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Thursday, June 29, 2017

First Impressions: Google's Silver Metal & Ivory Glass 128 GB Pixel XL

Pixel. Phone by Google.
Pixel
Phone by Google
I am going to be straight with you, I honestly expected more from Google.

I have customized my personal Pixel XL, and I really like how there is room for 5 rows of 5 icons (or 1 x 1 widgets) in the UI. 
Yesterday, my 128 GB silver Pixel XL arrived (the new phone by Google).  But my first impression was of shock and disbelief.  It doesn't look silver at all, except the trim.  It looks a very girlie ivory white.  In fact, it looks like a carbon copy of an iPhone, without the big round button in the center of the bottom bezel (when holding the phone upright in portrait mode).

I never wanted an iPhone, I probably never will, unless I wind-up with more than a few phone lines, one day.  This really is a heartache.  I am hurt that Google went there, I am troubled that all of the marketing and media that I viewed prior to preordering this iPhone lookalike showed a silver metal frame phone with light gray glass.  I feel as if I am a victim of the old bait and switch.

It just, it looks like an older iPhone, with no special anything.  That isn't a bad thing for an iPhone, but I never wanted such a device.  I like the android platform.  I want it to be different, which is not unlike all of Google's Android platform marketing. But, this is neither different, individualistic nor even pretty.  It's just the same crap.  It's been over done, even iPhone has moved on.  It's crap.

To think I have been waiting on this blah looking gizmo with great anticipation for about 2 months or more since I preordered it, and this is all I got?  I expected so much more.

<rant>
I suppose it didn't help that the stupid FedEx driver was in such a hurry to get done with his shift, that he didn't even bother knocking on our door.  He just stuck the delivery tag on the front door (directly next to the sign that said "Door bell doesn't work, Knock LOUD, please."  I was in the next room reeling an orange over the sink.  I had just left the front room, came back with my peeled orange, and spotted the tag on my door.  I HATE our FedEx driver, now.  No FedEx driver will ever receive a Christmas tip from my entire family anytime in this lifetime. I will never use FedEx, ever, no matter how desperate I get.  The delivery driver just booked back to the depot and left me still waiting and calling them, complaining.  It was even a couple more hours before they called back and it was sorted-out that I had to come and pick it up there at the FedEx office.  And I had been waiting there all day, not picking up my car from the shop, to take delivery.  What a rotten service!
</rant>

It may not have helped that I have been waiting on this 'Very Silver' 128 GB Pixel XL model for two months since ordering it, and was supposed to receive it on the 19th of November.  The delivery date kept getting pushed back, and the very last I heard, I wouldn't get it until January 17th, 2017. That was so depressing. It seems like I have been waiting on it for forever, ever since I surrendered my Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (back in September, or maybe early October).

Now, that Note 7 was a very pretty phone.  Too bad it wasn't a very good Note platform phone, as when you used the SPen (a hypersensitive multi-pressure scribe), the curved glass edges became an obstacle that hindered my art and even harassed me with my note-taking.  It was really just an explosive gimmick with no business in a business environment, nor in a creative market.  But enough about that catastrophic failure, back to the Pixel XL...

A Highly Anticipated Phone & the Big Deal...

Pixel XL and Daydream View product boxes.
My Pixel XL and Daydream View product packaging.
As I have said, it seemed to take forever to arrive.  And Google kept pushing the delivery date out.  So, I was absolutely surprised to get the phone when I did, I think it was the twelth of December when it arrived.  It was supposed to be here the 19th of November.  Then pushed back to December 26th.  Then January 17th.

Perhaps this was all a mind-game that Google, or Verizon, was playing on me, thinking I'd be happy to have it late if they acted like it was really early?  It was late, Google.  It was late, Verizon.  By the time I actually received it, the promos that I had signed-up were well hidden on the site, because they were so old.

Of course, the Pixel XL arrived first.  I wasn't even allowed to get my bonus Daydream View for preordering the Pixel until it arrived.  Then, I could enter in the IMEI numbers on the Verizon website that were required to get the Daydream View as a bonus.

I even had to wait for my Pixel XL to arrive just to trade-in our older Galaxy S3 to knock the payments down a bit.  But that was a good deal for us, it reduced the payment down to just under what I was paying for the Galaxy Note7 that I had to surrender.

What's in the box?


Inside, there is the Pixel, wrapped in a frosted plastic protector.  Mine was wrapped rather loosely, so I wonder if someone else didn't like the color and returned it, so I wound-up with it (and I still don't like the color, but got it 2 weeks before Christmas, so I didn't wait in the Xmas lines to return it).

There is a charger & data transfer cable (USB-C male to USB-C male), an AC/DC power adapter (USB-C female), a USB-C male to USB-A male data transfer cable, and a USB-A female to USB-C male adapter.

The charger and cables are a light gray (which would have looked good with the phone if the glass was light gray).  But at least I can easily distinct these from my white Samsung power supplies and cables.

There is no inventory sheet to check off all of what's included in the box.  I always feel this is rather stupid and odd when a manufacturer doesn't tell you what you were supposed to get.  There is simply a quick little guide that tells you how to get started.

Does it work?  


Well, I have to tell you, there have been all sorts of hiccups in the past couple days.  So many that it is beginning to wear on me and get me really frustrated.

  1. Using my old charging and data transfer cable with the provided adapter approach was actually quite pointless.  I had spent hours backing up everything to Verizon Cloud on Monday, just in case, but thought that using the supplied transfer cable might speed the process of transferring everything over up.  Unfortunately, as I used the Pixel XL (as it had told me that I could use the phone while the data transfer would take place in the background), the cable kept losing connection, and I would have to restart it on my old phone.  My old phone is a Galaxy Note 3, which supports USB 3, so that should have sped things up, but I waited for hours, into the wee hours of the next morning, before all the apps were installed.  But it did work better if I just left the phones alone on the desk, even though the cable was connected solidly.
  2. The setup wizard installed all the apps I had on my old phone, but the setup wizard told me that none of my app data made it.  So now I have to manually go though each and every freak'n app (over 270 of them), and reconfigure each one.  That will take weeks to accomplish, wasting countless hours trying to get it done.  I'll see if I can find a way to recover the app info some other way, but this is currently a depressing turn of events for me.
  3. Things are different in Android 7.1 (Nougat).  Some things in the UI are different in a good way, I'm just not used to them, yet.  I will.  Some are not so good.  It seems there is no folder support in Android Nougat on the home screen, anymore.  I asked the "OK Google" assistant and she told me how to add a folder, only, by dragging an icon to the top of the screen that has no create a "New folder" option (according to her instructions) just won't work.  The assistant can't even tell me what version she is.  That seems very odd.  But losing folders will ruin my organization methods, and I may well be doomed to fail without that organizational feature.  There sure as heck can't be enough home screens to organize all my apps (over 270 of them).
  4. The back button is on the left now, in Android Nougat.  This is exactly where I wanted it all the time, because it makes sense that way.  I was constantly accidentally hitting it and losing my place, filled forms, etc... because I am right handed and poking keys with my index finger.  As I pause to check things, my right index finger would often accidentally hit the back key.  This is a great improvement for me, but getting used to this new UI is a chore because of my old habits and muscle memory.  Just like I am always looking for the apps drawer, but now it is a tiny caret/arrow, or I have to remember to swipe up.  And there still isn't a forward button like I would really appreciate.
There are some very positive things about the Google Pixel XL phone, though...

