8 Problems With the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL

The Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL are great phones. In fact, they’re probably some of the best Android phones released in 2016. That’s in part because the Google Pixel offers features that most other Android phones can’t or don’t provide, including immediate updates to the latest version of Android. But these pure Google phones, like any other phones, have their fair share of quirks and problems.

As much as we love the Google Pixel, we think it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into when you purchase a new phone (and to compare the phone you’re considering to the competition, like the iPhone 7). So in the interest of full disclosure, we’re sharing the latest scoop on a variety of problems, issues, and bugs with the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL. Read on to check out some of the problems that users have reported with the Google Pixel.

1. If you play audio at high volumes on the Google Pixel, you may hear some distortion

Brian Rakowski, VP Product Management at Google Inc, talks about the Google Pixel

The Google Pixel has some audio problems if you set the device to high volumes | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Stephen Hall reports for 9to5Google that a variety of Google Pixel owners have reported an issue with the device’s audio output. Numerous forum users have experienced distortion when listening to videos, using apps, or playing music at the highest volumes supported by the device. Hall notes the distortion “doesn’t happen all the time (if that was the case we probably would have heard about this issue a lot earlier), but only when certain frequencies are playing.” One user even notes the issue seems to occur “regardless of audio output source.”

Both the standard Google Pixel and the Pixel XL are affected by the issue. And interestingly enough, some users report the issue can be replicated even when casting audio to a Chromecast device. Those reports, combined with the fact that the problem seems to affect the Google Pixel’s speakers and headphones, suggest that the issue is with the device’s software rather than its hardware. Which means that Google should be able to fix the problem with a future software update.

2. The Google Pixel seems to have a big problem with lens flare

Brian Rakowski, VP Product Management at Google Inc., speaks during an event

Lens flare is another big problem for the Google Pixel | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

According to numerous reports online, the Google Pixel has a widespread problem with lens flare, a phenomenon that appears when you take a photo containing a source of bright light. As Andrew Martonik reports for Android Central, lens flare is a well-known characteristic of cameras “by which light enters the lens and when passing through multiple lens elements refracts and produces harsh light artifacting on the resulting image.” The Pixel’s camera most often exhibits a white, pink, or purple ring near the edges of the frame. And the device’s lens flare “is most pronounced in situations when most cameras produce lens flare, such as looking directly at the sun or in scenes where an image is dominated by a single strong source of light from the side.”

You can’t fix the issue by replacing your Pixel, since all units will have the same characteristics. But you can pay attention to when it’s most likely to happen and avoid those situations. Know that photos where you’re looking at the sun or at another strong source of light are likely to create lens flare problems. You can put the sun in the corner of your frame, and when you’re shooting indoors, put the light behind the camera rather than right off to the side. And you can keep an eye out for a software update that will enable your Pixel to identify and remove lens flare. 

3. The Google Pixel’s camera app can sometimes freeze

Sabrina Ellis, Director of Product Management at Google Inc

The Pixel’s camera app can sometimes freeze unexpectedly | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Ben Schoon reports for 9to5Google that some Google Pixel users have reported a strange issue with the device’s camera app. The issue causes the app “to lock up and show pink & purple lines across the screen.” The issue seems to be limited to Google’s preinstalled camera app. However, a few users have reported the issue also surfaces with third-party apps that use the device’s camera, too.

Reports indicate the problem may be linked to low cellular connectivity. Additionally, they seem to indicate the problem only affects international Pixel models. However, on the units that do have the issue, videos are affected too. Schoon notes that it’s unclear whats causing the issue or how poor connectivity is involved. But in the meantime, “there is a way to temporarily fix the problem — dropping the phone into airplane mode.” 

4. ‘OK Google’ doesn’t always work on the Google Pixel

Pichai Sundararajan, known as Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc

The “OK Google” command doesn’t always work if the Google Pixel’s screen is off | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Vinod Yalburgi reports for the International Business Times that a number of Google Pixel owners have reported issues with Google Assistant’s “OK Google” feature after upgrading to Android 7.1.1. For affected devices, the command no longer works when the screen is off, which undermines any attempt to use the command to wake the device and complete a task without picking the phone up.

