Google Pixel 2 XL will include a two-year warranty to "give users peace of mind" about the alleged display issues

Google pointed out that it puts its products through an ‘extensive’ quality assurance test before the launch of the device

Google has issued a statement in response to the number of problems that Pixel 2 XL owners have complained about over last few days. The company took to its ‘Pixel User Community’ on the Google Products Forums to address the problems while clarifying certain points.

Image credits: Google

Image credits: Google

For the uninitiated, early adopters of Google’s latest flagship devices, the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL had reported a number of problems with the display of the devices. The bulk of the problems reported by users was limited to the Google Pixel 2 XL. The company did not issue any comment when reports started popping up on the internet. However, as the complaints continued to mount and gain momentum even before the launch of the devices, Google stepped in.

One of the major problems reported by people was the screen burn-in issue of the pOLED screen panel on the Google Pixel 2 XL. Burn in is a form of image retention, where the individual pixels on the screen retain a persistent state. The image gets "burnt in" if you will. UI elements like the home and back buttons, for example, are always in the same location. These can get "burnt in" and the pixels will refuse to switch to a different state. You'll always see a ghostly outline of the home and back buttons.

All display units suffer from burn in because of a phenomenon labelled as 'differential aging'. Normally, this process should take years, on the Pixel 2 XL, it appears to be happening in weeks.

Google Pixel 2 XL 16x9

The second issue reported by Pixel 2 XL users was the fact that the colours on the display were looking dull and were not as vibrant or saturated as they would have hoped for. Other reports included problems like a blue shift on the display, where there was a blue tint on some of the displays when viewed from even a slight angle.

Google has issued a response to the first two problems in a small post and a detailed explanation on how the colour rendering functions on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL displays.

Screen burn in issue

Google claimed that is has been investigating the problem ever since ‘the first user report' on 22 October. The company pointed out that it puts its products through an ‘extensive’ quality assurance test before the launch of the device and while manufacturing ‘every unit’. Google clarified that the characteristics of the decay reported by the users are similar to other OLED panels used in the industry. Seang Chau, Vice President of Engineering at Google added that all OLED displays come with both short-term image retention and burn-in, which also known as permanent image retention ‘over their life’. Google claims that their investigation has led them to conclude that the Pixel 2 XL's displays are functioning just as well as any other display on competing devices.


He added that Google has designed the UI of the Pixel 2 devices in such a way so that users are not able to spot the image retention even if it happens. He stated that the company has continued to improve the UI, pointing at the ‘fade-out’ navigation buttons with the newly launched Android 8.1 Developer Preview. The company is working on a new update with a number of such changes, along with the reduction of maximum brightness in the Pixel 2 XL by 50 nits. The company explained that this should not affect ‘normal, day-to-day user experience’ of the device.

Google added that it uses software to maintain a balance between user experience and maximum life of the pOLED panel used by the company in the Pixel 2 XL. However, the interesting thing to note here is that ‘to give users peace of mind,” Mario Queiroz, Vice President of Product Management at Google Hardware announced that all Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL devices will come with a two-year worldwide warranty instead of the usual one-year warranty.

Dull colours on the screen

A number of Pixel 2 XL users complained that the colours looked muted when compared to display from other flagship devices from the competition. The company pointed out that this is because of the fact about how Google has calibrated the screen for natural and accurate colours. To elaborate, Google pointed out that Android versions before Oreo did not support wide-colour gamut. Most smartphone displays are calibrated using the sRGB colour profile. OLED displays support a wider gamut than sRGB, and the pOLED panel in Google Pixel 2 XL supports the P3 colour gamut. The sRGB gamut covers only around 70 percent of the gamut covered by P3.

sRGB colour space is marked as the black triangle while the P3 colour space is marked as yellow triangle. Image credit: Google.

sRGB colour space is marked as the black triangle while the P3 colour space is marked as yellow triangle. Image credit: Google.

The company pointed out that before Oreo, Android was not aware of the colour space of the content or the display of the device. Because of this, sRGB encoded content on a P3 Display resulted in the display reinterpreting the sRGB content into wider gamut colour by stretching the colours of the device. This boosted the rendered colours on the screen by increasing the saturation of the final rendered content. The final image may look saturated with ‘popping’ colours but the thing to note here is that the stretching of the colours is incorrect. The content designers can’t calculate how the stretching of colours is done, which results in hundreds and thousands of phones with inaccurate and saturated colours. This issue specifically affects OLED displays more than it does LCD panels.

Oreo 8.0 on Pixel 2 XL supports wider colour spaces and is aware of the colour spaces defined by designers in the properties. The OS then renders wider colour gamut content with accuracy in colour reproduction making users think that accurate colours are muted. Android app developers can opt-in for the wide colour gamut support on P3 display panels but that will arrive soon. One thing to note here is that even Google apps don’t take advantage of wide colour gamut rendering on P3 displays and this support will come ‘in the future’.

Android O. Oreo

Android O. Oreo

The Pixel 2 XL comes with the sRGB colour rendering out of the box and 10 percent more colour support in every direction to ensure that the colours are more vibrant in terms of display tuning in the ‘Vivid’ mode on the smartphone. However, Google notes that the colour mode is more of a user choice as some people prefer accurate colours while the others prefer saturated colours. Google pointed out that it will add a more saturated colour mode in the display options for users to choose from making the colour rendering less accurate but more vibrant.

Other issues

Google did not address other problems like the blue shift of the screen but pointed out that is taking the feedback from its customers to ensure that it can fix the issue with upcoming software updates. Given that the blue shift is likely a hardware issue, we're not sure how that would help.

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