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Smartphones & gadgets

How to make your Android fingerprint reader work every time

You have a lot of options when it comes to unlocking your Android phone, but if your device comes with a fingerprint reader, that’s probably your first choice. It’s so easy to just lay a fingertip on top of the sensor and watch your phone unlock. It’s a convenient solution to phone security and for authorizing certain payments through Google Pay, but it’s not a perfect technology.

Fingerprint readers can cause frustrations, but there are some smart ways to improve the accuracy. Some of it comes down to how you use the reader and some of it involves making tweaks to how you have it set up.

Google cautions, “Fingerprints are an easy way to unlock your phone. But a fingerprint may be less secure than a strong PIN, pattern, or password.” Still, most people are comfortable with the risks when it comes to the convenience of using a fingerprint. Here’s how to make your Android fingerprint reader work even better.

Solving fingerprint problems

Google doesn’t offer a ton of advice when it comes to problems with fingerprint readers working properly. Its main suggestion is to “Be careful to hold your phone in the same way that you normally hold it when unlocking. For example, hold your phone with its screen facing you.” That’s a good point, but there’s even more you can do.

Fingerprint-reader failures can have many causes. Wet fingertips is a big one. You’ve just done the dishes or gotten out of the shower and your phone won’t unlock. Dry your hands and dry the fingerprint sensor on your phone and try again. Some people have reported being able to unlock their phones by registering wet fingers on their devices, which could be worth a try if you often find yourself fumbling to unlock your phone after being out in the rain.

A clean fingerprint sensor is key at any time. Dirt and oils can build on the reader, so give it a cleaning with a soft dry cloth. Another culprit in fingerprint problems is simply how you aim. Make sure your finger is covering the reader and positioned properly over the sensor.

Check out the 5 best new features of Android Pie.

Tips for better accuracy

You have a clean reader. Your fingers aren’t wet. There’s no screen protector or case getting in the way of the sensor. But you’re still having some problems. Try these tips to get a better read.


Register fingers from both hands: You can log more than one fingerprint into your phone, so be sure to register fingers from your right and left hands. If one had is full or wet, then just use the other to unlock your phone. You can register both thumbs and fingers so you can unlock the phone no matter how you’re holding it.

Click here for 5 tips on boosting your Android experience.

Android phones can vary a lot between different manufacturers and across different versions of the operating system. Your fingerprint settings should be accessible under Security in your main Settings section. Look for “Fingerprint” or a similar setting. For Nexus and Pixel phones, it should be listed as a Nexus Imprint or Pixel Imprint. You can register up to five fingers, so take advantage of that ability to expand your unlocking options.

A fingerprint secret

Here’s a smart but overlooked solution to fingerprint reader problems: You can register the same finger more than once. This can really help with accuracy and can cure some of the problems you might encounter with your reader not recognizing your finger on occasion.

Clean and dry fingers combined with registering multiple fingers (and your favorite finger more than once) should help clear up any issues you’re having with your reader not working all the time.

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