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Within the smartphone industry, Pixel phones are a peculiar breed. Until Google acquired HTC’s phone design team, they were a variety of phones manufactured by various manufacturers. There are many unique characteristics mixed together with certain commonalities. Some are fixable, but others give even the most seasoned technicians pause when they consider having to force open their extremely fragile displays.

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I contacted a number of experienced phone repair technicians, as well as our technical writers and teardown engineers, to inform me about the distinctive challenges associated with fixing Pixel phones. This essay will dig into the specifics of mending Pixel phones, just as our earlier inside-baseball article on restoring Samsung phones. It covers more ground than we can often in our detailed guidelines to changing particular parts in each model.

As with our last post, we also ask you to share with us what we missed, your experiences, and important information that others should be aware of. Post a comment on the article and reply on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Google: Have you ever attempted to remove the initial Pixel screens?

The OLED panels found in the Pixel 2 and 3a, as well as their XL variants, are brittle, “like a potato chip,” according to Emily Cottrell, the lead depot worker. Our staff of repair guides concurs. The hard, flat OLEDs of those early Pixels were referred to as “extremely fragile” by technical writer Arthur Shi (his bolding, not mine). The substrate dies if the screen breaks or fractures, even slightly, since it exposes the substrate to oxygen. Pixel 2 displays were referred to be “the most fragile thing on the planet” by another repair technician.

Additionally, Cottrell emphasizes the significance of prying up the display connector from its short side rather than its long side. “Even with semi-experienced techs, I constantly see them hitting components off the board,” Cottrell commented. She is not incorrect. When I was changing a battery on a friend’s Pixel 2, I inadvertently pryed two backlight filters off the board, which necessitated taking the screen off. Screen-first disassembly is not intrinsically flawed—iPhones have virtually always operated in this manner—but it is a major risk if the screen and its surrounds are extremely delicate.

It’s also important to note that occasionally, after reassembling and restarting the phone, Pixel displays won’t turn on. You can become alarmed because you’ve just been fiddling around within your phone and think something is broken. Do a soft reset instead of freaking out: press and hold the power button for 30 seconds (or search for your model’s soft reset instructions, which may also include holding down the volume key). Our own guiding team and several technicians indicated that this oddity occurs frequently.

The good news is that the displays and architecture of the Pixel 3, 4, and 4a are different. Without removing the screen, you may access parts such as the battery by removing the back panel. It is significantly simpler to install replacement screens that are pre-built into front frames. Furthermore, the displays themselves have lost some of their potato-chip charm. But other problems arise from that new structure.

Maintaining composure (and maintaining the squeeze)

The 3/3XL and 4/4XL rear covers have extremely thick adhesive, even though you can still access them from the back. Furthermore, the glass of the 3/3XL is ready to shatter at the first sign of pressure, particularly if it already has a tiny fracture in it. When you finally go inside, there are a number of elements that face you. There are also several screws, glue layers, and components underneath parts, so screwing something up incorrectly might lead to headaches or even harm.

One repair technician described the latter Pixel design as “layered and not nearly as straight forward as Samsung’s.” “They put a lot of pressure on you to recall how everything fits together again.” several little pieces need to be monitored, and there are several screw variations. “Among technicians, Pixel 3 and 3XL (in-frame) repairs are the leading cause of depression,” stated Justin Drake Carroll, the founder and CEO of Fruit Fixed, located in the Richmond, Virginia, region. “Only behind Face ID error alerts in second place.”

The majority of do-it-yourselfers won’t have to worry with it, but repair experts uniformly criticized the Pixel phones’ squeeze sensors (technically called “Active Edge”), especially if you had to move them from one frame to another. For replacements, some technicians advised purchasing screens only if they had grip sensors attached and a frame. “At someone’s house, I completed a 3XL in-frame,” one repair technician wrote. “I swear, I felt like my head was going to explode, but it was done in an hour.” Another person said, “Unless you feel like you’re going to suffer greatly that day, don’t fix a Pixel 3 XL in-frame screen.”

Replacement of batteries

So far, the most common repair in the Pixel family is a battery replacement.

As previously mentioned, with the Pixel 1, 2, and 3a, replacing the battery requires replacing the screen, which is difficult to perform without breaking the screen. The wireless charging coil on the 3XL and 4/4XL is attached to the battery, making it difficult to take out and reuse. We generally love to see repair-friendly features like the stretch-release adhesives under the battery on the 3XL. However, pulling the glue at the desired shallow angle is extremely difficult due to the battery container’s shallow, sharp edge that is difficult to work around.

The Pixel 4a seems to solve this exact problem by incorporating small cut-out windows in the midframe for removing the stretch-release adhesive, in one of those rare instances where prayers were answered. There is someone listening up there—possibly in Google’s cloud.