Google says it made changes to its manufacturing processes in February to ensure replacement Pixels don’t display the same microphone problems.


Image: James Martin/CNET

Hundreds of Pixel and Pixel XL owners have joined a thread on Google’s support forum to complain about broken microphones.

The first Pixel owner reported the issue in October last year, claiming that the mic on his brand-new Pixel stopped working entirely within a few hours. The list now has hundreds of posts from November to March, detailing a variety of frustrations caused by broken mics.

Obviously, with a broken mic users can’t ask Google Assistant questions or be heard when making calls. Some report the mic working in some circumstances but not others and, bafflingly, in some cases the mic doesn’t work and then for no apparent reason fixes itself.

Some Pixel owners are mad at Google’s initially haphazard response, which it now appears to have under control, but not before a growing number of demands from customers for Google to replace the faulty devices.

The company began investigating the Pixel mic complaints in January and by late February had a detailed explanation for what’s causing the problems. But even though it did eventually offer to replace phones, a Google employee confirmed that some replacement Pixel devices had the same problem. Several owners reported replacement Pixels with broken mics.

However, Google says it made changes to its manufacturing processes in February that ensure replacements don’t display the same problem. Still, one owner reported a replacement received in March had the same problem.

According to Google, Pixel and Pixel XL devices have been displaying problems with one or more of the three microphones and there are several potential root causes.

“The most common problem is a hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec,” wrote Google employee, Brian Rakowski.

“This will affect all three mics and may result in other issues with audio processing. This problem tends to be transient because of the nature of the crack. Based on temperature changes or the way you hold the phone, the connection may be temporarily restored and the problems may go away. This is especially frustrating as a user because, just when you think you’ve got it fixed, the problem randomly comes back.”

Google estimates the problem occurred on less than one percent of Pixel phones made before February, with the issue usually surfacing after a few months of use. Problems with the flawed mic may have been set off by dropping the phone in a way that doesn’t cause visible external damage, but breaks internal components.

Some devices have a faulty microphone, and Rakowski points out that the “hairdryer trick” can fix it because the issue may be caused by the mic’s diaphragm becoming jammed. Blowing hot air on to the affected mic can free it. However, Rakowski doesn’t recommend that Pixel owners try this technique.

Google has ruled out software bugs as the source of the mic problems.

Owners affected by the mic issues on devices purchased from Google are advised to return them to the company. Customers who bought phones from a third-party retailer will get a replacement more quickly if they return them to the shop where they were bought.

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