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I waited 29 days for a Pixel Live Case and it doesn't even work

I had been intrigued by Google's "Live Case" design since it was unveiled earlier in 2016 for the latest Nexus phones, so when I got my Pixel XL I finally decided to pickup the expensive, yet awesome-looking, case from the Google Store (opens in new tab). After 15 minutes on the store, picking out the perfect map view of my beloved Seattle for the design, I placed my order on October 21.

The long and winding road to disappointment

I was already perturbed by the fact that my expected delivery date was some three weeks later; a window of November 11 to 15 was quoted. It took over a week after ordering just to get a tracking number, and it showed my case was being shipped directly from China ... not a great sign. Sadly the saga didn't stop there (and my experience isn't an isolated one): after watching my Places Live Case jump around Asia and eventually land in Kentucky, it sat in Louisville for six days before going back to China, then back to Kentucky ... only to sit there for another two days before heading out toward Seattle.

Three days later — after a false "notice left" delivery exception from the trusty USPS — my Places Live Case finally arrived. A full 29 days after I placed my order on the Google Store and almost a week later than the latest estimated delivery date.

I put it on my Pixel XL, relished in its custom glory, and then realized that it doesn't even work properly.

The idea of the "Live Case" series is that you install the My live Case app (opens in new tab) 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.

Google My Live Case app

The case's button is finicky at best and demonstrably broken at worst.

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.

Coming back from a week of vacation, I tried to give the case another try. Someone upstairs was looking down on me favorably, it seems, as now the case doesn't accidentally trigger the button every time I unlock the phone. But instead, it's near-impossible to activate. I can press and hold the button as hard as I can and activate it about half the time — not a great success rate. Unfortunately it also still has the limitation of only working while the screen is on and the phone is unlocked, meaning some of the suggested actions — like toggling Wi-Fi or the flashlight — are dramatically less useful.

The least you can do is make your overpriced case arrive on time and work as advertised.

Reading through the Google Play Store reviews (totaling a 3.2 rating) of the My Live Case app (opens in new tab) unfortunately confirmed my frustrations: these cases are hardly working as intended, and people aren't happy about it.

I actually think the physical quality of the case is nice, I enjoy my custom design and want the live wallpaper ... so what do I do? Well, if it keeps acting up and accidentally activating its button, I'll have to peel out the NFC coil — leaving me with a $40 case (that I waited for an absurd month to arrive) that looks nice but lacks all functionality that helped justify its price.

So really, Google, is it that hard to just make a case that works as intended? And at the same time, deliver the case in a timely manner when people are paying top dollar for it? Maybe those things should be figured out as you continue to make new deals for even more designs of the same flawed design.

