We've already heard that some Pixel 4a units started exhibiting touchscreen issues with Android 11, and it seems like a similar problem spread to the Pixel 4a 5G following the December security patch. Many owners have taken to the Google support forum, the Google IssueTracker, and the XDA Developers Forum to complain about the problem, and Google says a fix is on the way.

The touchscreen bug mostly affects the lower portion of the phone's screen and is most prominent when you use the three-button navigation instead of gestures. The issue is very pronounced in the video below, shared by an XDA Forum member. It shows that the lower portion of the screen reacts well to horizontal swipes and touches closer to the edge of the screen, but input right on the buttons is often dismissed. There's also a lot of people who conversely say that tapping the edges isn't working for them and that the middle is as responsive as it should be, so there might be multiple issues at hand here.

Our own Ryne Hager could confirm the same behavior on his Pixel 4a 5G running the December security patch, but didn't notice it until switching to button navigation. The reason why complaints aren't super widespread may be the fact that most people use their phones with the default gesture navigation, which is less likely to exhibit it.

The XDA Forum member suspects that the problems arise from some form of palm rejection or accidental touch prevention, and it's certainly possible that they have something to do with potential tweaks Google may have introduced with the December patch to improve gesture navigation. But that shouldn't affect those who use buttons over gestures, and the problem still hasn't been fixed following the January update.

Screen protectors may amplify the issue, which is what happens on the Pixel 4a, but reports suggest that removing them doesn't rectify the problem. Some people also tried to activate the touch sensitivity option, though that doesn't remedy the touch woes either.

One of our tipsters even went as far as exchanging their phone under warranty, but the replacement unit exhibits the same behavior. That shouldn't be surprising if the problem is indeed caused by software.

In a Google support forum thread, a Community Specialist acknowledged the issue on Christmas Eve, promising that a fix is in the works, though no schedule was provided at that time:

Hi Pixel Community,

We are aware of this issue and a fix will be included in an upcoming software update. In the meantime you can improve the responsiveness of your device with the following tips:

  1. When tapping icons on the edge of the screen, tap the center of the button or the side of the button/icon furthest away from the edge of the display.
  2. When tapping icons, including the navigation buttons on the bottom of your screen, use the tip of your finger or thumb instead. This will help improve touch recognition.

A Google spokesperson has since confirmed to us that the issue will be fixed with the February update (which should land either February 1st or February 8th, based on the normal first-Monday-of-the-month schedule).

Switching to gesture navigation might be an option for some in the meantime, but there are many who simply prefer the old way. Others rely on the buttons for accessibility, which was one reason why Google left them in the first place, so in the meantime, the problem could also affect those who might not even be able to switch at all.

A Google spokesperson confirms to us that a fix for the issue will be included in the February update for the Pixel 4a 5G. Our coverage has been updated.

  • Thanks:
  • Dylan & Jenner