Google to tackle the Pixel 2 XL’s display issues with software changes

Over the last week or so, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the Pixel 2 XL‘s OLED display due to the panel’s blue-tint, burn-in issues, as well as unsaturated colors. In response, Google announced on October 23rd that it was actively investigating the complaints. After taking a couple of days to assess the situation, the search giant has posted details on how it plans to fix the handsets display problems. 

One of the first complaints of the Pixel 2 XL’s OLED panel to emerge was that the colors it displayed didn’t exactly pop, instead, users complained that they were muted and dull. It’s well-known that the panel is calibrated to show colors in a more accurate light (sRGB +10%) than one would perhaps see on one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels, but it seems that perhaps Google took it a step too far. While the already present “Vivid mode” increases the color saturation by 10%, it’s not enough of a difference to appease those who like the colors to pop. The default configuration refers to a color temperature of 6700 K which is said to reflect the average midday light in Northern Europe and thus a tad on the blue side of things, perhaps users would prefer the color temperature to better reflect the average midday light in California instead?

One of the upcoming software solutions that Google has announced is called “saturation mode” which promises to make the display appear more like the one seen on the original Pixels. Google has basically said that the standard calibration is due to Android 8 Oreo‘s ability to understand color spaces, thus reading the colors from images and WebP files and displaying them more accurately. The new “saturated mode” will put the display into an ‘unmanaged’ configuration whereby the colors will be brighter and more vivid.

“Color mode is really a user choice. Many users prefer accurate colors; others prefer more saturated colors. What we’ve found is that you can become acclimatized to either.”

While a dull display isn’t to everyone’s tastes, of more serious concern is the issues of burn-in been reported on in the last few days. AndroidCentral’s Alex Dobie tweeted an image showing an alarming instance of screen burn-in on his Pixel 2 XL review unit, with others following up with similar experiences of burn-in and image retention. While these are known issues with OLED displays, it’s unusual to see such issues so soon after 1-2 weeks of use.

For its part, Google is addressing this problem from a couple of directions. After stating that it viewed the display’s aging as perfectly normal when compared to similar panels used in other smartphones, the search giant is planning on remedying the problem via software changes. The ‘fixes’ include reducing the panel’s maximum brightness by 50 nits, introducing a navigation bar that fades out and getting developers to use a white navigation bar in their apps as opposed to the standard black one.

As a further sop to worried Pixel 2 XL (and Pixel 2) owners, Google has also doubled the handset’s warranty from 1 to 2 years. That’s great news indeed and should provide a good amount of reassurance for buyers that are on the fence, worried about the long-term performance of the Pixel 2 XL’s OLED display.

As for the blue tint that people are seeing when looking at the display at an angle, or crushed shadow details, well, Google is yet to discuss those issues. There’s a lot of hyperbole on the internet about the Pixel 2 XL and its display flaws, with some pundits garnering a lot of attention by comparing the situation to the Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year and saying that Google should issue a recall. It’s important to note that the handset isn’t about to explode, blow-up, or turn your mother into a pumpkin at midnight on Halloween. Instead, the Pixel 2 XL display simply has issues, and Google is doing what it can to fix it via software updates and tweaks. As for the blue-tint issues, it may just be a bad batch, as some reviewers have received replacement units which seem to be improved somewhat.

Google has reacted, in a mostly satisfactory fashion. As such, are you more likely to splash the cash on a Pixel 2 XL now, or are you still on the fence waiting for Google to sort out the blue-tint?

Source: Google Product Forums

About the Author: Peter Holden

He's been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being his first phablet. He currently carries a Pixel 2 XL, Huawei P20 Pro, and a Huawei MediaPad M5 (8.4) in his pockets and thinks nothing of lugging a 17-inch laptop around in his backpack. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, he's an avid sports fan, and like all South Africans, he loves a good Braai (BBQ).