Google Pixel: The most common problems, and how to fix them

So you’ve run into Google Pixel problems? There’s no need to panic. All smartphones have their fair share of issues, bugs, and glitches, from the unique to the familiar. Despite its age, the original Google Pixel is still a great phone and it was updated to the latest Android 9.0 Pie, which is more than we can say for a lot of newer phones. In any case, there’s no doubt you want your Pixel to be in perfect, working condition. We can help with that.

Below, we’ve detailed multiple problems that Google Pixel or Google Pixel XL owners have experienced, as well as a few potential solutions and workarounds to deal with them.

If you have a Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, check out our list of problems affecting Google’s latest smartphone and what to do about them.

Issue: Home and Recent apps buttons not working

We’ve seen threads at the XDA developers forum and elsewhere complaining about the Home and Recent apps buttons not working, only the Back button continues to work. It’s not clear what is causing this, but there are a couple of ways to fix it.

Potential fixes:

  • If you’ve done a back up recently, then you might want to try a factory reset, but beware — it will delete everything on your phone. You can do it via Settings> System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset) > Reset phone > Erase everything. This seems to have fixed the issue for everyone who tried it.
  • If you’re not keen on wiping your Pixel, then you can try this instead: Install Nova Launcher — you may have to sideload it — then open it up and set it up as your launcher. Now, hold down on an empty space on your home screen and look at Widgets to find the Activities widget. Drag it onto a space on the screen, scroll down to Setup Wizard and tap and hold on SetupWizardUpgradeActivity. Complete the steps and you should be good.

Glitch: Quick charge no longer works after Android 9.0 Pie update

The Pixel was among the first handsets to get the Android 9.0 update. When some users updated to Android Pie, however, they noticed the quick charging feature was no longer working. Google released the following statement: “We’re aware of an issue where non-Power Delivery (PD) USB-C chargers no longer rapidly charge the 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL after the upgrade to Android 9 Pie. The 18W rapid charger included in-box is a PD charger and does not exhibit this behavior. We are verifying a fix for non-PD USB-C chargers and will roll it out in the coming weeks.” 

Workaround: 

  • Use a charging adapter with power delivery (PD). If you do not have one, Google sells the adapter and charging cable on its website.

Solution:

  • Google rolled out a software update in October 2018 that included a fix for this issue and it seems to have worked. Make sure you have the latest update in Settings > System > Advanced > System update > Check for update.

Problem: Reboot loop

Some Google Pixel owners have complained about infinite reboot loops. Some suffered this issue after updating their device to Android 8.0, but for others it has happened independently of the software update.

Potential solutions:

  • Make sure that your device is running the latest software via Settings > System > Advanced > System update > Check for update.

If you’re still experiencing reboot loops after an update, try the following:

  • To go into safe mode when your device is on, press and hold the Power button. After a moment, a box should appear,touch and hold Power off. You’ll see the message Reboot to safe mode. Tap OK, and your device will start in safe mode. The words “Safe mode” should be seen in a box at the bottom.
  • To go into safe mode when your device is off, press the Power button and wait for the Google logo to appear. When the animation starts, press and hold the Volume down button until the animation ends. Your device will start in safe mode, and you will see “Safe mode” at the bottom of the screen. If everything works okay in safe mode, then a third-party app is probably causing your problem. Uninstall apps starting with whatever you installed last and test to see if the problem is gone — you can just restart your phone to get out of safe mode.
  • You could also try resetting your phone to the factory default settings, but this will wipe everything on it. If you haven’t backed up recently that could obviously be a big problem. To perform the factory reset, if you can get into your phone, go to Settings> System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset) > Reset phone > Erase everything. Choose to restart your device once everything is erased. Note: You’ll need to input your pattern, PIN, or password, so make sure you know it beforehand.
  • If you can’t get into your phone, but want to try a factory reset, then turn the device off. When it’s off, press and hold Volume down and then press and hold Power. Release both when the Android screen appears and use the Volume keys to highlight Recovery mode and then press the Power button to select it. When you see No command, press and hold Power and Volume up to load recovery mode. In recovery mode, use Volume to highlight wipe data/factory reset and Power to select it. Highlight and select Yes, and when it’s done tap Power to Reboot system now.
  • If you’re still getting a boot loop after a factory reset, then it could be a hardware issue. Some people report problems with the motherboard which necessitated a repair.

