The Google Camera app, exclusive to the company’s Pixel phones, has recently seen a number of star stars on the Play Store. In fact, the overall rating has dropped over the past year and a half from 3.8 stars to 3.3, and details in the majority of complaints may indicate that the well-known Pixel camera build is spreading to affect more devices. However, Google tells us that there are no known app or software issues related to the issue, suggesting that the apparent increase in customer complaints is due to hardware damage.
For context, the last year or so reports of problems with the Pixel 2 and 3 Series cameras have increased, and the problem means that it is not a software problem. For some, the rear-facing camera simply stops working, either showing a black screen when the app loads, spitting an error message (like the one below) or crashing completely. The problem may be consistent, or the camera may occasionally operate for short periods. The issue affects both the first-party Google Camera app and third-party apps from Snapchat to Duo when trying to use the rear camera. Troubleshooting steps such as wiping app data, factory reset, and even rolling back system software appear to be unable to resolve the issue.
One symptom of the problem in Google Camera, but it also affects third-party apps.
Some customers thought that a software update triggered the issue, as many reports claim that the issue only appeared immediately after an update. Others theorized that although software changes were not directly responsible for the inconsistent errors, it is possible that something else happening at the same time may be – phones tend to get hot while installing major updates. However, these claims can simply be a result of timing; Pixels get more updates than basically any other Android phone, and people like to blame for updates in general when things go wrong as a more visible trigger for change.
Finally, we still do not know what the cause is. Some claim that placing a magnet near the camera can fix it for a short time, which may indicate a hardware failure. In any case, it seems that the volume of reports is increasing.
The primary thread of affected customers on the Pixel Phone Help forums has received 800 comments, and around half of the recently submitted reviews on the Play Store seem to mention symptoms associated with the problem. This in itself is hardly a scientific calculation, but paired with the general decline in the app’s rating from 3.8 stars to 3.3 since October 2019 and a sample of previous reviews for those who mention similar symptoms, and complain about the problem looks to be picking up.
Play Store rankings have dropped over the past year, and reports are increasingly mentioning this issue.
Most reports called a device call out Pixel 2, which seems to be most affected by this issue, but there are some reports for the Pixel 3, 3a and 4 series as well. Although we’ve been following reports since it started affecting more devices last year, it does not appear that newer Pixel devices are affected (yet?).
We contacted Google for more information about the issue and if anything new has emerged about the issue, and we are told that there are no known app software or OS software camera stability issues that could be causing these issues on Pixels. Instead, the company offered hardware failure as a potential explanation – either due to wear and tear over time, or abuse such as physical damage or fall. Paired with Pixel’s standard update plan, a hardware issue can be blamed for the more visible software changes, even if there is no connection. The company invites interested parties to contact Google Support to explore their options.
In the past, those affected by the issue that are still under warranty have received RMA replacements, but you may be less fortunate if your phone is outside that support window – even though Google has been known to make exceptions.
- Play Store; Twitter; Pixel Phone Help Forum: (1),
- Reddit: (1),