  1. Even though the Note7 had a fingerprint library scanner, I was pretty much using the iris scanner to open the phone and unlock things.  With the Pixel XL, the fingerprint scanner is much more conveniently located, accessible, and reliable.  I can easily simply press the fingerprint scanner to wake the phone and unlock things.  And because of where the fingerprint reader is, it is just ultra convenient and it turns out, a whole lot more reliable than that iris scanner on the Note7, because it didn't fair well in the bright light of day outdoors, which I tend to enjoy in the summer.
  2. Pixel isn't much of a conversationalist, but it does know some cute jokes and you can order it around a bit or ask it for information a whole lot faster than looking for the apps.  "OK Google, play my Thumbs Up playlist." and "OK Google, skip to the next track" are among my favorite voice commands.
  3. The Pixel doesn't seem to lose stuff when I zoom into read small text and then scroll sideways.  My old Samsung devices would completely lose it, take me to the next post or app or web page, who knows where I might end up, and then I had to try and figure out how to get back to what I was doing.  Thank you for getting me, Google.

Fast Wireless Charging?

I haven't actually had the phone long enough to test its charge life capabilities.  But I do use it a lot, and I enjoy listening to my Google Play playlists a lot.  This doesn't seem to drain the battery too much at all.  

Although I have only used the included AC power adapter to charge the Pixel device a couple of times, it really didn't seem to fast charge to 75% power in 15 minutes.  Perhaps this is because it is brand new?  Usually new batteries take about three to half a dozen times to charge up well when they are new so that they remember where 100% charged actually is.  The day after I got it, I put it on Qi fast wireless charging, though.

I had already become enamored with Qi compliant wireless charging when I had that capability with my Galaxy Note 7.  My wife and son even got in on the fun and commandeered the first Samsung wireless charging stand I bought for it after I returned the Note7, to use with their Samsung Galaxy S6 phones.  I wound-up adding a Qi compliant wireless charging receiver coil to my Note 3, I'll be adding one to my son's old S3 that I will wind-up using for work (when the receiver coil gets here), and I even grabbed a USB-C type fast charging Qi plug-in receiver coil kit for the Pixel XL.  

I had to go online and purchase another couple Qi wireless chargers (one very similar fast charging stand from the Geek app by wish.com, and one slower, -not fast charging, that is- Samsung mini Qi wireless charging pad from Amazon). 

To get the Pixel XL in on the fun, I grabbed that USB type C plug-in fast charger receiving coil adapter I got from Amazon.  But when I put a case on the Pixel XL, I could only charge it with the Samsung Wireless Fast Charger stand or the Samsung mini charger pad, as the other not Samsung wireless charger that I grabbed off the internet didn't work with the Pixel XL unless it was naked, though it did work with all our Samsung smart phones that already come Qi charging enabled (3 Galaxy S6's & the Note 7), when they wore a case.

Getting used to Nougat

I have already mentioned that there are some differences in the new version (7) of the Android OS, commonly referred to as Nougat.  And I really do like how the back button is on the right hand side, now, even though it takes some getting used to.  But the lower 3 buttons are actually a part of the multitouch screen, now.  They aren't buttons or touch sensors, so I am constantly poking the bottom bezel (and of course nothing happens).  What's strange is that I keep doing it, because this was the area the old buttons were in, and because after coming from the Samsung Galaxy device platform, those button/sensors are not exposed until you poke them.  So, I am used to seeing a blank bezel.

The biggest difficulty for me is not having any folders right now.  It seems that Google wants to force everyone into using its own assistant to launch things.  But heck, I can't remember the names of all of my 270+ apps, which is why I categorized them in folders.  That way, they were much easier to find.  And it would only take one home screen to categorize them efficiently enough for me to easily find everything quickly.  Besides, "OK Google" does not return an intelligent life.  The 'personal assistant' doesn't understand a whole lot right now.  It tends to miss half of what I said after "OK Google," so I have to slow down and pause, just for it.  And the results are often the same, "Here is what I found..." and then it lists one top search result on the screen.  That is often not helpful at all.

Google Home acts a bit differently, when I was in the Verizon store trading in my wife's Galaxy S3 for the trade-in promo, a sales person demonstrated it.  Since Google Home has no screen, it is understandably more conversational, it has to be.  But Google assistant is not.  And because of this, and its inability to interpret my questions more appropriately, it isn't actually very helpful at all.  I do expect this to change, though.  Since my Pixel XL was delivered, I have had to update it twice, and I haven't even had it more than 4 full days, yet.

Day 5 with the Google Pixel XL


Last night my Samsung Galaxy CORE Prime that I use for work went on the fritz.  It's simply too underpowered.  I made sure that it only had the apps I need for work and a few extras I like, but each app developer advances his programming to support more stuff and offer more features.  As the app gets more robust and the feature set grows, so do the memory requirements of each and every app installed with each update.  And since there is no common shared notification app or libraries, every damn application thinks it has to run at startup.  So even though I only got the CORE Prime a couple of months ago, it was a cheap phone meant to take care of me until I had something better (which the Pixel XL will allow me to do, use the phone I took I upgraded the Pixel XL from to replace the business line.

Unfortunately, I hadn't upgraded the business phone from the Galaxy CORE yet, because I was busy getting used to Nougat and checking out the Pixel XL.  But when the CORE went wonky on me, I needed to grab a phone to use for work.  So I took out my Pixel XL.  During the course of business, I noticed a few things that concern me...

