(Pocket-lint) - The Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch problem on the front of it which you've probably heard about. It's currently the subject of a great deal of discussion among smartphone fans, in a stand-off that has "it's terrible for an £800 phone" on one side to "you probably won't notice" on the other.

It's certainly set the cat among the pigeons in the big wide world of Android and now Google seems to be taking notice, providing the same statement to both The Verge and CNET:

"We designed the Pixel display to have a more natural and accurate rendition of colors this year but we know some people prefer more vivid colors so we've added an option to boost colors by 10% for a more saturated display. We're always looking at people's responses to Pixel and we will look at adding more color options through a software update if we see a lot of feedback."

The issue of the muted colours is the phone's biggest downside for us. The colour tint at less than perfect viewing angles or the grainy looks on white backgrounds in low light conditions aren't unique - in fact they're pretty common if you go looking for them - but the colours to us just look wrong. 

Certainly, we think that the daily experience of using this phone is tempered by the display performance as it currently is.

The interesting part of the statement is that Google says that will "look at adding more color options through a software update", which could be the best software update that this phone ever gets - apart from the one to enable the secret custom imaging chip, of course.

It's also interesting that the "vivid" option is designed to give you a 10 per cent boost. In our review of the Pixel 2 XL, we couldn't see any difference produced by this option, but it leads us to believe that Google knew that the colours wouldn't match other devices and that it needed to offer something.


This isn't about mirroring the vibrancy you get from Samsung' phones. We agree that Samsung's AMOLED display can be too unnatural, but the Google Pixel 2 XL isn't natural. If it was, it would look the same as the Pixel 2, which it doesn't, it's much flatter and more muted when you have to two phones side-by-side. We've compared it to the OnePlus 5, iPhone 8, LG V30, Honor 9 (yes, really) and in all cases, the Pixel 2 XL does not compare well.

Now let's talk about whether this is a problem: some people are saying you won't notice it in normal use. We can't see how that's not true: you notice it every time you look at the app icons and see they're flat, you notice it when you look at your photos or when you scroll through social media. The colours are muted and lifeless.

It might be tuned to be natural, but when you attempt to edit your photo to look its best and then share it, you'll discover that it doesn't look natural at all. This is where the display will flip you entirely though: fire up movies on Netflix and things look much better. We suspect that this display was calibrated for these types of video, but you don't spend all your time watching movies, you do a lot more than just that.

We've also got to consider norms. If you buy the Pixel 2 XL, you'll get used to it and that display will become your normal. As we're sitting here writing this, we know that the longer we use this phone and only this phone, the more normal it will become. We came to the Pixel 2 XL from the Pixel 2 and they're distinctly different (as above). But we've also moved through Samsung's phones, LG's phones, HTC's phones and many others in the past 12 months and we've never seen a colour difference this extreme.

Ultimately, personal taste and what you expect from your flagship phone will pay a huge part in how this affects you, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that Google will push an update to address what seems like a widely held opinion: that the Pixel 2 XL display isn't as good as it should be.

If you're looking to buy one, please go and sample it in a store, so you know what you're getting.

Writing by Chris Hall.