Update (5/23/2018): while the video recording issues seem to have been resolved, there is still no USB audio dongle that works well with this phone, according to the long-running xda-developers dongle testing thread, full of people who are still tirelessly searching for one that does.
Original post (12/1/2017):
I returned a phone for the first time today. And I’ve had every Nexus and Pixel phone since the Galaxy Nexus.
I abided Google’s usual launch issues. The screen complaints, with reports of burn in and significant blue shifting when you look at the phone at an angle.
But two issues took the cake:
Terrible USB audio.
Google shipped this thing with a dongle that is set by the Android OS to have maxed out digital gain, causing major distortion which can’t be fixed unless you root and install a third party control app. Of course, rooting breaks things — important, useful things, like Android Pay, so your only alternative is buying a third party DAC, like the Dragonfly Red ($198).
Setting aside the gobsmacking fact that I had to spend that much money to listen to this phone, it didn’t even fix the issue. The problem? Digital gain again — this time, set too low for the Dragonfly, again decided by the Android OS. So the Dragonfly sounded faint, even at max volume. And of course, once again, digital gain can’t be adjusted, unless you root. Oh, and you get to have this dangling out of your phone:
Oookay, I thought. I can almost live with this or at least keep trying to find a DAC dongle that works.
But then, the nail in the coffin:
This phone can’t take videos
I woke up the morning of Friday October 29 to a message from my best friend. “Afik,” he said. “Want to go on an adventure?”
Turned out, the adventure was Something Wicked in Houston. I looked at the lineup. What could possibly be interesting enough to go to Houston for a weekend rave? Oh. Wait. Above & Beyond? Solarstone? Cosmic Gate?
I booked a flight.
It was a great weekend.
And as per usual, I took some awesome videos of the highlights.
This is how they sounded.
That’s Armin Van Buuren’s ‘Sunny Days’ and it’s not supposed to sound so tinny and compressed. Turns out, the Pixel 2XL has a well-documented bug related to noise reduction when recording video audio. I only discovered this when I attempted to watch my videos from the trip.
Google, pledging a fix for this, released the November update to much fanfare. I installed it, and then recorded this:
And that’s how the Pixel 2XL became the first phone I ever returned. I packed it up, moved all my data back to my trusty old Pixel XL, and shipped it off. To Google’s credit, the full refund posted to my account the moment I dropped it off at UPS.
Why is Google so bad at hardware? I remain loyal to the Pixel/Nexus brand, and will likely buy the Pixel 3/3xl when it comes out. But how can you hope to be more than a niche phone manufacturer when every release is bogged down with delays, hardware malfunctions, and software bugs?