user re-enrolls his face with Face Unlock and the problem ends there, right? Wrong. Even after some re-enrolled their kisser multiple times, they received an error message that said, "Can't verify face. Try again." Some tried to reboot their phone or went into safe mode, but their face still failed to unlock the phone. A few of those affected even came to terms with the idea that they might have to factory reset their phones. But most wanted to wait until they installed the January security patch that was disseminated this past Monday.

Some Pixel 4 users have found that factory resetting the phone will solve the issue


As one Redditor wrote just a few days after the ball dropped in Times Square, "I have this too! Had a message to re-enroll my face data, despite face unlock working. Now the enrollment will appear to work, but my face won't unlock my phone. I thought I might have a hardware fault, but given that multiple of us have had this issue occur at the same time, perhaps it's a bug or back-end fault? I'd factory reset my phone, but first I'll wait and see if the problem is fixed by the time of the January patch on Monday." Here's a spoiler though, factory resetting the phone solved the problem according to those who ended up at the point of no return after the January update failed to deliver the answer.


Frankly, we would have liked to have seen quicker action from Google considering that more than just a handful of Pixel 4 users resorted to the dreaded factory reset to get their Face Unlock working again. And it isn't as though Google was caught unaware. Apparently this issue started with the November security update and the very first post about this problem found on Google's own Pixel phone support page is dated November 24th.

If you need to contact Google about this matter, if you can unlock your phone go to  Settings > Tips & support > Chat or Phone. Type in your information and then hit Send. If you have access to Twitter, you can send a tweet about your Pixel 4 to @MadeByGoogle. If you don't want to factory reset your phone (and frankly we don't blame you), you need to make your voice heard.

What some other Pixel 4 owners are waiting for is a promised update from Google that will include a setting allowing them to demand that their eyes be open for Face Unlock to work. As things currently stand, a bad actor who wants to get into your bank account could hit you over the head with a Pixel Slate and render you unconscious. Picking up your phone, he can use Face Unlock (unless, of course, its not working) and unlock the handset. Then he could use your fingerprints to open up your banking app and wipe you out. Sure, it's far fetched. But that doesn't mean that it can't or won't happen.

Related phones

Pixel 4
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 2280 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64GB
  • Battery 2800 mAh
Pixel 4 XL
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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26 Comments

1. MsPooks

Posts: 311; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

#teamPixel life!

20. tuminatr

Posts: 1179; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

I wonder when any of the reported issues will happen to my phone. I think this is probably a true issue but I wonder how many people are affected. Until anyone can show true numbers I am sticking with my theory that Pixel issues are over-reported for some reason.

2. TheAccountant unregistered

why google is even making pixel phones. i would love to have Samsung hardware backed by Android One

3. Koltt27

Posts: 12; Member since: Mar 23, 2018

Just buy your Samsung device

4. torr310

Posts: 1729; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Can't believe Google allows so many issues to happen.

5. MrMalignance

Posts: 356; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

To be fair Google doesn't "allow" issues to happen. All manufacturers face issues and bugs. Google seems to be suffering more than average, and that speaks more to a lack of good QA. Google's failure isn't an allowance, unless they knew of the problems and passed them along regardless.

7. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1486; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

The problem lies with pushing updates out quickly and they run into the same issues Apple does, frequent bugs with sometimes serious consequences. Other OEMs do significant testing before pushing out updates, they take longer but usually work better. There is something to be said about both approaches. Personally I prefer waiting longer for better updates.

16. MrMalignance

Posts: 356; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@Back_from_beyond: Exactly. I agree 100%

17. Vokilam

Posts: 1458; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

I’ve always had my devices auto update the moment they’re available - I’ve never had any “serious” issues, on contrary I only seen 1-2 issues after update and they were superficial at best (misaligned text, or app crash to home page). And you’re wrong, seen issues with Samsung devices after updates too even though they would take half a year to “do some proper testing”.

21. tuminatr

Posts: 1179; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

I agree with this statement I have had a Pixel XL, Pixel 2XL (my wife still uses), A pixel 3xl and now a Pixel 4 xl. This issue is not affecting me at all I think maybe one of the issues reported throughout all the time of me having pixel phones affected me. On top of that, the one issue I had was because I was running a beta of google services on my device.

