Google's answer to the Pixel 2 XL CRT-style screen burn in: Lower the brightness

Apply these patches – and please don't demand a recall


“Ask more of your phone,” is the Pixel 2's official marketing slogan. It's not a good sign when early adopters are asking Google for more support.

And they got a little today, as Google has starting rolling out Android firmware updates to address hardware woes plaguing its new Pixel 2 and flagship Pixel 2 XL smartphones. You know, the top-end Pixel 2 XL, the one that costs $849 (£799) for a 64GB model, or $949 (£899) for 128GB. The one with the embarrassing 1980s CRT-style display burn-in.

As product manager Seang Chu promised last month, software patches to address various screen and audio difficulties in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are now being pushed out to handsets. You should check for updates from the Settings app and install them.

To address the burn-in problem, Google is lowering the overall display brightness by 50 nits, and tweaked the always-on navigation bar. The bar now fades after a short period of inactivity. Both of these measures should reduce burn-in, fingers crossed. A new saturated color mode has been added, again to compensate for display quality issues.

However, “this does not address the real problem: you’re blaming user preference rather than the simple fact the Pixel 2 XL is not calibrated properly,” tech journo and phone pundit Gordon Kelly pointed out.

Nor does the navigation bar fading fully address the issue of burn-in long term. “The elephant in the room is Google's insistence on not having hardware navigation buttons, certainly the [non-XL] Pixel 2 has more than enough bezel space for them!” complained one fandroid. In other words, Google could have had actual touch-sensitive buttons on the handset but went with an on-screen nav bar that is burned into displays over time.

The patch release also addresses what owners described as a high pitched whine and “clicking” coming from their new handsets. It appears Google now turns off NFC, the tech used for wireless payments, during phone calls. That too alleviates the symptoms but not the cause, which is poor RF design, it seems. Google is essentially hoping it can head off demands to recall the troubled devices with these software tweaks. ®

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