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

98 Comments
  • What do you expect from China.
  • You mean "what do you expect from Google or any other company that sells stuff"? Answer: For it to work as advertised.
  • Exactly. Because it's from China doesn't mean you shouldn't expect to get what you pay for.
  • But you should expect a higher probability of problems
  • Depends on what you pay and who the vendor is.
  • While this may be technically correct in a small number of circumstances, history and statistics would suggest this often isn't the case with things made in China. This could improve, just as Japanese products did to the point they're some of the best made products, and many Korean manufacturers are now well thought of; exploding Sammys notwithstanding! However, China has been at it longer, with less improvement than many of these countries. While some classes of products (like auto parts) demonstrate a lack of capability, in many cases I believe they understand their market and what sells, which has become disposable products with a high DOA rate justifiable by some only by price. I'm willing to pay more for a product that works correctly and lasts longer, but in some cases, this quality isn't even available anywhere.
  • This is a pretty ignorant comment given all of the quality goods we import from china, including more than likely the phone or computer you banged out that stupid comment on.
  • It is ignorant, it's also shockingly common. Chinese or not, the manufacturer will generally build the product to the spec they've been given. If they didn't, no one would use them anymore.
  • Planned obsolescence and the constellation of junkiness that leads to is an American invention.
  • Ignorance is bliss
  • Weird. I got mine in less than 10 days. It looks like it didn't actually go back to China from Louisville, but they screwed up on paperwork and had to fix it in China. What a mess.
  • yep, obviously didn't go back to china.. but it's weird that it went from Alaska to Louisville in the first place and then back to him in Seattle.. although Louisville is a hub, but seems like some extra unneeded mileage there..
  • It sounds like a customs issue. Earlier in the year I ordered a laptop from Lenovo's online store. It took painfully long to arrive and was hard to track, because of customs in Louisville. Others reported similar delays. I'm not saying the delay is acceptable, just that it's a common issue across retailers. It's also possibly more to blame on the carrier they contact out to.
  • I liked the idea of the Live Cases, but was hesitant because of the price. I'm sorry that people have wasted their money, but I'm happy it wasn't me.
  • All of the awful reviews that essentially same the same thing turned me off from ordering one. The high price with the seemingly underwhelming finished product and the broken button made it a no go.
  • Had the same experience with my 6P case, minus the shipping issues.
  • Honestly. this sort of thing frustrates me with a lot of tech items. That they are pushed out the door probably too soon but with their advertised functionality not working as intended for more times than what I would consider acceptable.
  • Blame it on politics
  • What
  • What does the Live Case have anything to do with politics?
  • Isn't it obvious? Chinese manufacturers are intentionally hamstringing their products that are to be shipped to America because they're angry about Trump's upcoming trade war with China. They're planning to cripple US consumers with substandard electronics to make us less effective economically. Study it out, sheeple!
  • Thank you so much for the laugh Hahaha.
  • The regular clear case is a piece of **** too. Google didn't do a good job on cases this year at all.
  • What are the problems with their clear case? I've been considering it as well. If it's crap, I'd rather know before hand, and avoid the disappointment. I know their grey case has had poor reviews, and looks really boring to me.
  • I have a friend who bought one. It didn't have too many issues, other than the TPU going yellow within a month (all TPU cases do that).
  • Ok, thanks.
  • I bought it for $30 thinking "oh hey I'll buy the case Google provides for my shiny new pixel".
    No. Don't buy it. It is trash.
    It scratches/shows scratches easier than any phone case (including clear ones) I have had before. It doesn't have micro dots on the inside of the top non frosted part so it "rainbows" where it presses asymmetrically against the phone. Lastly, it doesn't have top or bottom edge coverage, which was not shown in the pictures on the Google store (at least when I purchased it).
    You would think a main advantage of purchasing a case from Google would be customer support. I wrote them a polite a carefully worded feedback email about the case and never even received a response. If you want clear, go grab the Spigen ultra hybrid. I am loving it...for only $10. And I know Amazon will answer my emails.
  • I have it and hate it. Slippery, cracked by trying to take off the case.
  • Thank you, as well.
  • I first bought the clear case and I was shocked at how cheap it looked.. waste of money. So then I bought a live case, only waited over a week (I live in the UK) but once again I wasn't impressed at all. The ink of the illustrations bleeds a lot especially around the bevelled edges. The colours are very mute, not vivid as I expected them to be. The shortcut button is impossible to use, it's quicker for me just to perform the action the normal way. Total rip off.
