Plight of the Pixel


After being a diehard Nexus user, I was disappointed with Google's actions when they discontinued the brand.

The Nexus phones and tablets were embraced by enthusiasts and largely ignored by the general public. That wasn't helped by the fact that buying a Nexus generally meant going through Google and not to your local carrier's store. Further, while later Nexus phones ended up being more than decent, most of the time you could get a better device from Samsung or one of the many other Android device makers — and be able to buy it at retail stores.

However, the Google Pixel rose from the ashes. It's a different angle of attack from the Nexus line, this time Google is going for the premium market, taking a hit at the iPhone. This review from the Guardian sums it up nicely.

The Pixel is an interesting device. A phone designed by Google, the maker of Android. The software side is top notch: the smoothest, newest and best optimised version of Android available at the moment and most probably into the future, what with rapid updates coming straight from Google.

But the phone itself is only up to par with the best of the rest and not leagues ahead. The design isn’t as innovative or interesting as that produced by Samsung. It’s not waterproof, either, and it doesn’t have expandable storage. The camera is great, so is the screen and the build quality is excellent, all things you’d expect from a £600 smartphone in 2016.

If Google’s aim was to beat Apple, it has done so on battery life alone. If it was to challenge the current king of Android, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 line, then the result is less clear.

I didn't want to spend money on a premium glass and metal device that would easily damage and cost me the earth, but I had no choice. I am a Google fanatic at heart, and this is the best Google experience yet.

So I got one, slightly reluctantly.

At first I was amazed. The device was everything you'd expect. My first premium device. Very comparable to the iPhone.

But then the problems arose.

I was at work and plugged my headphones in. The music came out of the phone. I tried again, it found them. The next day the volume turned itself down, and the "OK Google" command kept activating with the headphones. I followed a thread that suggested the Pixel used a different headphone standard. This irritated me, and I couldn't quite understand it considering the headphones worked before and I had made phone calls through them.

It turns out the selected answer in that thread was wrong, by my accounts. I'll go on.

The microphone would stop. A reboot would solve the problem, but not for long. Then the headphone socket would follow suite.

There are are multiple reports of this happening, and Google has since issued a statement:

In other words, the problems with the devices (built in partnership with HTC) are hardware-related, so you can't just install an update to fix them. Luckily for frustrated owners, the company is handling the problem expeditiously. "Google will put a hold your credit card for the replacement and ship you the phone immediately," said Rakowski. "Once we receive the defective phone and verify the problem, the hold will be removed." If you purchased your phone from elsewhere, you're advised to contact the dealer.

So I took it back.

This doesn't bode well for Google, whose Nexus line also suffered from similar quality issues.

EE, my network and phone provider, were incredible over the situation. They took my phone, and swapped it out with a brand new one.

I was hesitant. Surely this would still be from the same batch and have the same issues? But so far, all has been well. The microphone works fine, and the headphones and now behaving, contrary to reports the standard is different.

But it's not great for Google and my experience as a Google admirer. It wasn't fun picking up a device one would expect to be premium and have these issues.

Regardless, it's fixed now and I'm happy, thanks to EE and Google. I'm just weary that it could happen again.

I won't be getting the next iteration, but the one after that I might be in the market for, depending on how well this one ages. Hopefully Google will have sorted out the hardware issues. I would hope they wouldn't need to depend on another manufacturer, as they do with HTC in the current Pixel. Google should really get into the hardware game, and maybe the processor game. It's a joke that Apple has the crown when it comes to hardware performance. Why can't other companies catch up?

So for now, the plight of the Pixel has come and gone. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.