Pixel & Pie – WTF Google!

Google Pixel (Very Black)

After carrying Nexus phones for years I bought a Google Pixel in December 2016. That was just after the Pixel 2 was released, so the older Pixel was priced well and still offered great performance.

I was very pleased with the Pixel until quite recently. The OTA update to Android 9 (Pie) in August has been a huge step backward. Since that update the phone’s battery life has been dramatically reduced. Where it once lasted all day with my typical usage, it now lasts only about 7 hours with only light usage. Further, the phone is often noticeably warm to the touch.

Being the inquisitive sort, I’ve done some experiments to try and find out why this is happening. There are no rogue apps running. Or at least the OS reports no app using more that 2-3% of battery power.

I put the phone in Safe Mode for a day so only the factory installed apps would run. Battery life remained abysmal. That suggests that the problem is not caused by an app at all.

I’ve come to believe that I’ve identified the source of the problem. It’s related to the Wi-Fi. If I turn off the Wi-Fi the battery life is closer to what was experiencing running Oreo. Turn it back on and it plummets.

I created some screen shots to illustrate this assertion. Here’s one that shows the difference in power consumption over the course of a day when I toggle the Wi-Fi.

2018-09-06 16.49.12

And a second that even more dramatic. The short, flat area in the middle of the day is where I turned off the Wi-Fi.

2018-09-09 21.38.51

Google Product Forums

I’ve spend some time in the Google Product Support forums, where I found many people with the same or very similar complaints. I added my experience to their voices.

I came away from that experience completely unimpressed with those forums. Google is apparently using volunteers and providing what is basically community based support. Their “Experts” spout suggestions that often have little to do with trouble at hand. I’m left with the impression that Google is largely ignoring their customers.

Google Tier 1 Support

I bought the Pixel from Google directly so I called them to report the problem. Their phone system was slick. It let me schedule  ca call-back rather than waiting an eternity on hold.

The person who called me back was plainly tier 1. She read from a script. She asked me many things. I had the answer readily at hand as I had already done those experiments to try and understand what was wrong.

After about an hour she reached the end of her process and decreed that she would escalate my case to the next level, which she called Tier 3. (Where is tier #2?) Further, that level was handled by email, and I should expect to receive an email from “Samson.”

Google Tier 3 Support

I think that Samson is a ‘bot. The email arrived as promised a short while later. It was form asking that I create a diagnostic dump and return that information so they could investigate. I did ask they asked.

A few days later, and after further experiments, I also passed the first of the two images above to Samson, along with my believe that the Wi-Fi radio was the source of the trouble. Samson responded, asking for another diagnostic dump, which I was happy to provide.

That was Sept 9. They’re been completely unresponsive since then. Earlier today I again inquired about the state of the trouble ticket.

They’re Silent. We’re Frustrated

The Nexus phones were always something of a test market, to try new things on a group of enthusiasts. In making the transition to Pixel, and jacking up prices, Google are trying to go mainstream. However, my present situation seems to indicate that they’re not adequately supporting the products.

I read people talking about taking action via consumer protection agencies. (Do we still have those?) There’s already been one class action law suit regarding the Pixel. If they want to charge flagship prices they need to step up and support the product. I haven’t had this experience with battery life since my first Android phone, the HTC-made T-Mobile G2. That was a phone that could hardly be called wireless, given how often it had to be tethered to power.

Remember the days of “don’t be evil?” Google should revisit that thought.