  • The pixel is a piece of __it too.
  • Crazy. It's so unlike Google to throw out some half baked idea and see if enough people are suckered into using/sticking it out before they decide to keep it around.
  • Everyone has failures in past including Google. This is not first time they have screwed up.
  • I believe the person with the facial lacerations was employing sarcasm... It's exactly like Google.
  • Actually it's irony.
  • I assume this was sarcasm.... Because it's exactly what Google does with everything they touch.
  • Thank you for the laugh. Comment of the day.
  • The best was how many people 'corrected' me.
  • Hahahaha
  • While I agree that 29 days is way too long to wait for an expensive case that doesn't work, 11/19 is only four days after the 15th, not two weeks.
  • Correct, I think i could've worded that sentence better. And so I just did :)
  • Yikes. Took two months for my Xperia USB Type-C charging dock to show up from the UK. At least it works though, I guess. Tough break. Sent from my Sony Xperia X Compact
  • I had the exact SAME issue with my live case, chose a map of the house I grew up in so the case meant a LOT to me, BUT... the button didn't work, the live wallpaper took a lot of battery, and I felt my phone had NO protection at the front top and bottom. Luckily Google refunded me the cost so I'm still loyal to G. I was not happy that this was made and shipped from China, really felt Google would have made this domestically, but then the phones themselves are made overseas so what was I thinking?
  • Once the 35% overseas tax gets added we may see more products being made in America... Yeah right. That will happen.
  • Trump will bring back all case manufacturing back to America. It will be great. They will be the best cases ever. The best. You will never have seen such great cases. Just great. Beautiful. Also, he will make China pay for making them.
  • LOL!
  • Thanks for the heads-up on this case, I was still somewhat considering it, even with the not so great reviews. With your breakdown of its issues, I think I'll steer clear.
  • When we buy stuff from China here they take at least 40 working days to arrive.
  • Well pretty soon all our stuff will be made in Russia, for what it's worth lol.
  • Except Russia had nothing to do with the US election. It's a false flag created by the Obama administration . The liberals can't accept the fact that the DNC screwed them by proping up a candidate that was garbage. Had they let bernie Sanders take the nomination, you may have had a different outcome !!!
  • Not the Obama administration. That outfit hasn't amounted to much for at least six months.
  • you're a complete idiot. Typical right wing ****.
  • At least he's not getting Americans killed then lying about it.....
  • Just you wait....
  • I recently purchased a case from the Verizon Wireless store and with in a week there were two cracks. The top right hand side had a slight crack by the camera. The bottom left or right (can't remember) has a small crack. I thought it was just because I took it of that it cracked. No , that was not the problem. I exchanged it for another unit. The exact same thing happens to that case and is like that now. I will he exchanging it for a third one and report if it happens again. These are expensive cases and should be better than that. I feel that the heat from the phone getting cold and hot causes the expansion and contraction of the case causing it to crack.
    As far as the button in the back it works for my uses. It is difficult to push.
  • That a customs issue. Now you might understand why trump will renegotiate things with China
  • No, I don't. Why? It's US Customs, not China's.
  • Ding ding ding.
  • What's a live case??
  • I link to it a couple times in the article :)
  • One that's not dead....
  • It's a case that's not prerecorded.
  • Google constantly shoots itself in the foot when it comes to new smartphone tech. They have these amazing ideas that would be money in the bank if they can just deliver, and then they inevitably fall flat. They argue that the next version will fix the issues of the first, but by then people have moved on and don't trust the product. It's sad because so many of their ideas could be so awesome. Hangouts, Allo, Live Cases, etc.
  • same experience (slightly shorter shimming times though) on my Nexus 6P case.
    Google allowed me to return it, and I have a great Spigen case now
  • Glad they took it in!
  • Not that this fixes poor manufacturing, but tape supposedly works: https://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/4fzj18/i_got_my_google_live_ca...
  • Yeah I figured there'd be some kinda mod to that circuitry in the back to make it work slightly better.
  • If they made those live cases out of china, or maybe something more durable like Corelleware, they might be worth the money. Sucks the cases don't work, but if yer willing to throw money at Google for every new toy they crap out, I've got no tears to shed for you,
  • Wouldn't making them out of china result in a terribly fragile product? Porcelain isn't ideal for this sort of task.
