Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google had a bumpy launch of its Pixel 2 smartphone, primarily because of display issues with the Pixel 2 XL. With the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone X available for pre-sale starting at the end of the week, the pressure is on for Google to get past this and ramp up Pixel sales.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse over the weekend. New complaints are surfacing about the Pixel 2 XL display and these may be even worse than poor color reproduction: screen burn-in.
Google is counting on its big investment in hardware to help drive future GOOGL stock growth. However, the Pixel 2 — and in particular the Pixel 2 XL — is the company’s flagship product. If it stumbles, Google’s reputation is going to take a hit and the entire push into hardware could suffer a serious setback.
Google Investigating Pixel 2 XL Screen Burn-in Reports
The Verge reported over the weekend that some Pixel 2 XL displays were beginning to show indications of screen burn-in, where the smartphone’s navigation buttons are usually positioned. This can be a problem with OLED displays. If a static image is displayed over time in the same position, you can still see a faded version of the image permanently “burned” in to the screen. If you remember the early days of PCs and the need for screen savers — the flying toaster that moved around the screen when not in use — that was to prevent screen burn-in.
The issue is back with OLED technology, but manufacturers usually take steps to protect against it. For example, Samsung Electronics automatically shifts the location of the virtual home button on the Galaxy S8 to prevent its image from burning in.
However, screen burn-in is usually something that manifests after years of use. The Pixel 2 has only been in users’ hands for a week, so having multiple reports of screen burn-in already is worrisome. It’s possible the issue may turn out to be ghosting — a similar issue, but one where the effects go away on their own with time — but neither outcome is good news for Google.
AndroidCentral has the problem with their review unit and reached out to Google. The company responded that it is aware of the issue and is investigating:
“The Pixel 2 XL screen has been designed with an advanced POLED technology, including QHD+ resolution, wide color gamut, and high contrast ratio for natural and beautiful colors and renderings. We put all of our products through extensive quality testing before launch and in the manufacturing of every unit. We are actively investigating this report.”
The Latest Pixel 2 XL Display Complaint
If OLED displays are prone to screen burn-in, why tempt fate and use them instead of sticking with LCD?
OLED has a lot of advantages. An OLED display is thinner, lighter and more energy efficient. It can be curved. Consumers love OLED displays because of deeper blacks and more saturated colors that make LCD displays seem dull in comparison. Apple is moving to OLED with the iPhone X for all those reasons.
The Pixel 2 XL display is a POLED unit from LG. It was supposed to be a key selling feature of Google’s big smartphone. However, it’s becoming apparent that going with LG’s technology instead of the AMOLED display from Samsung that’s in the smaller Pixel 2 has resulted in some big headaches.
Google was already dealing with complaints that that the Pixel 2 XL display is muted, suffers from a green cast to its images and shows banding. Throw what is apparently a susceptibility to screen burn-in into the mix and you have the makings of a genuine PR nightmare.
At best, it seems likely to result in a hit through repair or replacement of Pixel 2 XL smartphones under warranty. But there’s potential that all the bad publicity results in poor Pixel sales. It could even damage Google’s hardware reputation, extending to other products like its Google Home smart speakers. Ultimately, the company could be looking at a revenue hit — and the opposite of the intended effect on GOOGL stock.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.