Pixel XL Android 8.1 charging bug is dangerous [UPDATE]

The Pixel 2 XL, for all its impressive features and camera, has been burdened by numerous bugs, none of which, fortunately, are as dangerous as this new one to beset its predecessor. The original 2016 Pixel XL just received its Android 8.1 update a few months ago, but it seems to have received more than what users bargained for. A charging bug experienced by some, but not all, Pixel XL owners leads to an overcurrent that could become a safety hazard if not addressed immediately.

The conditions leading to this bug is still unknown and almost random, making it even more dangerous because of the difficulty in pinning down its cause. Normally, a Pixel phone would draw 18 watts of power (9V/2A) when in rapid charging mode. The bug, however, causes the Pixel XL to draw up to 25 watts (9V/2.8A) which is a dangerous amount of current for a device.

Fortunately, the official Google Pixel charger has a safety mechanism that immediately shuts off the flow when an overcurrent is detected. Unfortunately, the Pixel XL tries again repeatedly to draw too much power before it finally settles down to a safe current. This causes the phone to go in and out of its charging state, which can be extra annoying if you have the charging notification sound enabled.

More problematic, however, are third-party chargers that might not have this built-in overcurrent protection. While it might sound like a case to advise using only official charging accessories, some standards-compliant chargers might still not be able to adequately respond to this situation. You can probably imagine the dangerous events this problem could lead to.

Perhaps even more worrying is that this bug has been reported way back in January and has not yet seen any fix. It might simply be due to the elusive nature of the bug. But some acknowledgment and assurance from Google would go a long way in assuring Pixel XL owners that they haven't been forgotten just because there's already a Pixel 2 XL.

UPDATE: Google has responded to the report, assuring that not only is the fix coming out but that the Pixel, the battery, and standards-compliant chargers all have multiple levels of protection to prevent overheating and overcharging. In other words, that the bug is not exactly a safety hazard at all. Here's the statement in full:

Thank you for submitting information on this bug. Our engineering team has verified a fix that will be rolling out in the coming weeks to prevent this from occurring.

Tests run by our safety engineers have also confirmed that even if a momentary overcurrent draw of the kind described were to occur in normal-use conditions, it would not pose a safety hazard. In addition, Pixel XL was designed with multiple layers of safety protections to further prevent overheating:

1. the phone input circuit is designed to carry more than the observed level of current;

2. both the battery and the phone have multiple layers of protection to avoid battery and phone overheating and overcharging;

3. the in-box charger, as well as any third party chargers that meet safety industry standards (UL and similar), have overcurrent protection.

John McNulty

Head of Safety and Compliance Engineering for Google Consumer Hardware

VIA: Reddit