Getting Directions


When I ask the Pixel "OK Google, where is 300 North Dakota Avenue, Sioux Falls?" It shows me a map, but I didn't think that I could touch the map to open Maps to see a map I could zoom in and out on.  Until just now, I kept looking for a Maps button or link.  Some things just aren't as clear as they should be.

However, it will throw me right into Maps when I ask it, "OK Google, give me directions to 300 North Dakota Avenue, Sioux Falls."  But I still have to click on the start button.

Opening the Phone for Use


It is difficult for me to remember to swipe up in order to open the phone from the lock screen, instead of swiping across to the right, right now.  Obviously, this is a habit I am used to doing completely differently.  I will get used to doing it right, but I have to wonder why it has to be different.

I used to be able to wake the phone by hitting the home button, but without an active screen, there is none.  I get that Google is saving a little money using the touch screen, but in this case I actually think this is a plus, because I am often accidentally hitting the home button almost every time I pull the device out of a pocket.  This way, I am not accidentally turning on the device, using too much power.

Power Consumption


As far as power goes, the Pixel XL does well with it.  I used it a lot to get delivery directions to a few places I was unsure of because of unusual addresses last night, plus I showed it off to my fellow workers since I had it.  After approximately 7 hours of moderate use, the battery shows 85% power and the Pixel is estimated to have 1 day and 12 hours of use left (provided the usage rate stays about the same).

Now, after charging on my Samsung wireless charger, it went from 100% to 69% in 7 hours under moderate use while playing my Play Music playlist.

Fingerprint Registration


I have been looking for a way to register more of my fingerprints in the settings all week, now.  When I ask my 'assistant' how to do this, she looks up info and directs me how to do it on a PC or on an older version of the Android OS.  From what I was told, I can register 5 fingers.  And it is paramount, at least for my convenience, to be able to register more than a few.  I'll explain why...

When I was moping the floor at work, I cut the index finger of my left hand when it came in contact with the metal parts of the map squeezer thingamajig.  I cut it not so bad, but was trailing blood everywhere until my boss gave me a Bandaid for it. Then, later, I went to open my phone, but I couldn't because it was all bandaged up.  I had to remove the Bandaid to open it unless I used my password.

Another reason I need more than one fingerprint registered, is that I am often doing the dishes at my part-time job.  They are sort-of (really) cheap there, and no one buys dishwashing gloves.  So my hands and fingers are dry, chapped and cracked almost all the time.  I have to be able to find one finger that will work, after all.  And of course, if a finger is cut, as in the instance above, but over the print area, we will probably need to use a different finger.

As I am right handed, I usually hold my phone with the left hand and poke the software keyboard with my right.  In this instance, my left index finger is perfectly situated to unlock the phone.  But sometimes, I hold the phone in my right hand, especially if I don't need to 'type' anything, so I need to register the index finger of my right hand as well, for sure.

OK, here's where it is (my 'assistant' pointed me to the wrong place. It's under:

Settings > (in the "Personal" section, see...) Security > Pixel Imprint

A little bit of a UI communication hiccup there, I have other ideas about what an imprint is.

This seetting will allow you to setup 5 more fingerprints (for a total of 6).  The fingerprints you register with the device do not always have to be your own, but if you do share your device with anyone, their fingerprint can authorize a payment from your account's default payment method.

Interestingly, my old Core2 PC can read my right index fingerprint and right thumbprint, but the Pixel can not.  I have worked with my hands all my life, so I wonder if the prints are too wore down for Google?  I don't do hard labor or burn myself cooking, just driving and washing dishes, tapping on the keyboard, using the mouse.

Too bad my Google Pixel can't read it, using my left index finger was comfortable and convenient for me.

Day 6 with the Google Pixel XL


I have been listening to my playlists almost non-stop, and the Pixel XL's battery does real well.  After 16 hours, I have 23% battery charge and should last another 6.

Touch Sensitivity


The Google Pixel XL is, in my opinion, offers the very best touch sensitivity I have ever experienced.  It is better than Apple iPhone 6s, which was (just barely) better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.  I have less typos, less frustration and a very nice user experience using the Google soft keyboard on my Pixel XL.

Google Keyboard


Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the soft keyboard where, when I enter a series of numbers, I have to access another set of keys, but after selecting each letter, the keyboard goes right back to the letter keys set.  Very unusual, and needs to be fixed for people entering serial numbers and numeric data.  WOW, what a fluke.  No one saw this but me, yet?  You have to be kidding.

Week 2 with the Google Pixel XL


I love the new layout.  This was actually my suggestion when I got my first Android phone, the DroidX.  In portrait mode, my right index finger doesn't actually hit the back button by accident all the time, and if it does hit the button located there, that just brings up my active programs index.  So I can get straight back to what I was working on.

When the display is oriented in landscape mode, the back button placement makes more sense to me, as well.  In the upper right my hand crosses the screen when accessing it, disturbing my view.  When it is in the upper right, my hand does not interfere with my viewing pleasure.

I definitely prefer this new button location format and wish I could convert the buttons on my other Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets over to it.  That might actually be a good project for some developer.  The Samsung phones I have allow you to turn off the touch sensor lights for those buttons, anyway.

Although I am still hitting the middle right of the bottom bezel on my Pixel XL, I am getting used to it more and more.  I have actually started poking my Samsung Galaxy phones and devices that I use for business in the same spot as I would for the new button format on this Pixel XL.

I finally got the fingerprint scanner to recognize my right index finger by using different part of it, a part that I don't wear out my fingerprint grabbing things so much.

My VR unit showed up, I am so impressed.  The Google 'Dream' app is highly interactive as opposed to any other VR.  I can't wait until the bank opens on Tuesday so that I can put my Christmas money in my account so that I can grab the Need For Speed No Limits VR game.  If I'm going to enjoy VR gaming, I might as well do it right.  I love racing games (especially the NFS series) and this $14.99 USD game looks good.

While "OK Google" does seem to wake-up the Pixel from any screen, it doesn't always seem to wake it up from sleep or the Lock Screen.  I have it set to unlock with my voice, so something is a bit off.

I had to have a chat with customer support in order to learn how to turn notifications on for the lock screen, and I was pleasantly surprised.  Google has notoriously poor tech support with its software products ("here is our online support page for that, did it help?"), but I was pleasantly surprised to be number 1 in line when I connected and in a minute the polite support person (or possibly robot, it is just text chat, after all) pointed me to the right place, and the issue resolved.

Voice communications are considerably better on this Pixel XL over any other phone I have previously owned, save for the Galaxy Note7 that Samsung ripped out of my hands.

