If someone on your Christmas list got caught up in the Galaxy Note 7 debacle, and ended up trading that device in for a Google Pixel or Pixel XL, you have an opportunity to get them a great present. I mean, this is a top-level 10-out-of-10 gift for only $40. Google has released Live Cases, beautiful slim protection for their smartphones (including the previous-gen Nexus series). In addition to keeping your phone safe in the case of (short) drops, a soft embossed rubber button on the back can be programmed to various functions. With a press of your index finger (it’s right underneath the fingerprint sensor) you can activate the flashlight, toggle wi-fi on and off, open an app, and more. Each Live Case comes with a Live Wallpaper app that matches and complements it, so your device can have one visual theme front and back.
Live Cases come in some off-the-shelf designs that are very pretty, including selected satellite images from Google Earth and artwork from designers like Jeremy Scott (famous for the winged Adidas sneakers, among other things). Any of these would make a “cool” present or even a “very nice” present. What truly elevates things are the customizable Live Cases, which come in two flavors: Places and Photos.
Photos allows you to upload a photo, zoom and rotate it to fit a virtual phone case, and then receive it in the mail for just $40. Google’s rules will be familiar to anyone who’s attempted to create a custom debit card: no obscenity and no copyrighted images. After a few hours of messing around, we came up with the official iFixYouri Google Pixel Live Case, featuring our founder Chris Johncke. Just boop his nose to receive excellent customer service for all your device repair needs.
Our favorite by far, and we predict this will be crazy popular (Google! Focus your incessant advertising on this!), is the Places Live Case. A simplified Google Maps pops up, and you search for a county, town, or specific street address. “A place you love,” the prompt says. A transparent layout of your chosen device is overlaid on the center of the screen, and you can drag and zoom to fine-tune its placement. I punch in my old neighborhood in Uruguay…
…and drag a little so my childhood home is in the center, with plenty of area and coastline around it for visual interest.
From there, I can select a variety of visual textures and color combinations. Some may gripe that Google doesn’t allow true color customization, but all the combinations are pleasant and balanced. I get overwhelmingly indecisive, so I’d rather let a team of trained designers handle this step rather than fuss with several color wheels. I like the polka dots a little…
…but I like the detail of smaller streets and alleyways the “vivid” option provides. Perfect!
The next step features a 3D view, where you can look at the case from all angles. It’s satisfying to see how the design wraps around the edges of the case.
On your way to checkout, Google reminds you of the Live Wallpaper function. For the Places case, it shows your current location on a map in the same style as the case. It’ll be great to see the front and back of my phone match during my next vacation back home!
“A place you love” really sums up what makes the Live Case such an awesome gift. Personalizing things with a picture is old news; Tervis Tumbler as a phone case? In a world where everyone seems to be from somewhere that’s not where they currently are, having a reminder of your roots is such a warm gesture. This is typical Google: the company wants to bring personal technology into your life in a way that’s simple, automatic, and meaningful.