Google Pixel 2 XL was the source of some drama over the last few days, with people calling the display out for being substandard in terms of color and possibly prone to burn-in.
This past Sunday, Google let us know that it was “actively investigating” reports of screen burn in on the Pixel 2 XL. Now, less than a week later, we are learning some of what the results of that investigation are.
Here’s the short version: Google stands by the screen on the Pixel 2 XL, but it is nevertheless going to issue some software updates to expand its color gamut and protect it against screen burn-in.
In a post in the Google Pixel support forums, VP of product management Mario Queiroz had this to say:
Our investigation so far has given us confidence that our displays are as great as we hoped they would be, though we’re also taking steps to address the concerns we’ve heard.
The most important concern: the screen burn-in:
It’s been unclear until now whether the ghost images we’ve been seeing were merely image retention or actual burn-in. If it is the latter, it would be incredibly troubling to see so early in a phone’s life.
Google, however, says that its tests show that the Pixel 2 XL is not any worse than other phones when it comes to burn-in. Burn-in affect every display panel over time, and Google believes that it’s not going to be any worse on this phone than other phones. Nevertheless, the company is going to be issuing some software updates to mitigate any concerns:
Extensive testing of the Pixel 2 XL display show that its decay characteristics are comparable to OLED panels used in other premium smartphones. The differential aging should not affect the user experience of the phone, as it’s not visible under normal use of your Pixel 2 XL. We understand, however, that it can be concerning to see evidence of aging when using a specialized display test app, so we’ve taken steps to reduce differential aging through software.
We’re currently testing a software update that further enhances protections against this issue by adding a new fade-out of the navigation bar buttons at the bottom of the Pixel screen after a short period of inactivity. In addition, we’re working with more apps to use a light navigation bar to match their app’s color scheme. The update will also reduce the maximum brightness of the Pixel 2 XL by a virtually imperceptible 50 cd/m2 (nits), thereby significantly reducing load on the screen with an almost undetectable change in the observed brightness.
There are other concerns with the Pixel 2 XL screen beyond the potential for image retention and burn-in. Namely, Google chose to go with a relatively narrow color gamut by default, so the colors look more muted than Android users are used to.
Still, Queiroz addressed those who are unhappy with the sRGB color gamut Google chose by saying another software update is coming. “Through a software update to Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL,” he writes, “we will soon be adding a new “saturated” color mode.” He then adds:
The saturated mode puts the display into an unmanaged configuration, similar to how the Pixel 1 operates. The colors will be more saturated and vibrant, but less accurate (similar to most other smartphones which display more vibrant colors): we give consumers the option to choose the color saturation.
Some have also claimed the 2 XL’s OLED screen is particularly prone to burn-in, which Google calls “differential aging.” All OLEDs do this, but is the Pixel 2 XL worse? Google says it investigated this and found the rate of burn-in is similar to other premium smartphones.
Google apparently uses software to minimize the effects of burn-in (so does Samsung), and it will continue making adjustments to these features over time. Regardless, Google says not to fret over burn-in.
Google’s fast turnaround on explaining how it sees these screen issues and its promises to release software updates are heartening. It’s a difficult balance the company is trying to strike: standing by the quality of the screen that so many distrust while also offering updates that mitigate those concerns.
In the grand scheme of things, four days to investigate these issues and also to decide on these software updates isn’t very long at all. Unfortunately for Google, those four or so days came right after the Pixel 2 XL went on sale and just as it began shipping, only a week before Apple’s new flagship iPhone X.
Additionally they said:
We’re very confident that the Pixel 2 delivers an exceptional smartphone experience, and to give users peace of mind, every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will now come with a 2-year warranty worldwide.
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