Google Pixel 2 XL, Round Two

Posted on April 2, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android with 38 Comments

Google Pixel 2 XL, Round Two

Five months ago, I paid $1000 for a Google Pixel 2 XL, and I’ve been living with its various issues ever since. This phone is a failure by many measures: Google’s phones sell poorly and there were so many reported problems with this particular device that I eventually refused to review it.

But that refusal was for you, for readers of this site. There was just no way I could ever recommend a product with that many issues. I knew that I would continue using this handset regardless, and for a number of reasons. Though I’ve spent the first few months of this year considering other phones, including the recently-released (and excellent) Samsung Galaxy S9+ that I’m currently evaluating.

Let me ruin the surprise of my coming review: The Galaxy S9+ is an amazing phone, and it would be a great choice for virtually anyone. For me … it just falls short in a few key areas. Notably low-light photography and Project Fi compatibility. That those are key Pixel 2 XL advantages (for me) is, of course, notable.

So I’m going to give the Pixel 2 XL another chance. And for a number of reasons.

First, I made a few changes that have positively impacted some of the issues I had with the device. Key among them was blowing away the OS so I could install the Android P Developer Preview: this nicely solved, if temporarily, the many performance issues I’d been experiencing. And while it has introduced some new camera instabilities, these are easily solved by restarting the app. I can live with that. (Plus, there will be future Android P previews that should solve this issue.)

Second, I stopped using a case.

I realize that sounds a little goofy. The Pixel 2 XL is sleeker sans-case, which is obvious enough. But more to the point, it feels better—more premium, if you will—without the case. And unlike certain glass-covered handsets, like the Galaxy S9 or newer iPhones, it seems rugged and more able to withstand day-to-day use this way.

Of course, neither of those changes solve the biggest issue I’ve had, which involves audio over USB-C. As you may know, Google controversially (and wrongly) removed the headphone jack from the Pixel 2 XL. But this has caused me all kinds of problems.

I’ve used the Google-supplied USB-C-to-headphone dongle. I’ve bought another one from Google. I’ve tried two other dongles that came with other phones. And I’ve tried two pairs of USB-C headphones. Nothing works: The audio continues to come through the device’s internal speakers. It’s infuriating, and it means I can’t use the Pixel 2 XL when I travel, when I walk and listen to podcasts, or when I’m in the car. It is completely unusable.

(Say what you will about Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack starting with the iPhone 7. But this handset—I have an iPhone 7 Plus—has always worked perfectly well with a dongle. No issues, ever.)

I’ve not had this issue with any other phone, including those that do still include a headphone jack: Audio over USB-C, using the same adapters/headphones, always works.

So today I finally did something I should have done a long time ago. I contacted Google Support. And after a round of troubleshooting that I knew would amount to nothing, they agreed to send me another (refurbished) Pixel 2 XL. It should arrive later this week.

Will this solve my problem? I hope so. Because when it comes down to it, the Pixel 2 XL is otherwise the phone I do want to use: It has the modern form factor I like, the camera I want, and the Project Fi compatibility I prefer. If I had one that just worked, I’d be happy to continue using it going forward. And who knows? I may even review it, finally.

You know, assuming it actually works.


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Comments (38)

38 responses to “Google Pixel 2 XL, Round Two”

  1. Simard57

    seems they all expect you to go wireless instead of using audio jack.

    is there a wired to wireless adapter that can be used with your BOSE headset instead of connecting to the phone?

    • ben55124

      In reply to Simard57:

      I think what you are describing is a Bluetooth receiver. They are typically advertised for old cars /stereo aux, but can be used with 3.5 headphones.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Simard57: There are tons of them. I put a link below to just one such device. (not a recommendation, just representative of style) I even have a couple of these things that came with the headsets to make a wireless-wired set. One was from Nokia as an accessory for Windows Phones. One was a Sony unit that even had FM radio in the receiver piece.

      • Simard57

        In reply to SvenJ:

        sorry to waste other's time - I should have looked that up.

        Seems like a better solution to retain value from investments in high end headphones than using a balky USB connection. Hopefully the replacement phone is does not have the same issues Paul is seeing

  2. briantlewis

    I’m on work Pixel XL2 #2. First had the issue where the screen flashes when you lock it and it wakes up. Replacement doesn’t have that problem. It does have Bluetooth problems though. Listening to it with Bose wireless headphones, I get noise when I tap interface elements (phone is muted).

