Pixel problems? Here are the most common problems and how to fix them.
It's been an interesting few weeks for Google's nascent hardware division. The company's latest products are all smartphone adjacent — a smart speaker, a smart router, a smart VR headset — but none have overshadowed the smart... phone. The Pixels are two phones that, among these parts and around the internet, have garnered widely divisive receptions, some hailing them as the best phones you can buy today, while others dismissing them outright as iPhone clones and, worse, overpriced wastes of money. Of course, like every story based on extremes, the reality is somewhere in the middle.
But even we, who have been leaning towards the side praising the Pixel, cannot ignore the seemingly-constant barrage of news relating to bugs in the proverbial machine. From LTE problems to boot loops to audio distortion to battery shutdowns, the Pixel has generated a steady stream of complaints since almost day one, and it seems that with each update, each bug fix, a new problem emerges.
Note: This article was originally published in December 2016 and will be updated frequently. Check back soon!
What is the actual problem?
Like every story based on extremes, the reality is somewhere in the middle.
We don't know. The interoperability of hardware and software is very complicated, and even though it now has much greater control over both, Google is still unable to check for every conflict before it ships.
The important thing to know is that not everyone is experiencing problems. The issues with the Pixel appear to be isolated and not endemic of the entire product lineup. This is not some Galaxy Note 7 scale issue that will require a recall.
The second thing to know is that Google appears to be actively researching each problem, and has already fixed one of the more severe issues with a recent update.
Let's go through each one to see where we stand.
Band 4 LTE issues
Early on, it became apparent that the Pixel was having trouble connecting to LTE networks that relied on Band 4 (AWS) in certain countries, specifically Canada, Chile, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Ecuador and others in the region. The phone, though compatible with Band 4 LTE, was staying on HSPA+.
That changed when Google issued the Android 7.1.1 update in early December, with many people finding their LTE connections upon booting up. The issue is that some people are still having issues with LTE, so the update doesn't appear to have fixed the update completely.
Some people are finding that flashing radios from different regions elicits success, but like many of the Pixel's issues there doesn't seem to be a particular rhyme nor reason to say the issue has been solved and the case closed.
- Best fix: Upgrade your software
- Status: Partially solved, ongoing
Audio distortion issues
Audio distortion issues continue to be one of the most prevalent problems with the Pixel, largely because it is easy to reproduce. You either have the problem or you don't.
The issue stems from using particular apps, or playing back movies and music at high volumes; anything above a certain point — usually 80% to maximum — causes the audio to clip.
Like the above LTE issue, it appears to be a combination of hardware and software, since not all Pixel owners (myself included) have had the problem. The main difference is that no software fix has been issued just yet, so it's not clear whether the issue can be resolved with a mere software patch.
- Best fix: Replace your Pixel
- Status: Ongoing
Android phones falling into boot loops are not uncommon, and some manufacturers (ahem, LG) seem to have higher rates than others.
But shortly after the Pixel was released, and timed more frequently with monthly security updates, people began reporting instances where the phone would fall into an endless boot loop — failing to start up and rebooting when the process failed — forcing a factory reset through the Recovery menu.
On Google's product forums, half a dozen threads with myriad entries each tell the story of frustration, especially since many of the Pixel and Pixel XL users were forced to perform hard resets, losing data in the process. Google's official word is to seek individual service through the Pixel's 24/7 customer support feature, but there are no permanent solutions just yet. At the same time, boot loops are not uncommon in the Nexus family, and more recently the Nexus 6P began suffering the same sordid fate after it, too, was updated to Nougat.
- Best fix: Factory reset and, failing that, replace your Pixel
- Status: Ongoing
Pixel shutting off at close to 40% battery
This is a relatively recent occurrence, but mirrors what people have been seeing on the Nexus 6P for the past few weeks. Likely exacerbated by the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, the issue, according to Reddit user bal00, has less to do with software than with the state of batteries themselves.
If you've got a battery with a high internal resistance and a power-hungry load like the camera demanding a lot of current, other devices like the processor will see their supply voltage drop, and if it drops low enough, the phone will shut off. That's what's going on when a phone turns off with 40% battery left. There's plenty of water in the tank, but all the build-up inside the valve restricts the flow so much that the pressure takes a nosedive.
The strange part is that unlike the Nexus 6P, which has been in the market for over a year, the Pixel is new, as are the batteries inside them. To sustain such damage so the "pressure takes a nosedive" is not common in a phone under three months on the market.
- Best fix: Replace your Pixel
- Status: Ongoing
Other minor issues: Bluetooth, microphones
Other Pixel owners report Bluetooth issues, some of which were resolved with the update to Android 7.1.1, as well as failing microphones and other random issues.
None of these are common enough to be called endemic, but they're certainly something to look out for.
- Best fix(es): Wait for software update
- Status: Annoying
So what can you do?
First thing's first: Google's Pixel is, like all other phones, not perfect. That its hardware and software are overseen by Google doesn't preclude it from having problems. Despite the numerous issues noted above, the Pixel is not disproportionately problematic compared to other Android phones.
You have three options if you have a severe issue with your Pixel:
- Seek out counsel from Google through the Pixel Support feature: Google may be able to walk you through a temporary or permanent fix.
- Update or your revert your software: The issue(s) you're experiencing are likely software-based and an update could be the answer.
- Replace your phone: If nothing works, or you're stuck in a permanent boot loop and a restore doesn't seem to be doing the trick, seek a replacement from Google or your carrier. The Pixel is still under warranty, and unless you dunked it in water or threw it onto cement, you shouldn't have an issue getting a new one.
What issues are you facing?
Are you facing issues with your Pixel? If so, any from the list above? If not, has it been flawless or still prone to derping every once in a while?
The good news is that Google will likely fix the majority of the Pixel's major issues with software updates, and faster than usual given its ability to push out updates directly.
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!