Google’s Reliability Issues Continue with Pixel 3

Posted on October 21, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 67 Comments

It’s not another Pixelgate, not yet. But Google’s latest handsets have some serious reliability issues. Fortunately, they seem to be tied to the same problem.

As the temporary owner of a Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3—I’m going to choose between them and keep one—I’m naturally worried about another year of problems. Given the endemic reliability issues with the Pixel 2 XL—I had to exchange mine for a refurbished unit, twice—I assume this concern is understandable.

And any issues with the Pixel 3 family are particularly troublesome because, for the first time ever, the smaller Pixel and the bigger XL model are both basically identical inside. This means that virtually any major Pixel 3 problem, sans something display-related—will impact all Pixel 3 and 3 XL handsets. With last year’s Pixel 2/2XL, each handset was completely different internally, and where the Pixel 2 XL has endemic reliability problems, the Pixel 2 did not.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after the Pixel 3 launch that early users started complaining about two problems that now appear to be related. In some cases, the Pixel 3 will not save photos taken with the camera. And in others, the Pixel 3 seems incapable of even the most basic multitasking functionality; the most obvious example being a music-streaming app like Spotify shutting down, and killing the music playback, when the user navigates to other apps.

Some critics immediately pointed to Google’s decision to include only 4 GB of RAM on its newest flagships in an era when its competitors include 6 or even 8 GB of RAM. And … those critics may have a point. Several prominent members of the Android community (for example here and here) have compared the multitasking performance of the OnePlus 6, with 6 GB of RAM, with the Pixel 3. And the OnePlus 6 has no issues at all handling tasks that trigger app shutdowns on the Pixel 3.

I’m not sure I’ve yet experienced these issues, but I’ve only had the phones for three days. We did use the Pixel 3 XL to stream music to our sun room’s Chromecast-connected speakers on Friday night, and I did use the phone for other tasks at the time and didn’t have any issues. But this is barely anecdotal, let alone “evidence” of anything. So I will try to trip up the phones in my testing going forward.

My guess—and my hope—is that Google can fix this with a software update. But even if this is possible, I feel like this event highlights Google’s ongoing immaturity when it comes to hardware design. And that the firm still hasn’t learned the lessons of its problematic past.


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