    It’s a good representation of Android. It is just not a good phone.

  3. Gdogg

    Ok I'm a Pixel user from the first XL to the XL2

    Im on Verizon network and both my phone's NVR had any major problems .

    Well w8t I did have the battery drain issue but they fixed that .

    The camera is top-notch operating system is top-notch I've thrown every thing at this phone and haven't had any lag yet.

    People try and find any and everything to down this device Im speaking about my experience I went from a Galaxy note edge to the original pixel I haven't purchased a Galaxy

    Since ..... ( I mean they brightened screen more with a OTA .......... Much better now )

    ( The Blue screen .... issue was a coating all phone's use it but not as deep they fixed it but I got use to it I think screen is fine . I'm going to end this enjoy any phone that you're using every phone is made different just enjoy what you use don't let someone change your mind because they don't like it )

  4. wolters

    I love my Pixel XL 2 despite the early problems. The only problem I have consistently is wonky Bluetooth. Basically, it occasionally cuts out on my Jeep's Uconnect when other notifications come in while listening to podcasts or music. I have to disconnect and reconnect. Annoying for sure but I can live with that. I never had screen issues with mine though I admit flagship Samsung's have the best screens.

    Bottom line - Camera and Pure Android keep me on this phone.

    I was tempted by the S9+ after seeing the camera specs and reviews. But I just can't go back to "skinned" Android anymore, even if the temptation is great.

    I believe Google is going to right some wrongs with the XL line. I'm going to ride out the Pixel 2 XL as I have high hopes for the 3 XL this fall.

  5. BigM72

    I have read that the Huawei P20 Pro is really good at night-time photography.

  6. Bats

    Paul Thurrott got the weirdest issues. It's not the phone. It's HIM! He's the only one suffering these issues. The guy had serious issues with the Pixel I, which no one in the whole world has experienced. I even started a thread on Android Central telling him about Paul's funny the comments he go on there.

    No one seems to be complaining about this phone anymore. Android Central, a few weeks, praised it saying that NOT EVEN the S9 is as good as the Pixel. The Pixel is still considered the absolute BEST Android phone in the market. If you don't believe, ... google it.

    As for the phone jack...don't need it. Like the notch, it's going to be a new norm. For my listening, I'm using the Pixel Buds, which are excellent BTW, for the gym and causal walking to anywhere. Not just that, but I plan to use them when I go to Asia on business later this year. In case anyone forgot, that bad boy of ear buds translate foreign languages to english. Plus the carrying case allows for a few full charges.

    I also use the B&O headset. It's my headset for my PC (Envy AiO and Spectre X2) and my Android phone. The carrying case allows for (I think) 4 full charges.

    Therefore, people should get with the times and start using wireless earbuds. Not only is it cool and light to wear with no cord dangling in your face, but it will also advance the market for this product category. It's so clear and obvious what's going to happen next and the staff better get their notebooks ready and take notes. Tomorrow (not literally next day) ear buds will probably even last a day or something to the effect where the dependency of wired headsets will no longer be needed.

  7. Purian23

    Paul won't respond to your well thought out comments because #Paul-is-a-Chump campaign is in full effect. He doesn't actually care like he mentions in this article or the one from November saying he can't recommend it.

    Dont be fooled. It's all about the page views, likes and money for this guy. One negative review and he goes bat shit.

  8. rameshthanikodi

    Why do people even bother with Google's phones? Just because they have a great camera? Can you imagine if Samsung shipped a phone without a headphone dongle that works properly? Or even made 1/10th of Google's mistakes? The color coating on the back of the Pixel 2 rubs off on denim. How the hell did this get through?

    This isn't the first time either. Nexus phones are famous for bootlooping and all people did was to blame the hardware manufacturer back then. Nevermind that none of Huawei's other phones have any similar problems.

  9. Winner

    I hate to say it Paul, but have you considered a bluetooth set of earbuds for like $20-$40?

    Probably the reason I've never had problems is that I've been on bluetooth for like 5 years now, so the loss of the headphone jack, and the USB-C audio problems, have never been a problem for me.

