Google Pixel Live Cases: Are they worth it? [VIDEO]


If you were one of the many new Android users who spent a bucket of money on Google’s new line of Pixels, there’s no better way to protect your investment than with a case. These typically range from thin cases (used mostly to prevent surface blemishes), or those really thick rugged cases (mostly used to prevent “worst case scenario” drops). Like Nexuses before it, Google is once again offering their customizable Live Cases for the Pixel and Pixel XL. They’re a little skimpy on coverage, but what they lack in protection they make up for in style.


The snap-on shell cases provide adequate protection from bumps and small drops, but without all the bulk. The edges are raised along the sides, so you can lay the phone face down on a table without scratching the display. Of course, like most other snap-on cases, Google’s Live Cases leave the top and bottom edge of the phone completely exposed. The chances your phone will land exactly on these edges is slim, but something I’m sure some wont want to gamble with.

Quality / Durability


The image printed on the cases are clear and rich in color and although you don’t have to worry about it wiping off easily or getting it wet, the corners can get marred, rubbing off the hard matte finish and eventually making its way to the ink underneath. It’s just one of those trade-offs you make for unique, custom printed phone case.

Our suggestion is when using your own photo, pick something that has a lot of white or lighter colors in the corners in anticipation of the ink wearing off over time.


As far as the design you want printed on yours, there are plenty of options available. For me, I decided to design my own Artworks Live Case, which had the following artists to choose from:

  • FriendsWithYou – A Los Angeles-based art collaborative, FriendsWithYou is famous for their larger-than-life installations designed to spread the positive message of Magic, Luck, and Friendship™.
  • Gray Malin – Fine art photographer and New York Times bestselling author, Gray Malin, travels the world creating inventive aerial landscapes and conversation-igniting conceptual works that offer visual escape.
  • FAILE – Known for their signature mass-culture-driven iconography, the Brooklyn-based artist collaboration, FAILE, creates multimedia artworks ranging from street art interventions to museum installations.
  • Chris Hadfield – The first Canadian astronaut to walk in space, Chris Hadfield has curated a collection of striking images shot from 300 miles above the Earth.
  • Justin Maller – Famous for creating a year long image-per-day project called Facets, Australian digital artist Justin Maller created unique images just for the Artworks Live Case collection.
  • Jeremy Scott – The celebrated designer behind Moschino, Adidas’ winged shoes, and his eponymous fashion brand, has created a Live Case collection exclusively for Pixel and Nexus phones.
  • Other live cases include: Photos Live Case, Places Live Case, Google Earth Live Case, Google Tends Live Case.

Shortcut button


Like previous Live Cases, the ones made for the Pixel feature the same NFC button on the back that when pressed, can be setup up to activate specific phone functions (like the flashlight), or to launch a favorite app.

Your phone will need to be unlocked first before it can be used and the amount of force — along with the length of time required to press the button — makes it feel not-so-convenient. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having a secondary shortcut button, but nothing here has changed since the awful implementation we saw on previous Nexus Live Cases.

What we love

  • Cases are fully customizable with the image of your choosing
  • Snap-on hard shell design is thin and minimal
  • NFC shortcut button

What we don’t

  • Only available for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, or Nexus 5X (Android 5.0+)
  • NFC button is tough to activate and takes a full 2 seconds
  • Cases don’t protect the top and bottom edges of the display

Bottom line


Designing your own custom case for the Google Pixel is certainly enticing. Most cases these days are rather boring, featuring the standard black or clear colors. Google is trying to do something different with Live Cases, adding a little extra functionality with an extra NFC button on the back.

In the end, the cases still fall short and the steep $40 price tag is asking a lot from prospective buyers. If you still had your heart set on a Google Live Case, our suggestion is to go with something a little more sentimental like the Photos Live Case, which could make for the perfect give this holiday.

Buy on the Google Store

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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