I would have liked to compare the cameras, as well, but I barely took any photos with the Note7.  All the photos on display here of my Pixel XL were taken with a Galaxy S3 or Note 3.  But I am impressed with the Pixel XL camera

I do wish I had more RAM.  Even though I purchased the 128 GB model, I only have less than 4 GB of usable RAM, and Nougat still allows everything that wants to run at startup, to run at startup.  And if I shut apps down, they still appear as running programs later.  How apps manage to run constantly on the Android OS is absolutely insane.  One would think that a single common push notification service could simply monitor all news for all apps and then every damn app and its sister wouldn't have to run all the damn time.  Maybe Android needs to license shared libraries from the Amiga OS?  Really though, something needs to be done.  All these apps running willy-nilly, all at the same time really weigh the Android OS down.

Android still does a poor job of managing garbage apps, data and temporary files.  Nothing seems to get deleted after an install, and temporary files just hang there, taking up space in the Flash memory for no reason.  Just because I purchased the 128 GB version of the Pixel XL does not mean that I want apps running all the time or growing in my external storage.

The fact is that Android, as an OS, still needs a lot of improvement.  And these issues I just mentioned have been around since the beginning.  I really feel the hit with older devices that have limited resources.  For instance, my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 came with an IR blaster and I specifically bought it with my Samsung Smart HDTV just to use it as a dedicated remote, but Samsung decided to stop supporting the remote capabilities of the tablet within a few months of my purchase after heavily marketing those very same capabilities.

So, instead of a really cool remote, I wound-up with a limited 8 GB tablet and filled it up with crap apps extremely quickly as I looked to give it a purpose.  Now, all of the apps need to be updated, but they are all improved with greater features and capabilities, using more code and taking up more room, so that now nothing will update unless I uninstall a couple of other things.

I mention this because the 128 GB internal storage still isn't going to be enough storage in the future if I try to make my Pixel XL purchase last a long time (as I did my Note 2 before I upgraded to a Note 7).

So, the Android OS still has flaws in Nougat, but I do like the User Interface improvements.  At least it's a start and shows that Google is actually listening to me... Ahem... I mean us.

Week 3 with the Google Pixel XL


I am quite surprised that Blogger incorporates so cleanly with the Google's Android app, Photos.  But it does always seem that I am awaiting things to get backed-up to the online cloud part of Photos, where I am supposed to have unlimited storage of my photography, images and video on my device.  Right now, I am awaiting 25 photos to be uploaded so that I can access some of them here, for this very article.  

I wasn't going to wait so long before posting this article, but I have been trying to get photos that I took with my Note 3 which were uploaded to the Dropbox cyberdrive, downloaded onto my Pixel XL.  These, of course, are all photos of the Pixel XL itself (and I can't very well take those photos with the Pixel).  The problem is that I cannot find them on my Pixel XL after downloading them through Dropbox (for the past week).  

So, I dug-out my trusty File Manager Plus app (5 stars from me for being free while running no ads, and being a solid, easy-to-use program that can access your registered cloud devices), authorized the necessary permissions for this new device, and copied them over from Dropbox.  Now I am just waiting for Photos to upload them to the cloud, and then update so that I can access them in Blogger.

At least it seems like I have gotten around the issue I was having with Dropbox.  But I do wonder why Dropbox is having trouble with my Pixel XL?  Is it the fact that the device has no microSDcard available, or is it that it is having trouble with Nougat?  Certainly, Dropbox doesn't think that I wanted to re-download those photos onto my old Note 3?  

Strange.  I expect more from Dropbox.  It has been the staple cloud device that I have used from the beginning without ever an issue, until now.  It could be a user mistake, but as I design website UIs for the best User eXperience possible, I think there may be an issue, there.  At least File Manager Plus allows me easier and more complete control over the Dropbox cloud drive.

Still awaiting those new photos on my phone to show-up here in my Blogger phone photos, though...

OK, here it is, 3 days later, the near the end of week 3 with the Google Pixel XL, and photos I have taken with the Pixel XL, as well as photos of the Pixel XL that I have sent to the Pixel XL via Android Beam (which have specifically been configured to share in Google Photos), as well as photos that I have taken and copied to the Pixel XL through Dropbox, and none of them, not even the ones I took of the Pixel Box and my Dream VR, are showing up here.

I am starting to believe that the unlimited photos and video storage, which is supposed to be a benefit of owning and using a Pixel XL, is pure gimmick, and Google is not delivering on that promise.  That promise is the very reason I decided to get a 128 GB Pixel XL anyway, despite the fact that it lacks any microUSB support.

Furthermore, I have had purposely kept my Pixel at home, with a great connection to the internet, in the same room as my dual band WiFi router, and still can't get to the very same images I have been trying to access for this blog.

This is a shame I wanted to have this article done before the New Year.  Unfortunately, I can't access the photos I need to complete the article, and it's December 31st, 2016.  It looks like my lifetime of original quality photos and video storage in Google Photos is nothing but an advertising campaign.  Heck, I have been trying to get photos uploaded for this article for more than 2 weeks, now.  

Cases

I do have photos available of the Pixel XL with a Qi wireless charger while sporting couple of different cases from my other blog article, though:
 

As you can see, the Fast QI charger simply plugs into the USB-C port, which could be problematic if you enjoy using USB-C accessories. But, I have none, and I don't want any.

This is the promised  shot of the back of the Pixel XL wearing the spigen case.

As you can see, the spigen case molds itself around the small USB-C plug protrusion well. From this angle, you can't even really notice the Fast QI card or plug. 

I had a hard time hunting down those photos of the Pixel XL wearing the spigen case, and I am finishing up this blog post some 6 months or more later. 

I also purchased and kept the ultimate case, that good ol' reliable Otter Box Defender...

The issue with the Otter Box Defender case is that the cover for the USB-C port doesn't have any place to go and winds-up protruding way too much.

I won't cut that USB-C port cover off, because the Pixel XL is not waterproof, and if I ever go somewhere I won't be bringing along the Samsung Fast Qi wireless charging stand for it, I'll use the stock charger alone.

The Otter Box Defender case on my Pixel XL with USB-C implemented Qi Fast Charger card, front view.

Needless to say, I don't use the Defender case much, but if I was traveling, hiking or simply being adventurous, I would switch cases.  Still, the Qi Wireless Charging system that I have setup works well with that Samsung Fast Wireless Charging stand that I had grabbed for my old Note7.  In fact, my Google Pixel XL 128GB has only visited the stock charger once in its lifetime to-date, and that was the very first charge. Ever since then, it has been performing like a champ with long battery life under this wireless charging configuration.

