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I got a new Places Live Case for my Pixel and it actually works!

In case you hadn't seen, I wasn't a huge fan of Google's own Places Live Case I ordered for my Pixel XL. Not only did fulfillment and shipping issues lead to it taking nearly a month to arrive, but when it finally showed up the notoriously poor case didn't even work properly.

A refresher:

The idea of the "Live Case" series is that you install the My live Case app to pair up with your case. For the Places Live Case, it enables an exclusive wallpaper that changes as you move around, and can be customized to your liking. The case also includes a button on the back that interfaces with NFC on your phone to perform various actions.My issue is that the case's button is finicky at best and demonstrably broken at worst. For the first few days of using the Live Case, the button would activate every single time I unlocked the phone — by default launching the "places near me" interface of Google Maps. Being frustrated but hoping to mitigate the problem, I turned the shortcut button off ... but unfortunately all that does is stop the app from starting an action; it still triggers a confirmatory beep and vibration that the button had been "pressed" when it hadn't.

Loving the look of the case and hoping it was just an anomaly, I took a plunge and ordered another Places Live Case (opens in new tab), this time for my Pixel. To my enjoyment, the case not only showed up on time but it also worked exactly as intended. This is the proper experience you'd expect to get when buying a case (particularly directly from Google), and let me evaluate it without the extra headaches.

Since Google has these cases made in China one by one with custom artwork on the back, it's bound to increase fulfillment time. And indeed, with default shipping Google claimed that my order on January 17 would arrive between January 24 and 26. And unlike my horrible experience last time, the case was sent out the next day and arrived on January 25. Still not super fast, but for a custom-printed case coming from Asia with free shipping, I call that a logistics win.

Even when the case works flawlessly it may be tough to justify its price.

Now, the case itself. My first Places Live Case had major issues with its customizable NFC-based button on the back. At first it automatically triggered each time I unlocked the phone, and then switched to not activating at all. The one truly unique feature of the case didn't even work. Thankfully, all works as intended this time around on my Pixel. Speaking with a Google representative I'm told there was a manufacturing issue related to the button that was identified and fixed — and at least in this sample size of one, that holds true.

You can still easily say that the selection of Live Cases from the Google Store (opens in new tab) isn't worth your hard-earned $40. When the case material itself is on par with one you can find online for around $10 (opens in new tab), you're paying a huge premium for that custom design and not-super-valuable customizable key on the back. But if you do spend that kind of cash on a hard plastic case, you want it to show up on time and work right — Google seems to have figured out those basics, and in the end I have a completely unique case that keeps my Pixel safe.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

15 Comments
  • It's odd. I either see articles about how they don't work, or videos of Live Cases in Non-English. I still don't know what they do.
  • The case has an NFC tag with a button. The tag can be triggered by the button to do a few customizable (through the live cases app) things. I have mine trigger Tapatalk, but it can trigger an app, change the wallpaper, turn on/off Wi-Fi ECT.
  • Tell me this is a replacement case? You didnt buy case a - it didn't work. THEN buy case b that did work? Surely?
  • I wonder if it has something to do with this being a pixel instead of a nexus as well.
  • What would that have to do with it?
  • I thought maybe with the location of the radios maybe it made a difference. Also, since the Pixel is more "premium," or at least priced that way that maybe the equipment inside of it would work a bit better. I'm not sure though. I just remember reading your last post about it, and when I read this one my first thought was maybe the different devices also had something to do with it. Just spit-balling here.
  • Well thankfully the cases are designed specifically to work with the models of phone they're on in terms of NFC placement etc. If any company knows how to best place an accessory on a Nexus/Pixel you'd think it would be Google ... But these Live Cases have been a sore spot.
  • It's good to see them improving as a hardware company. Hopefully I can be a proud owner of a Google Device again soon. Decided to dip my toe in the iPhone world, and have been sorely disappointed since I got my phone. Can't wait to trade up again, hopefully soon.
  • I don't understand. How does the case not work. The NFC tag would activate all the time with NFC turned so I don't understand what it's supposed to do. Or how it could not work.
  • Besides explaining it in the article, which you should read, the NFC tag is actually supposed to be activated by a button. In every review I have read of these cases the button was extremely difficult to press.
  • The button is terrible about registering presses. On my 6P you have to use enough force that it feels like you could break something. That said, if Google is owning up to "manufacturing issues" where is my replacement?
  • My wife has had one on her 6p for over 6 months and the picture on the back of me and the kids has held up surprisingly good. The button is kinda hard to press without sending the phone flipping in the air, but she never uses it. She has it programmed for the camera, but uses double power to get to camera.
  • SO? Did Google refund you the XL case? Because it sounds like a defective POC.
  • Hey. You have my house on your phone case. How dare you invade my privacy like that.
  • :-X