6. meanestgenius

Posts: 22849; Member since: May 28, 2014

“Every week it seems that there is a new issue with the Pixel 4 series.” Could not have said it better myself, but I and some others get labeled as “trolls” or are said to be “blowing the situation out of proportion” whenever we mention it. I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it: Googles flagship Pixels are HORRIBLE, and Google needs to just stick to making midrange Pixels. While they do have issues as well, it’s not as much as the flagship Pixels. There are just too many issues happening with the flagship Pixels. This lack of QC is appalling, to say the least.

10. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

I agree...this is becoming comical at this point. I don't see myself ever "upgrading" to a flagship Pixel.

11. meanestgenius

Posts: 22849; Member since: May 28, 2014

Moving to a flagship Pixel from a midrange Pixel would be a downgrade at this point. I mean, this is just embarrassing at this point. 4 generations of flagships that have all had constant bugs and issues, but they have better QC with their midrange smartphones? You would think it would at least be the other way around, considering how much flagships costs consumers.

14. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

It's weird...this 3a is completely solid, and free of issues, and it was cheap!

13. Venom

Posts: 4004; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Of course. It's not like an isolated incident can't be blown up and exaggerated for clicks. At least you have experience to make sound judgment unlike smoke being blown in the wind by some.

15. Vancetastic

Posts: 1896; Member since: May 17, 2017

I won't get in the middle, as you both make points I can agree with.

25. meanestgenius

Posts: 22849; Member since: May 28, 2014

Venom, Documented evidence from actual people that have actual experience with Pixels proves that the multitude of issues that Googles Pixels have been having, especially the flagship Pixels, proves that things aren’t “isolated” or “exaggerated”.

18. MrMalignance

Posts: 356; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@meanestgenius,Vancetastic,Venom: I agree with all of you

24. tuminatr

Posts: 1179; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

to put it in context the google support page has about 30 posts of this problem many from the same users. In the grand scheme of things that's a rounding error, not an epidemic

8. MrPhilo

Posts: 66; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

No problem on my 4 XL with January update.

12. Venom

Posts: 4004; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

I agree. You have certain people that come out like cockroaches in the light exaggerating issues and such that they have never experienced because they have never touched a Pixel. The flagship Pixel certainly isn't horrible and according to PA are some of the best phones available based on factual metrics like review scores. All Pixels have scored 9s pretty much while let's say for example the Nokia Pureview has been a complete dud from day one with lukewarm reception and multiple issues.

22. tuminatr

Posts: 1179; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

I agree with this I have owned all the different generation Pixel phones and can't actually speak of an issue caused by one of the software updates. Ok with one exception but that was caused because I was running a beta version of google play services and it was not compatible with the update. I stick with my statement the problems are over reported

26. meanestgenius

Posts: 22849; Member since: May 28, 2014

The review scores don’t take into account the multitude of issues that continue to pop up for Googles Pixels, especially the flagships. The “cockroaches” you’re referring to are those that keep running interference for Google as opposed to holding them accountable. The fact that you’re even mentioning another smartphone in order to deflect from yet another issue in a long line of issues that documented facts prove Pixels have been having only proves what I’m saying. The high score of the Pixel 4 series doesn’t take away from the plethora of articles that have brought these issues to light or the fact that these Pixels have been met with just as much of a lukewarm response as you say the N9PV has, nor does it take away from the fact that several credited reviewers have said that they wouldn’t even recommend these Pixels.

9. AlienKiss

Posts: 324; Member since: May 21, 2019

As much as I love Android, I never cared for the Pixel/Nexus line for one major reason : NO SD card slot. It seems that buying only phones with SD card slot has saved me from a lot of hustle the Pixel users are dealing with.. If this would be a low brand I would be more understanding, but since it's Google (no 1 on the planet), and things are happening almost every week like the author said, I have only one word for them : Pathetic! Hey Google, maybe Sony should give you a hand with the software optimizations :)) They have the most stable Android out there.

23. tuminatr

Posts: 1179; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

I don't think you need an SD slot anymore. The two biggest ways to eat up your memory are music and photos and both can be put on the cloud with free google services. I have a 4500 song library that I stream with google play and every photo I have taken back to 2006 backed up to google photos. If I was a movie watcher I could put those on google drive or dropbox. Maybe there is still a need to have a SD card but not for me

19. CamTGP-TSUF4711

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 26, 2019

Lesson to be learned: dont buy a Pixel 4 ever, even at a discount. Sony is better

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