The blog post about implementing the Qi Fast Wireless Charging card on a variety of smartphones without those capabilities is a post that is still available on this blog. It gives details on the parts I bought to set that up, so you don't have to guess.
 

The Dream & VR


I had received my Dream VR adapter with controller and I was planning on writing about my experience trying it out the last week.  I purchased the Need For Speed VR game in Google Play, and I did enjoy the game, for a while.  I did play it all that week, not just to review the Dream headset and controller, but because I did enjoy the game.

However, after 45 minutes, that I was later able to stretch to 60, then to 90 minutes of playtime, I would feel a bit queezy and have to relax my eyes.  It seemed as if the light was a bit too bright for me, as they were so near the screen, and after a long stint racing around my eyes needed to relax because the real world was a bit blurry and I had the effect of having double vision, like when I drove a semi-truck at night and needed to pull-over and get some sleep because I was tired.  But in this case, it was just that my eyes were dry and tired.

Furthermore, the remote control for the VR game system was constantly drifting to the right.  It was almost impossible to steer my VR cars effectively, because even though I reset the controller before the race, it would never reset properly and it would drift so far throughout the harder races it seemed I was pointing at myself as I curled the controller around to direct the steering and make up for the rapid controller drifting as the system sort of grew unusable when the road courses got harder.  

In the end, I wound-up with more of an on and off turning function that was incredibly difficult to control and I just gave-up with all the pointless resetting, as nothing worked and I could no longer even pretend that the simulation racing game was fun.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mini: Miniature Electronics Stuff You Cannot Find Elsewhere

MiniInTheBox (aka: Mini) is a great resource for all kinds of things that you just can't find elsewhere. While yes, this is a Chinese supplier, I have had great luck with them so far.  Check out the following spring coiled USB cable:

Spring Coiled USB 2.0 Male to Micro USB Data/Sync/Charger Cable (1M, Black)
Spring Coiled USB 2.0 Male to Micro USB Data/Sync/Charger Cable (1M, Black)

You just can't find these things in the US, and believe me, I looked. I have used this cord to power a dash cam, to charge up my Note 3 and extra battery in a charging dock, and to transfer photos and video files over from the from the Note 3.

Here is the review I wrote on the site:

"Looks and works good. It is a little shorter than I expected, and that is because it is all coiled up. But it is perfect for what I need, though you should know that the coils are actually quite strong so extended it could put some pressure on one connector or the other, pulling an end out. But I only need it to go a short ways, so it is absolutely perfect. Plus I am sure that over time the coils would settle into which ever tension it was used at."

Once you order a couple different lengths of these, you will know which one to order according to individual application for the length you need.

Now, granted, that cable is a short one.  I happen to like that, because I am just using it with my Note 3 dock or my dash cam.  But, based on its performance, I am ordering a couple more of these short ones as well as a couple of the longer 3 meter version (they are very affordable, after all), shown below.

Spring Coiled USB 2.0 to Micro USB Data/Sync/Charger/Cable (3M, Black)
Spring Coiled USB 2.0 to Micro USB Data/Sync/Charger/Cable (3M, Black)

We all need the right tools, and let's face it, no matter how wireless we get, there will always be wires (especially USB cables) because they are so necessary.  Even if we have a wireless charger, we may well need a USB cable for the charger, after all.  And I like to have constant power to my continuously recording dash cams over relying on having to recharge their batteries all the time.

While I am an affiliate, but I doubt if I will get rich linking to these product pages.  ;)  Blogger prevents me from using their photos and affiliate system, so all of these photos are mine, taken by me with a Google Pixel XL.

I have already ordered the 10 foot spring coiled black USB to USB-C cable and some HDMI stuff, now.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Qi: Wirelessly Charge Your Wireless Device

Qi Wireless Charging

Samsung's Qi Fast Wireless Charging Transmitter Stand/Dock
I purchased Samsung's Qi Fast Wireless Charging Transmitter Dock (seen above) when I got my Note 7. When Samsung made me give it back, I kept the charger. I knew I would want it for my next phone. I'm glad I kept it, it's a wonderful charging dock that charges my Pixel XL real fast.

You have seen the wireless chargers that are out, now. Samsung makes a couple of good wireless chargers. But this technology has actually been around a while. WR has developed the Qi wireless charging standard, and this is the technology that allows wireless charging as a standard platform.

There are often options to buy Qi wireless charging kits as well as Qi receiver coils and Qi wireless charger pads/stands available at Amazon, Geek & MiniInTheBox.

Many older phones can easily accommodate a Qi wireless charging receiver coil.  Only very recent modern phones that were made in the past couple years should utilize the Fast Charge versions though, as they have batteries that are capable of withstanding a fast charge repeatedly.

Setting Up Qi Charging Capabilities


Even if you don't see your phone here, this is a good general quide on how to setup Qi wireless charging on many phones.

Below is a pictorial guide to adding Qi wireless charging capabilities to three phones, an old Samsung Galaxy Note 3, an even older Samsung Galaxy S3, and adding wireless fast charging to a brand new Pixel XL (the new "phone by Google").  Resource Links will point directly to where I purchased any of the additional Qi capable products and other stuff shown, so that you won't get the wrong thing (though it's perfectly fine if you want to shop around for a better product or price).

I also review some of the Qi wireless charger pads and stands that are available out there, show-off an external battery charger for the Note 3, as well as discuss how well a couple cases work with the USB-C plug Qi charging receiver coil module card on my Pixel XL (as they do double duty in hiding the Qi card).


Adding Qi Wireless Charging Capabilities to a Note 3:


Here, I add a Qi receiving coil that I purchased through Amazon, to an old S3 (Samsung Galaxy S3):

What you need to add Qi wireless charging capabilities to your phone.  This example shows a Note 3, receiving coil & some household tape.
This photo shows what you need to add wireless charging to your Galaxy Note 3: the phone (cover removed, simply snap it off slowly) equipped with a good battery, the Qi compliant receiver coil, and  I highly recommend a bit of household tape to secure the coil to the battery (not electrical tape, that may make things too warm inside).
If you decide to purchase a Qi compliant wireless charging receiver coil, I highly recommend one that supports NFC (Near Field Communications), like the one I grabbed from Amazon...
Qi compliant wireless charging receiving coil card with NFC support for the Galaxy Note 3
This wireless charging card contains a receiver coil and supports Near Field Communications (NFC). Photo credit: This is a promotional image lifted from Amazon.com
Resource Link:
Qi Wireless Receiver Card for Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Price: $9.95 -I have seen them for a little less, I paid $8.99 at Amazon.

