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. 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.
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 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.
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.
Reading through the Google Play Store reviews (totaling a 3.2 rating) of the My Live Case app 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.
Be an expert in 5 minutes
Get the latest news from Android Central, your trusted companion in the world of Android
Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.