Problem: Pixel won’t charge or isn’t charging correctly

Some Pixel owners on Google’s product forums have reportedly been unable to charge their Pixel phones. In other cases, the phone does begin charging, but it’s not as responsive or quick as it should be.

Potential solutions:

  • Try a different wall outlet, the one you’ve been using may be faulty.
  • Try your charger with another device. If it doesn’t charge the other device, the charger may be faulty and you’ll need a replacement.
  • Restart your Google Pixel.
  • Clean the Pixel’s charging port.
  • Connect your phone to power and wait about a minute:
    • If you see a battery icon, your phone is currently off but is charging. You can restart it.
    • If there’s a red light, the battery is fully discharged. Charge your phone for at least 30 minutes before restarting it.
  • Press and hold the Volume down and Power buttons for about 20 seconds. If you see the Android mascot and the word Start with an arrow around it, press the Volume down button to highlight the Power Off option. Use the Power button to select it, then charge your device for 30 mins. Restart your Pixel.
  • If none of the above solves your issue, reach out to Google.

Issue: Poor Wi-Fi connection or no connection

Another common problem with smartphones is being unable to get, or maintain, an internet connection. There are several threads on Google’s product forums full of people having this problem. Fortunately, the solutions for other devices can also be applied to the Google Pixel, and Google Support also has some suggestions.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart your device.
  • Go to Settings > Wi-Fi and toggle the feature off and on.
  • Make sure Airplane mode is turned off. If it’s already off, turn it on, then off again.
  • Remove the network you’re trying to connect to by going to Settings > Wi-Fi, then select the network. Tap Forget to remove it. Re-add it and try connecting once again.
  • Reset your network settings: Settings > More (Under Wireless & Networks) > Network settings reset > Reset settings.
  • Restart your router and modem.
  • An app could be causing the problem. To check you need to boot your phone into Safe mode. Start by pressing and holding the Power button, after a moment, a box should appear, touch and hold Power off. You’ll see the message Reboot to safe mode. Tap OK and your device will start in safe mode. The words “Safe mode” should be seen in a box at the bottom. While in safe mode, attempt to connect to Wi-Fi again. If it works, restart your phone to exit safe mode, then uninstall any recently installed apps one at a time, checking your connection after every uninstall, until Wi-Fi works. After finding the app causing the problem, you can reinstall the other apps you removed.

Issue: Unable to send or receive texts or messages from contacts

After upgrading or migrating to the Google Pixel, some owners on Google’s forums have realized that they’re unable to send or receive texts or messages of any kind from their contacts.

Potential solutions:

  • As always, try restarting your phone.
  • Make sure none of the contacts you’re trying to message are blocked. Have your contacts unblock you as well. To check your blocked contacts, open your Messenger app, then tap More (the three horizontal dots) > Blocked Contacts. If the Blocked Contacts option isn’t there, you haven’t blocked anyone.
  • If your previous smartphone was an iPhone, you’ll need to turn off iMessage before you can send and receive messages on your new Pixel. If you still have your old iPhone, turn it on, then go to Settings > Messages and toggle iMessage off. If you no longer have that iPhone, you can ask Apple to deregister the number associated with iMessage.

Glitch: Pixel restarts, freezes, or crashes constantly

Restarts, freezes, and crashes are horrible, but they have afflicted some Pixel owners, as supported by this 500+ post thread, and these other threads. There are a number of things you can try to resolve the situation, from simple restarts and software updates to revisiting safe mode.

Potential solutions:

  • Check for a software update via Settings > System > Advanced > System update > Check for update.
  • Update your apps: Open the Google Play Store app, then tap Menu (in the top left corner) > My apps & games. Apps that can be updated will be labeled Update. Tap Update for a single app or Update All for all apps.
  • Your device could start having more issues if you have less than 10 percent storage space. Check how much storage you have by going to Settings > Storage. Consider deleting older apps, photos, music, and other media to free up space.
  • Force close apps you’re not currently using by going to Settings > Apps & notifications, then choose an app and tap Force stop.
  • An app could be causing the problem.
    • To check, you need to boot your phone into safe mode. Start by pressing and holding the Power button. After a moment, a box should appear, touch and hold Power off. You’ll see the message Reboot to safe mode. Tap OK and your device will start in safe mode. The words “Safe mode” should be seen in a box at the bottom.
    • If you experience no crashes, restart your phone to exit safe mode, then uninstall any recently installed apps one at a time. After finding the app causing the problem, reinstall the other apps you removed.
  • Reset your phone to the factory default settings:
    • Before you actually reset your phone, back up your important data and files.
    • To perform the factory reset, go to Settings> System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset) > Reset phone > Erase everything. Choose to restart your device once everything has been erased, and restore it using the back up you made. Note: You’ll need to input your pattern, PIN, or password to start this process, so make sure you know it beforehand.

