Google confident Pixel 2 XL screen is fine, but extends warranty to two years

Google Pixel 2 XL against plant
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google’s Pixel 2 XL smartphone received rave reviews, but it quickly hit a snag — a handful of reviewers and device owners encountered problems with the plastic OLED screen supplied by LG. After investigating the issue, Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, addressed the qualms in a post on Google’s community forums.

Screen burn-in, warranty extension

First off, the company is extending the Pixel 2 and 2 XL’s warranty to two years, rather than one. Google said it’s “very confident that the Pixel 2 delivers an exceptional smartphone experience,” and the decision to extend the warranty is to give people peace of mind.

This is likely due to one of the biggest concerns about the Pixel 2 XL’s POLED screen, which people claim is displaying signs of screen burn-in. Burn-in is a problem that occurs when a static image, like the Android navigation keys, is permanently burned into the screen making it visible when it’s no longer supposed to be there. After downloading a gray image and hiding the navigation keys, we saw a faint outline of them on our review unit — though we had to squint and put our eyes to the screen to see it. The concern is how the Pixel 2 XL is already showing signs of burn-in early in its life, as it’s usually expected after quite some time of use.

“We’re currently testing a software update that further enhances protections against this issue.”

Google’s answer? The Pixel 2 XL screen “shows that its decay characteristics are similar to OLED panels used in comparable products.” Essentially, the burn-in is in line with what you’ll find on other high-end smartphones using OLED panels. Google said it should not affect normal day-to-day user experience, but the company isn’t leaving it at that. A software update is incoming to mitigate the problem and maximize the life of the OLED panel.

One of the examples how software already prevents burn-in is how the Always-on Display on the lock screen “moves the clock in a subtle zig-zag pattern on every minute boundary” to ensure the same pixels aren’t persistently lit up.

The update, which will come in a few weeks, will do two things: The Android navigation keys will “fade-out” after a short period of inactivity; the screen’s brightness will drop 50 nits, which Google said is “imperceptible,” but it will significantly reduce the load on the screen. Google is also working with more app developers to “use a light navigation bar to match their app’s color scheme.”

Google Pixel 2 XL on table
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Pumping up the colors

One of the other complaints is the colors on the Pixel 2 XL, and how they’re far more muted than other Android smartphones. This was an intentional decision by Google to offer a more “natural  and accurate rendition of colors,” but Google added a “Vivid Colors” mode in its Settings that boosts the color saturation up 10 percent for people who wanted their colors to pop. The company did say that if it received requests for more saturated colors through feedback, it would consider adding an option via a software update — and since the Vivid Colors mode clearly wasn’t enough, Google is following through. Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will get a new mode for more saturated colors in the next few weeks.

Chau goes into depth about how Android 8.0 Oreo and the Pixel 2 XL attempts to offer natural colors, as the author intended, instead of a saturated image as found in most OLED devices.

Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will get a new mode for more saturated colors.

“Color mode is really a user choice,” Chau said. “Many users prefer accurate colors; others prefer more saturated colors. What we’ve found is that you can become acclimatized to either.”

Regardless, both phones will get a saturated color mode that will make the screen a little more like the original 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL. This will allow device owners to choose if they want a saturated screen or a display with more natural colors.

High-pitch frequency and clicking sound

Some Pixel 2 owners say they experience a high-pitch frequency and clicking sound when the phone is to the ear like on a call — when the screen is on and unlocked. Google said it discovered a bug with NFC functionality that was causing the issue, and said a fix is on the way. To temporary stop the problem, head over to Settings > Connected Devices > NFC to toggle it off.

There are a few other issues with the Pixel 2 XL’s screen Google did not comment about. Namely, the blue tint that’s visible when looking at the phone at an angle. We’ve seen it in our review unit, though we do not think it’s an issue in day-to-day use, much like the rest of the Pixel 2 XL screen’s problems. Some reviewers and Pixel 2 XL owners said they have blotchy, grainy screens, too, though it looks like those phones may have come from a bad batch as people said they haven’t seen those issues after Google replaced their units.