Google to Add a New Color Mode to the Pixel 2 XL, Doubles Warranty for Pixel 2/2 XL Owners
Last year, the first-generation Google Pixel and the Pixel XL used AMOLED displays from Samsung. At that time, Google targeted a NTSC colour gamut and Android had no colour management, so all colours looked saturated by default. although the company did provide a sRGB mode in the Developer Options. With this year’s second-generation Pixel 2 phones, Google has chosen different OLED panels for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. While the Pixel 2 uses a Full HD Samsung AMOLED display which is very similar to that of the 2016 Pixel, the Pixel 2 XL uses LG’s new WQHD+ (2880×1440) 18:9 aspect ratio P-OLED display.
The same display is used on LG’s own flagship V30 smartphone (though maybe not the exact same panel, as it’s been reported that color shift is different between the the two phones), but Google has calibrated the Pixel 2 XL’s display in a different way. After the Pixel 2 phones were released, we have seen multiple complaints from users about the display quality of the Pixel 2 XL. The complaints include muted colours, mura grain, black smearing, colour banding, severe blue-tinted colour shift in viewing angles, and burn-in.
Now Google has responded to the display quality complaints in a summarized post as well as an in-depth article titled ‘Diving Deep into the Pixel 2 XL’s Display’ on the Pixel Help forums. Google acknowledged some of the display complaints in the article, though not all of them.
Google will add a new saturated colour mode
According to Google, users’ perception of muted colours was because of Android Oreo’s colour management and default sRGB colour profile. Colour management is a new feature in Oreo, and it makes the display understand the conception of colour spaces such as sRGB, DCI-P3, and others.
The displays on the Pixel 2 (95%) and the Pixel 2 XL (100%) both support the DCI-P3 colour space, which is a wide colour gamut. However, because of Oreo’s colour management system, all native content targets sRGB by default, including web content. The DCI-P3 colour space is only shown to users when an app is specifically tagged for it. For example, Google Camera supports wide colour, but many of Google’s own apps don’t. This means most apps are being rendered in sRGB, which is the industry standard colour gamut.
The problem of perception of muted colours occurred because up till now, OLED displays have had saturated colours by default. This is due to a combination of OLED’s natural wide colour gamut (which is wider than sRGB) and Android’s lack of a colour management system until Oreo.
Samsung and other manufacturers have sRGB modes in their flagship smartphones. Samsung, for example, has had a colour-calibrated Basic mode for years now. However, these sRGB modes aren’t used by default; the saturated mode (such as Samsung’s Adaptive display mode) is used as default, where the colours are saturated and inaccurate with respect to the sRGB gamut. Users who use the default display mode therefore have been used to saturated colours on OLED displays, and it is a polarising change to go back to sRGB’s narrow gamut, even though colours are objectively more accurate. It’s also worth noting that reports have stated that some Pixel 2 XL units are incorrectly calibrated, resulting in under-saturated colours even with respect to a sRGB display.
The company shipped both the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL with sRGB “vibrant” (saturation) mode, which added 10% boost to sRGB and expanded it in all directions to make it slightly more vibrant. However, that wasn’t enough for users who wanted the saturated OLED look on the Pixel 2 XL, so Google has now announced that it will ship another colour mode to the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL, which brings back the saturated OLED colours look.
Google will achieve the saturated OLED colours look in the new Colour mode by stretching all content shown to the native DCI-P3 colour space even if they are not tagged specifically to use wide colour. This will make all colours more saturated, but by making them saturated, they are more inaccurate just like the Adaptive default display mode on Samsung phones. The company stated that this is an unmanaged configuration, and will make things similar to how the original Pixel operates. It also added this colour mode provides choice and users can choose which colour mode they prefer.
Google responds to the burn-in issues
Google has responded to the burn-in complaints on the Pixel 2 XL, which it terms as “differential aging” – a term which includes both permanent burn-in as well as image retention. It stated that extensive testing has shown decay characteristics in the Pixel 2 XL’s display to be similar to other OLED displays. It said the investigation started from October 22 – the day when the first burn-in complaints began to arrive – had confirmed that the aging was in line with premium smartphones and “should not affect the normal, day-to-day user experience of the Pixel 2 XL.”
The company stated that it uses software to “safeguard the user experience” and to maximize the life of the OLED display. In its in-depth article, the company acknowledged that “it may be concerning to see evidence of aging when using a specialized display test app”, so it is taking steps to reduce aging through software.
Specifically, after going through the decisions taken to reduce burn-in while designing the software of the Pixel 2 XL, the company stated that it is currently testing a software update that is intended as protection against the issue by adding a new fade-out of the navigation bar at the bottom of the Pixel display after a short period of inactivity. (This feature was observed in Android 8.1 Developer Preview). Also, Google is working with more apps to use a light navigation bar, a change in UI. Finally, the company mentions that this software update will reduce brightness on the Pixel 2 XL by 50 nits, which “is virtually imperceptible”. This will, according to Google, significantly reduce load on the screen with an “almost undetectable change in the observed brightness.”
The new saturated colour mode, the fade-out of icons on the navigation bar, the increasing use of the white background navigation bar and the reduction in max brightness will be available as a software update to the Pixel 2 XL in the next few weeks, the company stated.
Google’s response to the blue tint colour shift issue
Google mentioned that the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL have been calibrated to a white point of D67 (6700K) rather than D65 (6500K). This is an intentional choice, as according to the company, users perceive the screen more “fresh” this way, even though it does make the display slightly cold.
As for the blue tint, the company stated that it is inherent to the display hardware and “only visible when users hold the screen at a sharp angle.” According to Google, all displays are susceptible to some level of colour shift from off angles due to the pixel cavity design. As users prefer cooler white points, Google once again went with a design that shifts blue. This response does not thoroughly explain why the Pixel 2 XL features a more extreme blue shift when viewing the screen at an angle.
Google doubles warranty for Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners
In the same announcement, Google also stated that it has doubled warranty for Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners. Now, owners of both phones will get two years of warranty, as Google is confident that they “provide an exceptional smartphone experience.”
In an update, the company clarified that users who have already purchased their Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL from the Google Store or an authorized retailer, their warranty will be extended to two years. On an occurrence of mechanical breakdown in the second year, users no longer need to pay a deductible. However, accidental damage is still subject to a deductible.
As for Preferred Care, the length of the program stays the same. If users have already bought the program and want a refund, they can get a full refund on the purchase of preferred care for up to 30 days, or a pro-rated refund anytime after that time period.