The wireless receiver has 5 raised contact points on the underside of the card.
The Raised Contact Points on the Underside of the Wireless Charger Receiver Card for the Galaxy Note 3
These raised contact points correspond directly to contact points in the phone, at the top and left of the battery compartment. Photo credit: This is a promotional image lifted from Amazon.com. 
These raised contact points on the card fit directly into contact points on the Note 3 device, itself.
The contact points on the Note 3 are next to the top left corner of the battery compartment, two above it and three to the left.
The contact points on the Note 3 are next to the top left corner of the battery compartment, 2 are above it and 3 are just to the left of it.
Press the raised titties of the card contact points into the holes provided, pictured above, at the top and to the left of the top left corner of the battery compartment, where they will settle in and rest on those phone contacts.

The Qi compatible wireless charging receiver coil card, positioned correctly.
The wireless receiver card, positioned correctly.
The receiver module has 5 raised contacts that settle in and touch the phone contacts. 
The edge of the Qi receiver coil card is outlined within the phone.  There is often (not always) a sticky tape that is protected by a strip of wax paper on the underside of the receiver card.  If it is there, you can peel the waxy paper protection away when you are ready to make a good fit to help stick it to the battery and keep it there.  You do not have to stick it there and you do not have to tape it down, the back cover will hold it in place if you don't plan on removing the back cover.

I tape the bottom of the card to the battery, while holding down the receiver card at the contact points.
It's sort of a funny photo, because I am using the camera in the other hand, but I tape the bottom of the card to the battery, while holding down the receiver card at the contact points, so it won't move and the card makes good contact there. 
However, I have and use an extra battery, so I prefer to tape a receiver coil card to each battery, because I will remove the back cover when swapping batteries, and that will likely upset the charging receiver module.  So I tape the receiving coil down to the battery.  Be sure to use household tape, though. Electrical tape can have insulating properties, and we want heat to dissipate.  Which is why some prefer not to use any tape at all.  The call is yours, I made mine in the sake of convenience and take no responsibility for yours.

I am holding the contacts down as I tape the right edge of the Qi coil receiver module card down.
Another funny photo because I am taking this picture with my left hand.  Here, I am holding the contacts down as I tape the right edge of the Qi coil receiver module card down to the battery with household tape.
Remember, I often change-out batteries, if you don't, taping the card down may be overkill as the battery cover will hold the receiver coil in place once it is on securely.

An Extra (External) Battery Charger 


But if you do tape the receiver to your battery because you demand a lot from your device (using it constantly, possibly while listening to device dependent playlists) and therefore you have an extra battery that you swap-out when you need to, the following handy dandy external battery wall charger for Note 3 batteries is a pretty darn good deal...

Underside of the Note 3 External Battery Charger with Retractable Plug.
The Note 3 External Battery Charger, Electrical Outlet Plug Prongs Extended
Note 3 spare battery wall travel charger from Amazon. USB 2 port side.
Note 3 spare battery charger from Amazon.com. 
Resource Link:
External Battery Wall Travel Charger For Galaxy Note 3
Price: $2.90 & FREE Shipping (I paid a little more on Amazon).
I have seen this charger bundled with a spare battery for $6.90
(to see it, scroll down the resulting page to check out bundles).


The Note 3 wireless charging receiver coil card taped to the back of the Note 3 extra battery, which is being charged by the external battery charger, plugged into an electrical socket.
The Note 3 charging coil receiver module card taped to the extra battery that is charging in the external battery wall charger. 
The external battery charger does not interfere with the wireless receiver coil card taped to the spare battery.
The surface deck of the battery is above the external charger walls, so that the card is never interfered with, and if something accidentally hit the overhanging card, I have it taped on the other ends, so there will be enough give.  This allows the card to work every time I pop in the spare battery because the back cover of the Note 3 will actually hold it in place.  
I grabbed that extra battery wall charger and keep it around for the extra battery in case I don't use the spare battery for a while. The spare battery travel charger I have (shown in the 5 photos above) doesn't interfere with the receiver coil module that is taped to it. That way, if I go 3 weeks or a month without using it, I will pop it in to the spare battery charger so that it will continue to be active and hold a charge.  This way the spare battery won't go bad on me if I'm not using the Note 3 much now that I have the Pixel XL.

Other older Samsung phones often have similar spare battery chargers available.  I know there is one for my S3 for only a couple of bucks on Amazon.com.  So if you can open your rear cover and exchange out the battery, there is a good chance that there is such a unit for your phone, as well.

Resource Link:
External Battery Wall Charger with USB for Samsung Galaxy S3
(Fits OEM, Standard Size Replacment Battery, Extended Battery and 7000mAH Battery)
Price: $2.03
If Amazon.com shows you a bundle, make sure you can't get the S3 battery cheaper by itself.  The bundle they showed me was around $12.00 and it's only a $6 battery elsewhere on the website.

Adding Qi Wireless Charging Capabilities to a Samsung Galaxy S3


Samsung Galaxy S3 (front).Samsung Galaxy S3 (back).

The Galaxy S3 was actually a pretty good old phone and makes an exceptional second phone, or business line, for those that need such an affordable solution.

I purchased a Qi Wireless charging kit for an old Galaxy S3 which I plan to use for work as a delivery driver because my new Tracfone just isn't powerful enough to quickly retrieve GPS data when I am on the go and unfamiliar with a particular address.  So there is a case for good, older smartphones.

And of course, I want the convenience of wireless Qi charging.

What's included:

Qi Compatible Wireless Charger Pad & Galaxy S3 Receiver Coil Card Kit.

The kit includes the wireless charging pad, a charging coil receiver for the Galaxy S3, and an incredibly short microUSB male to USB male cable, so you will have to use your phone's original A/C power adapter if you decided to get this kit, but as I write this, it is out of stock.  I did buy another one (I accidentally forgot about the other one), but that one (Resource Link listed below) came without a box.

Resource Link:
Qi Wireless Charger Pad + Receiver Kit for Samsung Galaxy S3/S4/S5 Note 3/4
(Selected: Kit for Samsung Galaxy S3 in Black)
Price: $7.91

Samsung Galaxy S3 Qi compatible wireless charging acceptance (receiving) coil card module.
Galaxy S3 Wireless Charging Acceptance Card
The Qi wireless charging receiver coil module is a small card that makes contact with the phone's wireless charging connections in order to give it wireless charging capabilities when used with a Qi compatible wireless transmitter pad/stand/dock.