Fortunately, this is a Google Pixel issue that can be fixed. The voice recognition feature only recognizes the “OK Google” command from a trusted voice. If the feature isn’t working, you can reregister your voice with the training module within the app to get the feature working again. Just launch the Google app, tap the hamburger button, and hit Settings. Then, select Voice, and enable “OK Google.” Then, toggle Trusted Voice on, and train the Assistant with your voice.

5. Some Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL units have microphone issues

A pedestrian walks by a sign outside an event by Google

Users have reported issues with the microphones on the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

One of the less common issues that affects the Google Pixel is the failure of the device’s microphone. According to Phandroid’s Quentyn Kennemer, the microphone on the affected devices “does work in some capacity, but for some reason may become inoperable immediately or after some time.” It’s unclear whether this is a hardware or a software issue.

However, Kennemer notes that the most likely scenario is that this is a hardware problem, since some affected users have been able to get the microphone to work consistently (such as by enabling and disabling the speakerphone during call). While that trick might not work for everyone who’s affected by the issue, it’s worth a try. And if it doesn’t work, Phandroid reports Google is providing replacement devices to users affected by the problem.

6. Some Google Pixel owners report connectivity issues with LTE band 4

Members of the media examine Google's Pixel phone during an event

Some Google Pixel owners have reported problems with the device’s LTE connectivity, even after an update that fixed the issue for others | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

David Ruddock reports for Android Police that a number of Google Pixel users have reported connectivity issues with LTE band 4, and possibly with other bands around the world. The device is advertised to support LTE band 4, a band that’s commonly used throughout North and South America. Google Pixels are reportedly having difficulty with the band, which Ruddock notes “in some regions on some operators, is basically the only LTE signal available to subscribers.” Users in other countries have reported LTE issues with other bands, but band 4 seems to be the source of most complaints.

Ruddock explains that the problem seems to be related to certain band 4 networks, as opposed to band 4 connectivity across the board. Fortunately, Google seems to be aware of the problem and according to Gadgets 360, issued an update that, for many users, seems to fix the problem with LTE band 4 connectivity. For users for whom the update didn’t fix the issue, another build appears to be in the works. 

7. Some Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL units have manufacturing defects that affect the screen

Members of the media photograph a display of Google's Pixel phone

A few Google Pixel owners have reported manufacturing defects that cause a bubble to appear under the screen | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Justin Duino reports for 9to5Google that his Google Pixel XL, and those purchased by some other users, too, have a manufacturing defect that causes a bubble to form under the screen. This bubble appears even when the device hasn’t been dropped or otherwise damaged. Duino saw a bubble forming under the glass near the headphone jack and reports that it eventually expanded to roughly half an inch in length.

Duino had a pretty frustrating experience with Google’s customer service department, which at first declined to replace the phone. Eventually, Google followed up and offered to replace the phone. It also noted that the company has “escalated the issue with our engineering teams who are investigating further.” And Google will be examining Duino’s phone to determine the cause of the issue, which, fortunately, seems relatively rare so far. 

8. The Google Pixel has trouble displaying screenshots from the iPhone 7 Plus

Google's Pixel phone

The Google Pixel seems to have trouble displaying screenshots taken on the iPhone 7 Plus | Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Though this unusual issue probably won’t cause any major problems for Pixel owners, it’s still an interesting problem nonetheless. Aatif Sulleyman reports for Gizmodo that the Google Pixel struggles to display screenshots taken on an iPhone 7 Plus.

The screenshots in question appear severely distorted — though reportedly only if they’ve been captured from within an app, not from the home screen, and sent via an SMS or MMS message or via Hangouts. Interestingly enough, screenshots sent from the Pixel to the iPhone 7 Plus aren’t affected by the same issue. Google is reportedly aware of the issue, but it’s not clear whether it’s working on a fix for this odd problem.