  • I had nearly the exact same delivery experience that Andrew did. Interestingly, I also selected a map image of the Seattle area and I placed my order the day after Andrew did on 10/22/16 and received it on the same day 11/19. I live not too far away from Andrew in the Seattle area and It appears our Live cases were traveling buddies. Every entry in the delivery tracking for my case is nearly identical to the one that Andrew posted (within a couple of minutes) up through the USPS facility in Federal Way, WA. I'm hoping that the Power of Attorney documentation problems with this shipment were isolated to this one batch and this was an isolated occurrence. Either that, or the Chinese manufacturer doesn't like phone cases with maps of the Seattle area on them. Hmm. Fortunately, I have not experienced any issues with the NFC button on the case, but I have not used it a lot.
  • Funny thing, I live in your sister city (Syracuse,NY- as far as weather is concerned) and had the same issue with my Photos Live case being shipped. From what I found out is that whoever is shipping this cases from China, is not including all the paperwork to pass customs in a timely fashion. As far as the problems with the NFC not working right, I had a hard time getting the button to trigger. That was till I put the metal plate from a magnetic mounting bracket behind it. For whatever reason it just works better now with the metal plate.
  • Sister cases just went for a long long ride.
  • What was Google's response when you contacted support over the product you purchased not functioning properly?
  • To wait for the new update that will add more non functioning features!
  • Looks like that case wouldn't protect the face of the phone from a fall anyways.
  • There's a little bit of a lip if you want to put the phone face-down on a flat surface. But no, this is not a big protective case — but I also didn't want a big case for what's already a pretty big phone.
  • I got mine in less than 4 days from when I ordered to Canada. I've got nothing but good things to say about google's logistics operations.
  • Must be nice.
  • Actually, my good sir Andrew, you forgot to say it even went to Japan, too. :-O China, US, Japan, China, US? Yikes.
  • can you watch porn on it? because that would be totally cool.
  • You mean 'Live' porn?
  • And make it a 360 degree video to spin it around any way you wish!
  • I got one for my 6P and one for my Pixel XL. I used custom pictures so I cannot speak to the maps part but each time I got mine within about 10 days and the button for shortcut worked perfectly. I feel this is just one person's crappy experience. Granted the price is really just too high but the ability to pit what ever picture you like into the case makes it hard to resist for me.
  • That's to be expected from Google beta products. Anything not gen 5.0 is still in public retail beta lol. Unfortunately by the time you start to believe they've finally gotten it right the app/product is discontinued... A new app serving basically the same function emerges with a fancy new name - but with a restart of the beta process - bugs, limited features and all.
  • I ordered one when they first came out for my 6p. I didn't have any absurd shipping issues back then. The only issue I had with the case was the NFC button. For me it was way too stiff to trigger the action.
  • Yep, I bought one from Best Buy and had all the problems you described. I returned it after only one day. Completely disappointed.
  • TYPICAL F'ed Up Google! After those A Holes completely hosed all the Nexus 7 series Tablets with all their chit Android OS updates, I learned to NEVER buy anything for those A Holes again! Now you clowns learn that lesson with a crappy little phone case. Live and Learn .... Google is F'ed Up.
  • Lol what is happening.
  • were you born a total Ass... or did it take a life time to figure out,,,
  • Same issue of button very hard to activate! A total piece of ****! I returned it.
  • Let be clear: S:H:I:T!
  • I ordered two for my parent's 5x's... got them in a week. No clue if they work right. They won't care either way. All they'll care about is there granddaughter on the back. 😉
  • I purchased the live case for both my Nexus 6 and Pixel XL... Both look and work flawlessly...
  • It's Google. You're a beta tester. I assumed that you knew.
  • When I ordered mine, for my Pixel XL, it came in less than two weeks and it works perfectly. I don't think you can blame the timeliness on Google either. Do you really think that a product failing customs at some backwoods airport in Kentucky is Google's fault? Lol that's just downright naïve. I think it's a shame yours doesn't work though. Best of luck, maybe return it and have a new one shipped like you would any other product on the market.
  • Also, sorry for accidentally reporting a couple comments, I didn't know what the little triangle was and it has no confirmation. Sorry mates.
  • This article = waaa waaaa waaaaaa waaaaaa!
  • I received my case in a reasonable period of time, especially given the rough estimates from the Google Store, but the NFC button worked only a few times. Totally not worth it. Photo printing quality was okay, but my main issue was not having an extra convenience button. I'm in the process of trying to return it...