It houses some finely coiled wires that pick-up on the transmitted magnetic/electrical field from the base stand/dock/pad/puck.

Kit instructions are in Chinese and English
The instructions that came with the kit are in Chinese and English.
The kit has instructions which show an A/C adapter, but there is none included.  Neither of the S3 kits that I purchased came with an A/C adapter.

Let's get Started:

The notch at the center of the top of your S3 is where to start prying the back cover of your S3 off with, just slide your fingernail in and down the edge in each direction, eventually down the sides, too.The Samsung Galaxy S3 with the back cover starting to pry off.

Remove any case you might have guarding the S3 and open up the back cover by poking your thumbnail or fingernail in the gap at the top center of the S3, just next to the audio jack.  Run your nail in each direction and around the corners to loosen the cover from the S3.  Eventually the cover will loose enough so that you can pry it off completely.  It snaps right back on without any tools, so there are no worries.

The wireless charging receiver card module, positioned and taped in place onto the battery.
Here is a shot of the wireless charger receiver card taped into place on the battery.
Unless you take the back cover off of your S3 to exchange microSD cards or change out batteries in the middle of the day because you use it a lot, you don't have to tape the charging receiver coil card to the back of the battery.  I did simply because it is a small battery and I have never seen it get hot.  What you do is, of course, your call, and I have no responsibility for your decision.

The Qi wireless receiver card module, taped to the back of the Galaxy S3 battery.
Once the wireless charging card has been taped to the battery, it can easily be removed, if you decide to do that.
Amazon has a cheap wall charger for external Galaxy S3 batteries that won't affect the card, too (only $2).  
Then, just snap the case back on by pressing firmly down each edge...

Check your work and make sure the edge seam of the Galaxy S3 back cover looks good.
The back cover snaps right back on with a little pressure along each edge.  Double check your work at each seam. Look good?
Snap the back cover on and check it. If it looks good, put it back in its case (whichever one you use to protect the phone).  You will want to stick it on the charger and make sure it works...

The Qi compatible charging pad comes with a plastic film on the underside to protect it. Remove this film before use.
The Qi compatible charging pad comes with a plastic film on the underside to protect it in shipping from scuffing. Remove this film before use.
A look at the upside-down microUSB port on the charging pad included in the S3 Qi wireless charging kit. The pad is shown with a plastic protective film on the underside that needs to be removed.
A look at the upside-down MicroUSB port on the Charging Pad included in the S3 Qi Kit.
Peel off the plastic protective film from the underside of the charging pad.  You can use the included extremely short USB to microUSB cable to plug the pad into your USB equipped PC or Mac, but then your device won't actually charge unless your computer is left on.  I prefer to get out my original Samsung Galaxy S3 USB to microUSB charging cable and power adapter.  It's just more convenient for me.

The included wireless charging pad produces a slow charge, but is great for small battery phones.
The charging pad.  Remember that you will have to use your phone's original A/C adapter and USB cable.  It's not real powerful, and it is a bit slippery, but good for great battery phones that require a slow charge, and will still charge newer phones (slowly), such as it does my Pixel XL.   
The charging pad that was a part of this kit has a red LED power light.  When it is charging a device, that LED goees out and a blue LED lights up, unless the wireless charging connection is askew, then it will reciprocate between the red LED and the blue one.  If it does that, then reposition your device so the coil lies directly across the wireless charger icon, but a bit toward the LED lights. Experimenting a bit will help you decide what is the optimal placement.

The S3 or other device can lie along the pad lengthwise, or across the middle.
The device can lie lengthwise along the pad, or as above, across it as long as the receiving coil card covers the pad icon.  
Your Galaxy S3 can lie along the pad, or across it. As long as its on, you see this message pop up on your screen, and the blue LED light is on solid (not blinking), then you have done well and your S3 and the Qi receiver card should be working for you.

I have noticed that if I just get the blue light solid, I might move it a few hairs more over, because I had just entered the border/limit of optimal range, and I want to place it in the center of optimum charging.

You can wrap a rubber band around each end of the pad to keep it, and your phone, from slipping around.
The Red LED is on, indicating that the pad has power.  You can wrap a rubber band around each end of the pad to keep it, and your phone, from slipping around.  The rubber bands also help hold the upper & lower halves of the plastic pad body together.
If your pad is too slippery to stay in one place, or your phone vibrates right off of it, you can use a couple of rubber bands to prevent it from slipping around.

If the pad is too slippery for you, ad some rubber bands to each end to help grab the table/device.
You can even use silicon scrunchies around each end of the pad to keep it, and your phone, from slipping around, but scrunchies are thick, so then I would use them to mark my optimal charging are as I lay the phone across it, and then the scrunchies sort of grasp the phone on each edge, if I outlined the placement of the phone for optimal charging.  
Above, I am using silicone scrunchies, but they are too thick if you want to lay your phone along it lengthwise.  But I honestly think that you really do need to use something (rubber bands, scrunchies, or some vinyl tape) wrapped around each end not just to reduce slipperiness, but also to ensure that the pad upper and lower stay together as a unit.  But I'm not really complaining, I mean, I only paid $7.91 for the thing one time,  and $11.91 another time.

My son has a Galaxy S6 in a semi-heavy-duty case.  The S6 already has built-in Qi wireless charging support and so he has been using this charger, but it takes a long time because its more of a trickle charge with his case on, and he hasn't been positioning the device over the icon correctly.  So we are still testing it, but it does work well for my S3 in a speck* case, as well as for my Pixel XL naked or in my Spigen case.

It doesn't work on my Note 3 or my Pixel XL if they are wearing the Otter Box Defender case, when I use the power adapter that was original to the Samsung Galaxy S3.  But as just mentioned, it does work on them when they are naked or are wearing a thin case, and I will try it experimenting with this pad by using some newer Samsung phone AC to DC power adapters on this charging pad to see if there is any improvement in the near future.  Then, I'll report my findings back here.

One thing I have noticed about Chinese products is that they often turn the ports around, and in this case, the microUSB power port for this charging pad is no exception.

