Google’s Pixel is an exceptional phone — and that’s putting it mildly. In our review, we found the Google-branded Pixel’s hardware speedy, its battery life better than average, and its camera among the best we’ve ever tested. But no phone’s perfect, and if Google’s support forum is to be believed, its Achilles heel is its microphone.
It’s not a new issue. Last year, in October, Pixel owners began reporting broken microphones on brand new units in a thread on Google’s support webpage that generated hundreds of responses. Some users reported that the mics fixed themselves after a few hours for no apparent reason, but less fortunate users weren’t able to get them working again.
Google began investigating Pixel mic complaints in January, and by late February settled on an explanation: A hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec. “This problem tends to be transient because of the nature of the crack,” Google employee Brian Radowski wrote.
“Based on the temperature changes or the way you hold the phone, the connection may be temporarily restored and the problems may go away. This is especially frustrating as a user because, just when you think you’ve got it fixed, the problem randomly comes back.”
Google began shipping new Pixel units to affected owners, but some of the replacements exhibited the same problem. The company acknowledged the issue, and said that it made changes to the manufacturing process in February to ensure that future replacements don’t experience the same problem.
Google estimates that the problem occurred on less than one percent of Pixel phones made before February, and said that it usually arises after the phone has been dropped in such a way that it severs the connection between the mic and the motherboard.
Google is instructing owners affected by the mic issue to return their phones.
Manufacturing defects aren’t all that uncommon when it comes to smartphones, and the Pixel is far from the first to suffer one. Apple’s iPhone 4 experienced issues with cellular reception when held in a certain orientation — the controversy, dubbed “antennagate,” saw then-CEO Steve Jobs extend affected customers a free plastic bumper and a 30-day refund offer. A subsequent iPhone debacle, “bendgate,” arose when iPhone 6 owners found that the phone’s metal bezel bent relatively easily when that iPhone was placed in a back pocket.