02 Nov 2017 17:37 IST

Google in a pickle of Pixel problems

Two powerful phones with pure Android and a fantastic camera set-up come with a few hiccups

If you had been a fly on the wall at Google’s launch party held recently in Delhi, you wouldn’t have guessed there were any issues with the new Pixel 2 phones that have just gone up for pre-order. Google set up an arena for the invitees to click selfies and low light photos, use the Lens app and more while they made merry.

But in the background, there was the lurking shadow of various issues that accompanied the second gen of Pixels’ entry into the world. After all, one would want them to be Pixel-perfect, so to speak, at upward of ₹61,000 for the Pixel 2 64 GB and touching ₹82,000 for the 128 GB Pixel 2 XL. That’s a big ask to begin with, but a serious one if there’s talk of problems.

Viewing angle glitch

The bigger Pixel 2 has the bigger problems, it would seem. One of these is that when you tilt the phone even by 15 degrees, there’s a ‘blue shift’ and you see colours like white and pink get a sheen of blue over them. Now there is always a bit of a shift in colour with every device and that’s what we mean when we say that the viewing angles are fine on a device. But in this case, people are complaining that it’s far too much and could interfere with viewing and editing anything that involves accuracy of colours such as photographs or art work.

Sitting here with four Pixel phones around me — old and new — I can say that I do see this shift on the Pixel 2 XL, but I have to say that I don’t find it a deal-breaker. I may be lucky with my review device, which by chance doesn’t have that problem really pronounced but speaking from my experience with this device, I don’t think it should bother anyone if they don’t have a special need for editing colours.

The device’s screen is fine when you look at it straight on. Google, which was silent on the subject at first, has now said on various user forums that it will issue an update to fix this problem or give the user more choice on how to see the display, but many are skeptical about whether this is just a software fix for a hardware problem.

I would think that it doesn’t matter as long it is a fix. Personally, I wouldn’t avoid buying the phone because of the blue tint (especially if there’s a workaround coming) if I had the money — which I don’t.

Image ‘burn-in’

Another more lethal sounding problem is that there’s a ‘burn-in’ on the screen, much like you may have seen with old laptops and computers. The ghost of an image remains on the screen and eventually deteriorates the quality of the display. This problem I can’t comment on with short term use, as it would take a little time. Again, it is apparently only with the Pixel 2 XL, according to reviewers who’ve seen it in other parts of the world. That should be a more difficult one to issue a fix for.

While we’re still on the beleaguered screen, users have reported that it isn’t bright enough on the Pixel 2 XL. There seems to be some truth in that. Compared to the original Pixel from last year, both new devices seem to be a tiny bit less vibrant, but since you can turn the brightness up, I’m not convinced this is a deal-breaker either.

Tinkering with the brightness level, I was able to keep all four Pixel devices to roughly the same intensity, though the first gen Pixel was a little ahead.

Google has upped the warranty to two years and promised fixes for just about everything. But meanwhile, a new problem cropped up, this time with the Pixel 2 XL’s audio in video recordings.

A buzz-y issue

Some users reported that the background sound goes warbled for certain periods and the sound is in any case thin and sharp. I didn’t find the sound on the Pixel 2 XL its strongest point, that’s for sure. Even on a call, the other person could hear me better than I could hear her.

While video recording, yes, there’s a little static crackling-like sound in the background and faint warbling. I found there’s some bit of hiss in almost all phones with this task, but on the Pixel 2 XL it was certainly more muddy. This too is supposed to get a fix but one will have to wait a few weeks.

Apart from these issues, these devices are as fast and smooth as expected and have a lot of Google Assistant running the show including with a little squeeze to the phone’s sides. The purity of Android on these devices is refreshing, being absent of all the painful customisations other manufactures put in. The camera, a marquee feature, is sharp and capable, but I didn’t find it a huge leap over the previous year’s Pixel.

In the end it’s just a lot of money, so one can’t be faulted for wanting a flawless device.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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