Google hit a screen snag, but the Pixel 2 XL still tops the Android heap

Google Pixel 2 XL notebook close
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

“People are completely flipping out.” Problems are “serious,” and they’re “mounting.” “It’s real, and Google is actively investigating.”

Gimme a break.

The past few days have seen mounting concerns and chatter about problems with the screen on Google’s new Pixel 2 XL smartphone — and I’m here to tell you that this hullabaloo has been blown way out of proportion.

First, the facts. There are undoubtedly some issues with the plastic OLED screen from LG that Google used for its flagship smartphone. With our review unit, there’s a noticeable blue tint when you look at the phone from the sides. Is it a problem that impacts usage? No, I’ve hardly noticed it in the time I’ve used the phone — because I’m almost always looking at the phone head on.

The second problem is a tad more concerning. There’s very slight burn-in, a problem that arises when a static image on the screen is permanently burned into the display, making it visible when it’s no longer supposed to be there. It used to be a thing with CRT televisions, and happens with content on a screen that’s always-present and static, like for example the Android navigation keys. I’ve never noticed burn-in during my day-to-day use of the phone, and could only faintly track it down by downloading a gray wallpaper, hiding the navigation keys, squinting my eyes, and holding my face within an inch of the screen. I saw a very faint outline of the navigation keys; it’s hardly visible. Still, even if the burn-in is minor just after two weeks, it could get worse the longer the phone is in use and be more visible a few months from now. Google is looking into this issue.

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Attempting to show the screen burn-in on my Pixel 2 XL. It’s harder to see on camera, but it’s a tad more visible in person. Do you see the Android navigation buttons at the bottom of this screen?

There’s another complaint: Colors on the screen are muted and not as saturated as a Samsung display. This is deliberate, a Google spokesperson told Digital Trends:

“We designed the Pixel 2 to take advantage of multiple facets of the innovative new POLED technology, including QHD+ resolution with 538 pixels per inch as well as a wide color gamut. One of our design intents was to achieve a more natural and accurate rendition of colors. We know that some people prefer more vivid colors, so we’ve added an option to boost colors by 10 percent for more saturation. We’ll continue to pay close attention to people’s responses to Pixel, and we will consider adding more display color options through software if that makes the product better.”

I prefer the muted colors over more saturation, but if Google’s going to offer up a Vivid Color toggle in the Pixel’s settings, perhaps it should up the saturation more than 10 percent for those that want colors that pop. Again, this isn’t really a problem and a matter of personal preference.

Some reviewers and device owners have noted several other issues with the screen, such as blotchy patches, reddish screens, and grain. This is clearly the result of a small batch of devices that did not pass quality control, especially considering how 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall said he’s a little happier with the screen after receiving a fresh unit.

Should any of this have happened with an $850 phone? No. It’s clear there’s a snag in Google’s quality assurance department — especially since a Google Pixel 2 that failed testing due to cosmetic damage managed to reach the hands of a customer. All of this is damaging to the public image of the Pixel brand, and Google seriously needs to up its efforts if it wants to get serious with hardware.

Does it change my opinion of the phone? With nearly three weeks of continuous use — no. There are so many things about this phone that make it a joy to use, from the excellent camera to the “radically helpful” software, and many of the problems with the screen I’ve noted above are things I almost never noticed when using the phone. But sure, if you have a Pixel 2 XL with easy-to-see screen problems, like a blotchy and reddish screen, contact Google support: You likely have a device that came from this bad batch.

My prime concern is with burn-in largely because it can get worse over time, and we’re waiting to hear the results from Google’s investigation. We chatted with Google Support about the Pixel 2 XL as well, which said the support team has been replacing devices with screen burn-in because it is a hardware problem. The support specialist suggested the replacement units do not have burn-in because the replacement “would be going through the quality checks from our product team so that you should [not] experience any issues further.” Considering this is just from a support specialist, we’re not sure if it’s reliable information. When I asked Google about replacing units with burn in, I was directed to the Google warranty page.

For now, I’m standing by my claim that the Pixel 2 XL is the best Android smartphone you can purchase. But I recommend waiting to snag one until we hear what Google says about its investigation.