  10. TomKer

    I got my Pixel 2 XL when they first came out and it's worked flawlessly the entire time. I guess I'm lucky. The only beef I have is the inability to see the screen in bright sunlight. I just spent a week hiking and kayaking in Florida. We had beautiful sunny weather and it was really difficult to see what I was actually taking pictures of.

  11. skane2600

    I hope Paul can deduct some of these crazy expensive products he buys from his taxes as a business expense.

  12. peterh_oz

    How come you never consider, or review, or even mention, the new Nokia range?

  13. TheSwannyOne

    I'm pretty sure this guys honestly just doesn't know what he's talking about. He said that the S9+ is belad for low-light pictures, and the Pixel is better for them... Except that if you look at any sort of review ANYWHERE, they will all say the exact opposite. Everyone agrees that the Pixel camera is better than the S9+ in every category EXCEPT low-light photos. The S9+ has a variable aperture lens, so it can change how much light comes in... It would be silly to think that a phone designed for low-light does a bad job at like this guy said.

    Also, I love how his phone gets a legit hardware issue that he could have NFC'd for a refund (the usb-c audio) but instead of doing that, just decides not to ever listen to music and then complain about it to a bunch of people on the internet. My first Pixel 2 XL had a bad speaker, but I just returned it and got a brand new one within 2 days. The process was really easy and I'm understanding of the fact that companies will have hardware bugs in some of their products. It happens. Doesn't help anyone by not doing anything about it and then complaining.

    Lastly, this guy is just frustrating in the sense that he is talking about how little he enjoys this phone, while he still chooses it above all other phones. This review could have made all the same points, but with a positive tone, instead of a whiny negative tone. I'm new to this site, Paul, but please try to write future reviews in a more factual manner, instead of a subjective whiny one.

  14. ThatGuyYouKnow2

    Wait, what you just decided to contact support? Uh do you even understand technology, and mass production devices? Even Samsung has issues, I had to get a refurbished S7 Active, but the experience was on par and support was great. So Google support troubleshooting, oh you may have a defective USB-C audio connection, let's send you a new one. I love my Pixel 2 XL, and honestly I've never tried the USB to TT headphone adapter, my Pixel Buds work just fine, along with the $20 Amazon knockoffs I have. Car and everything else has Bluetooth, and I gladly give up the built in jack for the IP67 water resistants. Sorry about your luck... SMDH...

  15. B Mallon

    How can you not have a case on the phone? The phone is super slick. Several times it almost hit the floor when I pulled it out of my pocket without a case. After testing a few cases I chose the Speck Presidio Grip, which covers the phone nicely and provides solid grip when handling the phone.

  16. Brazbit

    Should be interesting to see how it works for you the second time around. I recently had to replace my phone and was seriously considering both the S9 and Pixel 2 (both versions of each) and ended up going with the Sony Experia XA2.

    A third of the price, more than a minor upgrade in performance from my previous phones and it feels better in my hands than either of the other two (4). It ticked the boxes on some of my must have features (Headphone jack, SD expandability, not a glass back) plus it had something I thought had died with Windows Phone... A dedicated camera button.

    Is it as feature packed as the other 2 (4)? No.

    Are there any features missing that justify an additional $600+? No.

    Even though I didn't go down the Pixel path this time, I'm still interested to hear what you think about it. I have to support a wide variety of phones and keeping up on the real-world features, functions and follies of the major models is valuable to me.

  17. GT Tecolotecreek

    Just imagine the outrage from the fandroids and iHaters if Steve Jobs had said for your iPhone to work you can't use a case! The internet would break. Paul couldn't help but rant about the cost of the iPhone X, $999, oh my gawd. But for his beloved Pigel 2 XL, which is an really an over priced mid-range phone with a lot of problems, no problem. A fool and his money are soon parted.

    Your rationalizations about this phone have gotten to the point of being funny joke on you!