Issue: Phone gets hot or unusually warm

There are multiple threads here with people reporting the Google Pixel becomes hot or warm during use. This is pretty common if you’re doing something demanding, but it shouldn’t happen during normal use. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent your Pixel from overheating, without going through a complete overhaul to change how you use your phone.

Potential solutions:

  • Lower your display’s brightness by going to Settings > Display.
  • Consider going without your phone while it’s charging. Heavy usage while charging can lead to an uncomfortably hot phone.
  • Download fewer things over Wi-Fi or using your cellular connection.
  • Close apps that aren’t in use, such as games or other resource-heavy features or apps.
  • Reduce how often you use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot or for tethering.
  • Boot your phone into safe mode. If it doesn’t get hot, the problem could be with a recently installed app.
  • Reach out to Google if you’ve tried all of the above and the problem persists. It could be a hardware issue.

Problem: Various Bluetooth issues

Similar to the Wi-Fi problems described above, Bluetooth is a feature that users often run into problems with, regardless of the smartphone. The Google Pixel doesn’t break this particular streak, but there are several things you can try to fix or improve your connection to your headphones, car, etc.

Potential solutions:

  • The first, and easiest, thing you should try is restarting your phone, as well as whatever device you’re trying to connect to.
  • Check for a software update via Settings > System > Advanced > System update > Check for update. Back in October, Google said they’re aware of the issues.
  • Go to Settings > Bluetooth (under “Wireless & networks”) and make sure Bluetooth is on. On this screen, you can also pair/unpair devices, touch the Settings icon to configure a paired Bluetooth device, or tap Menu (three vertical dots) > Refresh to refresh the current Bluetooth devices list.
  • On your phone and, if possible, the device you’re attempting to connect to, delete any previous Bluetooth profiles that may be interfering. This includes new ones made when trying to pair the Pixel.
  • Boot your Pixel into safe mode and try pairing again. If it works as expected, an app may be causing the problem. Restart your phone, then proceed to delete any recently installed apps until your Bluetooth connection works.

Problem: Fingerprint scanner not working

The Google Pixel, like other smartphones, has a fingerprint scanner that can be used as an additional way to secure your device. Unfortunately, there are some cases where the scanner doesn’t read a fingerprint correctly, or at all. It’s not as widespread of a problem as others explained here, but it has sparked threads on Google’s product forums and the Android Central forums.

Potential solutions:

  • As always, try restarting your Pixel, then using the scanner again.
  • If you’re using a phone case, remove it and try the scanner again.
  • Go to your Settings > Security & location > Pixel Imprint and delete previously made fingerprints, then redo the fingerprint setup process again. Consider registering the same finger multiple times but at different angles. If you have a phone case, remove it before scanning your finger, as the case may interfere with the angle of your scan.
  • Check the scanner itself and clean the area around it. Considering cleaning your own hands as well. Dirt, dust, and other debris can keep the scanner from working as intended.
  • If the problem still persists, reach out to Google Support. It may be a hardware issue.

Issue: Unable to make calls; no audio from caller or receiver

When answering an incoming call, the caller and receiver are unable to hear one another, and the phone app will occasionally lag when answering or ending a call. This robust thread on the issue was started in December, and people continue to run into this specific problem.

Temporary solutions:

  • Restarting the phone has fixed the issue for a time for some people.

Potential solutions:

  • Turn off Bluetooth by going to Settings > Bluetooth and toggling the setting off. Your phone may be connecting to a nearby device it has connected to in the recent past.
  • There may be a hardware issue with the microphone (see next problem).

Problem: Microphone doesn’t work or has stopped working

Look no further than this thread on Google’s product forums for proof that quite a few people are without functioning microphones on their smartphones. For some, the microphone doesn’t work at all, while others have discovered that it only works when recording video or with certain apps, including Facebook Messenger and Snapchat.

Official solution: 

  • Google confirms this to be a hardware issue that affects a small number of devices. We suggest you reach out to Google to resolve your issue.

Are you looking to upgrade your Pixel? Read our review of the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL. And if you decide to pick one up, let us help you become an expert with these Pixel 3 tips.

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