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article imageGoogle admits the microphones are breaking on some Pixel phones

By James Walker     Mar 9, 2017 in Technology
Google has confirmed that some of its flagship Pixel smartphones are malfunctioning with "severe" microphone issues caused by small soldering cracks. Formally acknowledging the problem, the company said it'll be offering warranty replacements.
Users have been widely reporting troubles with the microphone arrays on the Pixel and Pixel XL across online forums. Threads on Google's support pages and on Reddit have catalogued hundreds of complaints from people facing the same problem: either intermittent or completely non-existent microphone operation.
In a post on its support forum, Google said that less than 1% of devices shipped to date are thought to be impacted. Only handsets built before January are affected as Google has now remedied the issue in its manufacturing procedures. The mic troubles are caused by hairline cracks in the solder connection to the audio codec.
The tiny cracks can cause the microphone to lose connection with the audio codec. If the crack lines up later, it could temporarily reconnect, explaining the intermittency observed by users. Google suggested the cracks could be caused by temperature changes or dropping the phone, even if no visible damage occurs.
"This problem tends to be transient because of the nature of the crack," said Google. "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."
In some cases, the mic problems are down to a separate issue directly concerning the microphone. In a few rare instances, the microphone itself can fail because its diaphragm gets stuck and stops changing position. More experienced owners may be able to remedy this at home by applying heat or forced air to the microphone.
Google has been aware of the problems with the generally very successful Pixel for some months. After launching in October, the phone has remained hard to find owing to high demand. However, not everyone has been satisfied as the first-generation device has been subject to a range of issues.
Google admitted that replacement phones it shipped to people with mic issues may also have been subject to the problem. It's now pledging to replace devices that are experiencing troubles and has trained its support staff to identify the problem.
If you purchased a Pixel from Google and are suffering from malfunctioning audio, you should contact Google Support and describe what's happening. Google will send you a new phone and put a hold on your credit card for its value. You'll need to return the defective device for inspection, at which point the hold will be removed.
For phones bought from other retailers, Google is encouraging handsets to be returned to the place of purchase. It has informed partners about the issue so store staff should be able to help. If you'd prefer, you can ship the phone back to Google but you won't be sent out a new device until the company has verified it's a genuine handset.
Google has confirmed that the problems are being caused by defective hardware and can't be remedied by a software update. Once the mic starts stuttering or responding erratically, there's little that can be done to restore it to health. The issues are most likely to appear on phones that been used regularly and are a few months old.
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