Android Pie has an issue related to pattern lock

The stable build of Android Pie has been plagued with multiple problems – we have maintained a continuously updated list here. While Google has fixed some major issues (yes, I am talking about the fast charging bug), new problems are continuously coming to light.

Case in point, a major security bug that has been reported by users for months now. It somehow managed to remain under the radar, but I finally caught hold of it recently. The problem in question is related to the pattern lock feature that a large number of Android users use.

As some of you may already know, the feature has a setting which allows you to make your unlock pattern invisible. For those who aren’t aware, disabling the ‘make pattern visible’ option does this.

android-9-pie-pattern-lock

No points for guessing that this option, when turned off, offers you more security, as there’s a comparatively lesser chance of people present around you getting to know your device’s unlock pattern.

Worryingly, the invisibility of unlock pattern has been acting glitchy in Android 9 Pie. Following are some user reports that explain the problem in detail:

This bug emerged after I updated my Pixel to Android Pie and is still happening after the latest update. I ticked off the option “make pattern visible”, yet often (but not always) the pattern is shown. I’m not 100% sure how this can be reproduced, but my impression is that it happens when your phone is locked, you get a notification (new text, new mail) and you double tap the notification which wants your phone to unlock. Then the pattern is visible

Pixel XL, Android 9.0. In Settings -> Security Location -> Device Security, I have “Make pattern visible” unchecked. But it still shows up sometimes when I unlock the phone with the pattern lock

Pixel XL on Android 9.0 – Security pattern keeps resetting to being visible

It seems that randomly the phone keeps changing the pattern visibility back to being visible, which is a serious problem. This only started happening after upgrading to Pie OTA

I am experiencing the same thing with the release version of Android Pie. I can’t reproduce the issue on demand, but it randomly happens from time to time

You can check for yourself these reports on Google Product Forum (1,2,3), Google Issue Tracker, and Reddit.

Agreed, the number of reports isn’t very large. But this could be because not everybody hides their unlock pattern, and more importantly, the behavior is random. This random behavior also makes the issue serious, as you never know when the unlock pattern may become visible.

Thankfully, one user managed to capture this random behavior in a video. Take a look:

The video does seem to be edited just before the glitchy behavior shows up, but that’s likely to chop off some waiting time that the user goes through.

It’s worth mentioning that the problem was also highlighted by participants during the Android 9.0 beta phase. Google even marked the issue as fixed on its Issue Tracker website. But for reasons unknown, the issue managed to make its way to the final, public release of the mobile operating system.

Digging in more, if you take a close look at the reports I’ve included so far, you’ll see majority of the complainants are using Google’s Pixel series of smartphones. In addition to these, I could only find one similar complaint from a non-pixel user.

Given that only the Nokia 7 Plus has got the Pie update so far in the Nokia lineup, it’s reasonable to assume the user is using that phone.

Now, why I highlighted this, is because both Pixel phones and the Nokia 7 plus run stock Android. And I think the problem is limited to devices running stock Android. I came to this conclusion after I failed to reproduce this glitchy pattern lock behavior on my own Pie-powered OnePlus 6, which runs Oxygen OS UI.

Anyway, after being marked as fixed in the beta phase, when the problem was highlighted again (following the public roll out of the Android Pie update), it was passed to the relevant development team inside Google. This happened last month, and there has been no update on the matter since then.

The company recently pushed out the October security update. But if you take a look at the change log, there is no mention of this problem. So it’s reasonable to assume the fix hasn’t arrived yet. Here’s hoping that happens sooner than later.

Meanwhile, let us know your experience with pattern unlock hide feature if you have an Android Pie-powered phone. Rest assured, we’ll update this story as an when some news worthy development takes place on the matter.

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Himanshu Arora

My interest in technology and writing started back in 2010. Since then, I have written for many leading publications, including Computerworld, GSMArena, TechSpot, HowtoForge, LinuxJournal, and MakeTechEasier to name a few. Here at PiunikaWeb, my work involves covering on daily basis the biggest tech stories as well as scoops that you won't find anywhere else.