Pixel 4 Presence Constantly Bouncing Between Home and Away

Hi all,

I have been using a Pixel 4 since it was launched late last year. I immediately added it to smartthings as a presence sensor and have been super pleased with it overall. Way better than my Pixel 3 as reporting location and setting off my arriving and departing automations. In fact, if you had asked me seven days ago I’d have told you what an awesome phone it has been.

Fast forward to this past Sunday evening and as I am sitting on the sofa watching a film my kitchen lights and front porch light randomly turn on. I thought it strange, but turned them off and went back to what I was doing. I also took that opportunity to close my garage door. Only a couple minutes after I sat back down all of a sudden I hear my garage door opening and my lights come back on. At this point I start digging in to smartthings and lo and behold my phone had bounced back and forth between away and present several times over the course of the evening.

I hadn’t noticed it until it got after a certain time due to the rules on my automation and me having the garage open already. I started looking at my map apps (google maps and waze) and both had me very far away from my house, but they were both not always showing me in the same place (if that makes sense).

I would stare at the map and without moving at all watch my little blue dot (supposedly meant to be me) move down my street, out of my neighborhood, and hang out about a half mile from my actual location. Then it would snap back to being at my house, but then slowly start that process over again. Sometimes the process of the dot moving would be like I was driving slowly, but other times it was a quick jerk over to the new location.

I got on with Google support and walked through a bunch of stuff that didn’t make a difference and ultimately they sent a new phone out which arrived yesterday. After the painstaking task of setting it up I added it to smartthings and sure enough it is doing the exact same thing.

I don’t know what to think. My original Pixel 4 had worked great for six months, it never opened my garage door in the middle of the night (like it has once since this issue started) until the weirdness I observed about 5-6 days ago. If were were a hardware issue then you would have thought a new phone would fix it, but the new one is behaving the exact same way.

It could be software, but Waze hasn’t updated since late March and even though Google Maps updated 1 April I didn’t start seeing oddness happening until ~5 April.

To add to this my fiance has an iPhone 11 and it is connected as a presence sensor and has zero issues.

IDK, I may reach back out to Google and see about getting another replacement on the off chance I got a dud, but was wondering if anyone out there with Android phones and Pixel phones specifically have seen any strangeness like this occurring all of a sudden?

I have uninstalled Waze, uninstalled updates for Google Maps, and ensured that my location accuracy is set to high, so I don’t know what could have gone so wrong in the past week to make this start happening. Hoping the community may have some ideas. Thanks

How large is the geofence for your presence? Your phone is going to put both the GPS and wifi to sleep occasionally to conserve power. In fact, the GPS is turned off most of the time unless you are actively navigating with a navigation app. Also, you phone can use your mobile connection to “estimate” your location when gps isn’t available. So, because of no change local to your device, your location may not be as accurate as it once was if your carrier has made changes to the mobile network. This is one reason I typically don’t use presence to detect me leaving home. I only perform that function manually. And because of that, I am able to execute my returning routine only while in Away mode. And since I only go into Away mode manually, I am able to avoid any of the issues with presence bouncing back and forth
If you don’t want to do that, I would look at increasing your geofence area to make it larger so you don’t jump out side of it while you’re still at home.

Thanks for the reply.

My Geofence area is not super tight (it encompasses my neighborhood) and has not changed in over a year or so. I would not want to broaden it out for this since it was working without issue for at least six months with this phone at the size it is and even longer with other phones I have had previously at the same size.

And even if I did do that to stem this issue I would have to broaden out the radius from my home to around a mile or two since that is how far I have seen my blue dot on my map jump from my actual location. And that is just nuts. Not looking to treat a symptom I’d like to find out why all of a sudden it is acting like this.

Further, if it was a carrier change like you mention then my fiance who is on the same Verizon network should in theory have the same issue, but she does not.

I don’t have any automations that detect my presence changing to away, but I do have several that detect either my phone or my fiance’s phone changing to present (turning on lights, opening garage doors, etc), which is causing issues. I have them disabled now so that my garage doesn’t open randomly in the middle of the night again, but then that defeats the purpose of having the ability to do these types of automations.

Hopefully someone with a similar phone can chime if if they’ve seen recent problems.

As an update here I spent some time with Google Support on chat today. She had me put the phone in Safe Mode and voila…the little blue dot stayed right where it was supposed to. Putting the phone in SM automatically puts it in airplane mode. Thinking that had something to do with it I turned off airplane mode and enabled wifi and mobile data. To my surprise the dot still stayed fixed on my actual location for the entire time I had the app open (about 5-7 min). Bear in mind it usually starts jumping around as soon as I open the app.

She thought that this meant that it was a third party app causing the problem, so I started uninstalling them one by one, but soon that got pretty tedious so I decided to go ahead and factory reset it and set it up as a new phone without restoring from a backup or another device.

To my intense sadness as soon as the phone completed the initial setup and got to the home screen I opened up Google Maps app and sure enough the little blue dot was as active as ever moving all over the place.

I put it back in safe mode and tested again, and again it was perfectly normal as it should be. The little blue dot was fixed right at my house.

I don’t know if the update is useful, but figured I’d add what I found out today. Does anyone know what network services are disabled in safe mode? The phone definitely didn’t have a strong signal (based on the number of “bars”) while in safe mode as it does when booted normally.

I’m wondering if that has something to do with it? Any thoughts or insight would be extremely valuable.