Pixel Stand can now be used with Pixel 3/3 XL running custom ROMs

Despite being one of the largest and most successful tech companies in the world, Google is notorious for abandoning (or should I say killing?) their creations. Their messaging/social platform fiasco has already became a digital folklore.

As a hardware vendor, on the other hand, they are known for maintaining quality and choosing universal standards. In fact, some of their hardware products were ahead of their time – thus they never got the chance of mass adoption.

Moving from Nexus lineup to Pixel was a clever management move from the Mountain View giant. Like Apple, they want to establish themselves as a common name among people. Viral marketing, bundled accessories, premium pricing  – all these strategies actually paid off.

The Android variant of Pixel phones are different from vanilla AOSP. Google has came up with a number of Pixel-exclusive features – like Google Camera with Night Mode/Top Shot/Photobooth/Super Res Zoom, Call Screen, Now Playing  etc. which help to justify the premiumness of the phones.

https://youtu.be/O4jOdVTkqS4

In terms of accessories, Google surprised everyone by launching a smart wireless charging dock alongside Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Dubbed as Pixel Stand, the dock provides rich integration with Google Assistant while phones are charging.

The stand switches the UI of the Pixel 3 (XL) once docked. The new UI can be useful for accessing Google Assistant or converting the phone to a digital photo frame with the pictures stored in Google Photos.

Google advertises Pixel Stand with 10W charging capability, but upon inspection it has been discovered that the $80 accessory does not comply with Qi 1.2 specifications. Standard Qi chargers are limited to sloooooow 5W when paired with Pixel 3.

A Google spokesperson mentioned the following:

We don’t limit third-party devices, in fact, we’re working with our partners in the Made for Google program to get fast 10W chargers certified for use with Pixel 3 (Belkin announced its 10W Pixel 3 charger already which will launch in the coming weeks). Pixel Stand and Pixel 3 work together through the protocol we’ve developed for fast charging. Everything else charges at the industry standard Qi 5W.

According to Google, they introduced plethora of modifications on top of the standard wireless charging protocol by adding a data stream. The stand communicates with the phone via that stream, not via NFC or Bluetooth.

pixel_stand_white_side

This proprietary handshake thingy is a gigantic roadblock for open source developers. Although Google provides kernel source codes along with an easy-to-unlock bootloader with Pixels, one can not use the Pixel Stand (and the exclusive features) on a custom ROM.

pixel_3_black_front_back
Google Pixel 3

That was until now!

Fortunately, we have developers like Giuseppe Maggio aka Jertlok between us. This Dirty Unicorns team member reverse-engineered and open sourced the Active Edge squeeze feature of Google Pixel 2/3 a few days ago.

Now the guy did the exact same treatment on the Pixel Stand stuffs. With his contributions, it is now possible to use all of the features of the Pixel Stand (like faster charging) while running AOSP derived custom ROMs like Dirty Unicorns or LineageOS.

I like to present another interesting fact – Jertlok did this extremely difficult job without even owning a Pixel 3 or Pixel Stand. Kudos!

At the time of writing this article, the codes are yet to be merged with the DU codebase. They will probably ship it with the next weekly update. It is theoretically possible to get the Stand exclusive functionalities on other phones with wireless charging support.

The Pixel Stand itself, however, has been universally panned for its lackluster performance.

pixel_stand_charging_slowly
Slow charging issue with Pixel Stand

In one of our previous articles, we discussed how the proprietary nature of the in-display fingerprint scanner on OnePlus 6T is creating similar issues for aftermarket developers.

op6t-in-display-fingerprint-sensor
The in-display fingerprint scanner on OnePlus 6T

In another news, the Dirty Unicorns project will be shut down after Android Pie. The open source codes will remain though, so that other groups can work on top of them.

Got a Pixel Stand? How frequently do you use it? Comment below.

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Kingshuk De

I came from a mixed background of Statistics and Computer Science. My research domains included embedded computer systems, mobile computing and delay tolerant networks in post-disaster scenarios. Apart from tinkering with gadgets or building hackintosh, I like to hop on various subreddits and forums like MyDigitalLife and XDA.