  18. JerryH

    I was worried about the lack of a headphone jack at first. But I've had mine since the order page first went up and haven't had any reason to plug headphones into it yet. I haven't tried the USB-C adapter. Perhaps it is as awful as what Paul has found (or maybe the phone is indeed bad and the replacement will fix it). But for those of us that don't need it, that suddenly becomes a non-issue. It connects Bluetooth to my car. I got some Treks Titanium BT headphones as a gift and I just use those. Previously I would go on walks, pull weeds, etc. with wired headphones and always deal with the silly things getting pulled (even when routing the wire down my shirt). But with the BT, no problem. Obviously if your vehicle doesn't offer BT then this isn't the phone for you. But for many folks that isn't an issue. The other parts of the phone are really good. Haven't seen any of the supposed screen issues on our phones (myself, my wife, her mom).

  19. starkover


    WRT your preferences on the low light camera issue, I see neither phone as lacking. You can take the low light pictures you prefer with either phone, and you can take the low light pictures with the more even illumination with the Pixel. It just requires changing a setting. The pixel defaults to the darker looking photo, the S9 the brighter.

    To those that would reply but we want to just point and shoot, fine choose based on the default setting. I would call the low light shot that Paul seems to prefer an "effect" or mood shot, and looks great in some shots. To me the default should be the way the S9 handles it, because most low light shots are snapshots, and full illumination is more appropriate. Obviously YMMV.

  20. toph36

    I have a Pixel 2 XL. I mostly use Bluetooth earbuds. I have had some issues with the connections, but simply turn off the Bluetooth, then back on again. I have used the dongle with my wired earbuds and don't remember it being a problem, but I just tried it and I have the same problem! I would be upset too if I spent $1,000 on the phone, but between the Verizon discount and a Target gift card, I spent around $450. Still, hopefully they resolve the issue for the times my Bluetooth earbuds run out of battery and I need to fall back on the wired earbuds. Been satisfied with the phone overall, but getting it at a lower cost is a big factor in my satisfaction. Wouldn't be as happy spending $1,000.

  21. dcdevito

    I had the same USB dongle issue, but a cold restart fixed it, and luckily it never came back. It's not a perfect phone, but it's the best software experience I can get (without going back to an iPhone). So I kept it and glad I did. The one remaining issue I have is with Android Auto disconnecting, but after many trials and tribulations I think I finally solved the issue. So right now I'm happy with it.

    • MarkG

      In reply to dcdevito:

      I too have experienced the Android Auto disconnects with the Pixel 2XL - would love to hear what you feel solved the issue for you. Otherwise it has been a very solid device for me.

      • dcdevito

        In reply to MarkG:

        I tried 4 different cables, and after doing tons of research on the issue in Google's product forums, XDA forums, Reddit, etc - the most plausible issue seems to be power related, and how the phone draws power in weak(ish) cell network areas. Phones draw more power inside weak cell areas, higher current draws can cause voltage levels to sag. If voltage sags, it could (theoretically) cause an interruption in a USB data connection.

        So after 4 different cables I settled on my wife's Nexus 6P cable along with a ferrit core choke, and keeping the phone on the passenger seat (2017 Honda CR-V) I was able to drive to work and back (150 miles) without a disconnect. I was getting, on average, 3-4 disconnects each commute. It was quite irritating.

  22. JacobTheDev

    I've never had any trouble with USB-C audio on my Pixel 2 XL, I'd bet money it's a hardware issue with your particular device. Hopefully the refurb solves that! I've also heard that devices manufactured more recently typically have better screens, will be interesting to here if that's the case for you.

  23. Nicholas Kathrein

    I've been lucky. I've had hardly any issues with my usb c port and earphones but the few times I have it sucks especially if you're around people as the sound comes out the phone. I do use earphones daily to listen to hrs of podcasts so I use it a lot but only have an issue a few times and once where it took one or two times of re plugging in the dongle. I think paul has either a bad hardware or the dongles aren't as robust as they need to be and break down over time if you're not careful with them. I'd bet the usb c dongle is no where near as reliable as a standard earphone jack.

  24. Polycrastinator

    It's funny, I really mourned the loss of the headphone jack, but even having one on my phone, the truth is that I haven't actually used it in a year. I have Bluetooth headphones, and Bluetooth in my car, and I cast music in my house.. I just never use it, any more.

  25. Stooks

    It is simply SAD that Google can't release a great phone and it is 2018. It just seems like most of their products it is simply half hearted and honestly a confusing mix of the old way and many new ways (Android messaging, video/music apps/offerings.)

