The bug that disables the device’s sensors spreads to some Pixel 5s

A long-standing device sensor problem that has affected a minority of Pixel owners now appears to be affecting some Pixel 5 units.

This software bug effectively disables or causes problems with all sensors on the Pixel 5 device, including the compass, gyroscope, and various proximity sensors, according to the Android Police team. Now you have already heard about this issue with previous Pixel series phones.

In fact, a sensor issue was allegedly addressed with the recent December 2020 security patch and Pixel Feature Drop, but what it was is unclear as the release notes don’t include details. In the past, a similar senor problem was probably caused by a corrupted “persistent” partition. Apps like Google Maps may have problems with orientation due to compass calibration issues or the accelerometer will incorrectly track your current speed. Heck, the screen brightness might not automatically adjust in a linear or expected fashion.

Of course with every smartphone there are fringe or extreme cases where problems arise, obviously the Pixel series is Google’s main platform for Android and we cover here more extensively than any other site. So when problems arise, no matter how insignificant they may seem, we believe it is in your interests to know about them. That said, while there are a growing number of reports on Google’s support forums (1,2,3), this problem is far from being generalized, although notable.

The sensors have worked at first (I’m sure because I can see that the photos are taken in the correct way at first). After a couple of days, the phone rebooted multiple times accordingly. When it stopped, all sensors stopped working:

  • I have no more compass on Google Maps,
  • Orientation does not change in any app, photos are stored upside down
  • The screen brightness is no longer adjusted automatically.

Now I get the system UI to stop working quite often. I guess some of the software is now affected by this flaw too.

None of our own Pixel 5 devices seem to suffer from sensor issues, but the AP notes that while the issue is similar to some with older Pixel hardware, the root cause could be a number of things. It is likely related to a damaged partition on selected devices. You will probably know if the sensors on your Pixel 5s device are malfunctioning, as things like the auto-rotate feature won’t work properly.

A suggested test to see if you have that problem is to try running Google’s Science Journal app or a third-party sensor test app from the Google Play Store. If things aren’t working as expected on your Pixel 5, you may have a problem with the device’s sensors.

We are also confident that this can be resolved with a system update as it is highly unlikely to be hardware related. Some within the various support threads claim that a device reset can temporarily resolve sensor issues on the Pixel 5 devices themselves, although others still claim faulty sensors after restoring a device.

For clarification, we reached out to Google to comment on these issues and will update if we receive a response. Alternatively, since the update has just started rolling out, we’re not sure how many people won’t know if they’re affected. Be sure to let us know if you have noticed any strange sensor behavior on your Pixel 5 in the comment section below.

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