The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are nearly out, and aside from one notch and some sportier rear contouring, we had to wonder what changed inside. iFixit was first out of the gate with teardowns for both, revealing in the process that the Pixel 3 XL comes equipped with a Samsung-manufactured AMOLED screen display.
If that doesn’t indicate enough how things have changed, buckle up, because taking apart the new Pixels is a world apart from tinkering with the older models. In fact, it’s positively Samsungian.
Let’s take a look at both models, going repair by repair.
The biggest change? Rear entry. No more popping off the screen and being done with it. Just like with Samsung’s flagships, you need to remove the back glass, disassemble its innards, and detach the screen display flex cable from the rear-facing logic board before you can pull off the screen.
In a bid for IP68 dust and water resistance, Google dollops on the adhesive, so apply lots of heat and be patient in your prying. One upside is that the fingerprint sensor has a very long flex cable, so you can comfortably pull up the back glass without fear of ripping it.
Another pro tip. When you’re ready to pry up the screen, pay attention to where its real edge is. The midframe housing (available in Google’s signature dryly named colors Clearly White, Not Pink, and Just Black) actually features a black bezel that abuts the screen display. So don’t pry where the black "screen" ends and the colorful midframe begins. The actual border is in the middle.
Back glass repair:
You read correctly when we said to remove the “back glass.” The full back housing on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL is glass, instead of the four-fifths aluminum and one-fifth top glass on past Pixels. The new Pixels retain the same basic aesthetic, however, with a matte finish covering the part of the back housing formerly made from aluminum.
The implication is clear. Expect to see more shattered back glass. And as we mentioned above, treat it like a Samsung repair. But hey! Longer fingerprint sensor cable. That’s nice.
For all this talk of adhesive, it’s a welcome surprise that the batteries in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL come out more easily than on old Pixels. Pull tabs are present on the outer edge, and helped in both teardowns to a degree, but the more welcome news is that less adhesive is present in the first place.
When you start your prying, go from the top right. iFixit made the helpful mistake of severing a flex cable hidden under the battery towards the bottom of the phone. The cable connects the right Active Edge sensor to the logic board. This goes for both phones.
One minor annoyance is that the new Qi wireless charging chip is stickered to the top of the battery. It needs to be heated and peeled off to complete the repair.
Charging port repair:
At least they kept it! Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL retain the USB-C charging port of its predecessors. But it’s a bear to get to it.
The charging port assembly on the Pixel 3 looks more familiar than the Pixel 3 XL’s. You still need to rip out pretty much everything else to service it, though. The loudspeaker assembly sits on top of it, and the battery is pressed right against it, so both need to vacate. It’s also entwined with the logic board via flex cable connections and some spindly antenna cables. Digging it out is an iPhone X-like curveball when you thought you were working on a Galaxy the whole time.
The charging port assembly on the Pixel 3 XL is a little larger, and incorporates the SIM card reader. You must endure the whole drill described above to get to it.
And once again, that IP68 rating rears its ugly head. When you pop off the loudspeaker assembly, it actually rips away from its waterproofed front housing in a shocking display of component self-sacrifice. It’s more apparent on the Pixel 3 that the plastic assembly contains the speaker. On the Pixel 3 XL, the housing simply looks like a protective shield. In the end, breaking it can't be helped. If you need to fix the port, you need to fix the port.
Other Parts Repair and Wrap Up
Fixing smaller parts don’t require too much foreknowledge. Both phones’ three cameras are independent from one another and can be easily serviced. The rectangular vibrate motor is glued to the midframe under the logic board and pops out easily, and the Active Edge sensors are firmly sealed into the sides.
To sum up, in terms of serviceability, the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are a step down from their predecessors, but that drop only places them in line with common Samsung flagship devices, and they’re still more accessible than any iPhone out there. When one crosses your desk, take a deep breath, and repeat after us: it’s only a Samsung, it’s only a Samsung…