    I would never own a Android phone again for privacy reasons and is Android the future or Chrome OS or their new Fuchsia?? Also how will the recent legal loss to Oracle around Java impact all of it. It is quite a mess, especially from a consumer perspective.

    I got a iPhone X they day it came out. Costly yes, but the best phone I have had hands down. Face ID is fast and way better than finger print ID. I have not really had any problems. Its camera for my use is just as good as any cell phone camera and I use a real camera when I want great pictures.

    • PeteB

      In reply to Stooks:

      You're kind of all over the road there with the rambling thoughtsalad.

      Pixel 2 XL is actually a great phone, camera blows away iPhone hate to say. IPhone is also great if you don't mind the Apple straightjacket. I prefer being able to modify and do whatever I want with my phone.

      And if you don't think Apple data collects everything, dreaming. All these companies do it. At least Google is up front about using it for ads. Apple and MS do it sneakily.

      • jedwards87

        In reply to PeteB:

        I am going to disagree with you. I'm a Pixel 2 user myself however I also own and use an iPhone X. The Pixel 2 camera is awesome and I agree it is better than the iPhone but it does not by any means BLOW the iPhone away. Lets not get carried away with being close minded.

        Also, yes Apple collects data but not for the same reason Google does. There is a big difference in the why/how it is used but I am sure you already knew that and just refuse to accept they have difference business models.

      • Stooks

        In reply to PeteB:

        Thoughtsalad hahaha.

        Basically my point is Paul is having loads of issues with this phone. I had a Nexus 6 and it was a bug fest. I had friends with the 5x that had to return them multiple times. Google is not good at hardware. Getting a fix from Android P beta is not great especially if your on a phone (non Google) that won't get that update anytime soon or if EVER.

        Google is fantastic at collecting data and has a whole host of free tools that do this for them. Most of those tools are decent.

        Google is NOT great at sticking too things and their message as to their roadmap is completely messed up. Are you using Youtube? Or Youtube Red to watch video? No you are using Youtube TV you say or Google Play video to rent that movie??? Inbox or Gmail? DUO or Allo, or hangouts? No Android messenger.

        The average user won't be able to tell the difference between a pixel or X when it comes to camera's. They will be able to tell the difference from a dedicated camera and any cell phone camera.

  26. Pbike908

    I have a Galaxy S8 and I really like it! The camera is way good enough for me. One of the big reason I bought it is because of the headphone jack.

    I can't understand why Android manufacturers won't standardize on a DAC for USB Type C headphone is they are so hell bent on getting read of the the headphone jack.

    I would probably go back to Apple as their lightening earbuds are inexpensive and can be found anywhere which is important to me if I lose or one breaks as I am always doing outdoor activities while traveling in remote places.

  27. dietzeld

    I bought a Pixel 2 XL a couple weeks ago and have had no issues with the dongle, or Bluetooth or anything else. The camera is phenomenal. It consistently knocks my socks off. The handset is super fast and all the Google apps work together as intended. The screen has that slight blue tint if viewed at an angle, but I don't use my phone by viewing it at an angle so for me it's a non-issue. I have Project Fi (eSim) and T-Mobile (hard SIM) both and put Fi on pause when not traveling. I suspect that the early factory runs had quality control issues. I do agree that dropping the 3.5 mm headphone jack was stupid.

  28. Daekar

    You stopped using a phone case?

    Damn, and I thought you wanted to SAVE money by using the Pixel/Fi combination. Maybe your fingers don't tend to be as buttery as mine, but if I stopped using a case I'd be buying a new phone two or three times a year - the concrete floor at work just demolishes things that fall on it, let alone the asphalt in the parking lot.

    I honestly don't understand the Project Fi thing. All the major domestic carriers have arrangements where you can have decent service while traveling internationally, you just arrange for that service before the trip. Is it really worth dealing with Fi just for that periodic convenience?

    That stinks about the sound issues, though. I prefer Bluetooth for the convenience (and I can't detect the quality decrease that I am told exists across that protocol) I would be hopping mad if I couldn't use the connectivity of my choice on a $1000 phone. Glad you're getting a replacement.

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