Motorola Droid X in a charging dock with microUSB port oriented correctly (broader edge down), according to practices in the USA.
Example Droid X charging cradle with correctly oriented microUSB.
Chinese wireless charging pad with microUSB port oriented upside-down according to familiar US practices.
The Galaxy S3 wireless charging kit uses a pad with a microUSB port that is oriented upside-down.
You may be asking yourself why this is an issue?  All it has to do with is familiarity.  We are familiar with plugging a microUSB male end cable into a female microUSB port in a certain way, and our microUSB male ends have a USB network icon that is intended to face-up when plugging into a female port.  If you follow common practice and try to plug your microUSB cable plug into this pad with the icon facing up, you will likely destroy the cable plug, the pad port, or more likely both, unless you take a good look and re-orient the plug.

You may also notice that the included USB to microUSB charging cable that is included with the kit does not sport that familiar USB icon that we are all familiar with, perhaps because of this type of thing.  The new USB-C ports and plugs will eliminate all these plug orientation issues as they start making their way to the new generation of phones, because you can't plug them in upside down.

But in its state as it is, it isn't as powerful of a charger as the Samsung Mini Wireless Charging Pad that I review below...

The Samsung Qi Wireless Charging Mini Pad

Another alternative to adding Qi capability to the Galaxy S3 is to purchase the Qi receiver card separately and grab a little mini charger... 

Samsung Mini Wireless Charger PadThe Samsung Mini Charger Pad wirelessly charging the Galaxy S3.
The Samsung Mini Charger Pad is good for older, smaller devices like the S3, and it doesn't cost too much.

Resource Link:
Price: $18.00 (I got a real deal on Black Friday that won't be matched).

If you don't have a large device and don't need fast charging, the Samsung mini charger pad works wonderfully if you make certain that your device lines up with it properly (the blue LED lights up and is solid, not blinking).  If the blue LED light is blinking, reposition the device.  If you have a larger phone (a Note, a phablet or other XL/Plus sized phone), it is likely that your device will hang over so much that you won't see the LED.  Also, even though the Galaxy S3 pictured above is wearing a case (as I believe that all phones should have some sort of case for protection), it isn't a heavy case.  This charger may not be able charge devices in heavy duty cases, like the Otter Box Defender.  At least, my devices won't charge on it if they are wearing a Defender, or other heavy duty case.   

But, this Samsung mini charging pad is not only great for small Qi compatible devices with smaller batteries, my Pixel XL reports that the Samsung mini wireless charging pad actually does a better job than the pad that was included with the Qi kit for the S3, mentioned above.

That should not be surprising, the mini pad came with a newer AC to DC power adapter, and I was using the original power adapter for the S3 on the Qi kit pad for the S3.

The Samsung mini pad is a bit more expensive, but does include a power supply that makes it work well, even on my Pixel XL.

Adding Qi Wireless Charging Capabilities to the Pixel XL, phone by Google


Finally, the Pixel XL 'phone by Google' arrived this past week, and I was happy to see it, finally.  One of the first things I did was add a fast Qi charging receiver coil via the bottom USB-C port.  Then I tucked that away under the case.

A USB-C plug-in Qi fast charger receiving coil card module. The Qi Receiver in Place on My Pixel XL
I love the fact that it says Qi right on it. And obviously, it's fast charging.

Resource Link:
USB Type C Plug-in Wireless Fast Charging Receiver Coil Film Card Module
Price: $12.99

I have the "silver" Pixel XL, but don't anyone kid you, it's ivory with silver trim.  You don't take the back off of these new phones, so you plug the fast Qi charging coil card into the USB-C port.  Of course, that means you will always want to have a case on the phone, to protect that card as well as the device, but you really should anyway, right?

The version I have won't fit on a regular 5" Pixel without interfering with the fingerprint scanner, unless you fold up the line that runs down to the USB-C port, and I wouldn't do that. But there are others, and they will probably pop-up as similar items on the same page.


Silver Pixel XL in an Otter Box Defender Case, Charging on a Samsung Fast Charger.
'Silver' Google Pixel XL in an Otter Box Defender Case, Charging on a Samsung Fast Charging Stand.
This one supports fast charging, so I can use that Samsung fast charging stand that I originally bought for my old Note 7.

I have 2 cases for it.  I grabbed a Spigen case when I purchased the USB-C plugin Qi receiving coil card from Amazon.  I also had a gift card, so I also bought the Otter Box Defender for the Pixel XL after it came.

The Otter Box Defender Case for the Pixel XL (Phone by Google)


Otter Box Defender Pixel XL case - the USB-C Flap Sticks out a Bit Otter Box Defender Pixel XL Case - Black - Front View Otter Box Defender Pixel XL Case - Black - Back Rightside View
The Otterbox Defender (it's actually black, these are bad pics).

Resource Link:
Otter Box Defender Case for the 5.5" Google Pixel XL
Price: $44.99

But the Otterbox Defender has a a flap over the USB-C port that sticks open a bit, because the Qi receiving coil is plugged into it.  You have to pay attention when you line it up on the fast charger stand, as you not only have to center it, you also have to make sure it is straight up and down, not half cocked in one direction or the other, because you are balancing it on that loose flap.  And its too nice of a case for me to cut the flap off, but I am thinking about it.

The Otterbox Defender is also a struggle when trying to get that case on and off the phone.  But it sure is a heavy-duty case.  I will use this when I am out and about bicycling, doing other activities, playing frisbee and sports.  It really is a heavy-duty case.

The Spigen Rugged Armor Case for the Google Pixel XL (Phone by Google)


Spigen Rugged Armor Case for the Google Pixel XL - Back View. Notice that the USB-C plug for the Qi Receiver Card is Barely Noticeable? Spigen Rugged Armor Case for the Google Pixel XL - Face & Left Edge Spigen Rugged Armor Case for the Google Pixel XL - Face & Right Edge
The spigen 'Rugged Armor' case is very thin, and again, black, not gray.  As you can see, the USB-C plug only protrudes a little bit and the spigen case actually conforms to it because it is so pliable and resilient. 

Resource Link:
Spigen Rugged Armor Case with Resilient Shock Absorption and Carbon Fiber Design for Google Pixel XL 2016 - Black
Price: $11.99

In the meantime, the Spigen I bought from Amazon works pretty damn good, too.  While not the heavy-duty case that the Defender is, it looks really good with the Qi charger plugged into the USB-C port, because it has enough give to conform around it, and no flap over the port hole.  My photos don't do it justice, it is a nice black, but I took those photos with my Note 3 and haven't photoshopped them to be more accurate.

All photos, unless otherwise credited, were taken by me (Doug Peters) with my new Google Pixel XL and are Copyright Doug Peters, 2016.