Google responds to Pixel 2 XL display concerns; software update to correct some issues
Google is standing by OLED displays it has used in the new Pixel phone, and believes software updates will solve what are otherwise perceived as shortcomings
Within a week of Google confirming that it was indeed assessing the complaints specific to the OLED display quality of the Pixel 2 XL phone which reached first-batch early adopters globally, the company has shared its findings on the investigations done thus far. The issues included some burn-in seen on many devices, as well as complaints about dull colours. Simply put, Google still stands by the displays it is using on the Pixel XL. However, to address the user feedback, Google says it will be releasing a software update to tweak the way the display works, and add new functionality.
The issue of screen burn-in was perhaps the most important one to look at. Whether it is actual burn-in on the display, or simply image retention due to incorrect calibration, it is always a bit worrying to see some discolouration on parts of the screen. This happens when the pixel use isn’t uniform or when the display isn’t optimized to handle a static image for long durations of time. “We’ve received reports of Pixel 2 XL devices exhibiting image retention on the screen and have been actively investigating them. 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," says Seang Chau, vice-president, engineering, Google, in an official statement. However, if you use specific display testing apps for Android, the phenomenon becomes apparent. Google will be releasing a software update to tweak the way some elements show up on the display of the Google Pixel 2 XL smartphone. There will be a new fade-out element added for the navigation bar buttons which sit at the bottom of the display—and are one of the few static elements irrespective of whichever apps you use. “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," says Chau.
There were also complaints about the fact that the Pixel 2 XL’s display is not as saturated as some rival phones. Google tries to clarify that the way this OLED display is calibrated is actually correct and more accurate than other phones’ displays which reproduce richer colours. This OLED screen uses the P3 colour gamut, which is not only generally more accurate than the sRGB standard that most other phones use, but can also reproduce more colours.
What happens in other phones is that without colour management, Android passes an image encoded in sRGB through to the display, without realizing that the screen is capable of reproducing even more colours than the image may originally have. This means that the colours in the image are tweaked to look richer on this wider gamut display—it is also known as “stretching" the colours. However, this may not always be accurate. As it is with Android 8.0 (Oreo), the operating system knows the capabilities of the display and doesn’t automatically boost colours, thus giving the look of a more subdued display. Without getting into more technical complications about colour gamuts and calibrations, we will just say that on paper, Google does have a point. However, to calm down users who still want a display that “pops out", there will soon be a software update for the Pixel 2 XL which will add a colour mode that will allow users to experience richer and boosted colours on the same screen.
While we know the software updates are coming soon, the precise dates are not confirmed yet. Google says that the updates will be rolled out in the “next few weeks", though it is not clear whether the two fixes will be rolled out at the same time or as different updates.