Google’s Pixel phones are, by many measures, the best Android phones you can get. However, they’re expensive, and consumers haven’t been purchasing the new Pixel 3 devices as often as they did the cheaper gen-2 Pixels. Google’s solution is, apparently, the cheaper Pixel 3a. Now, we can get a battery look at what makes it cheaper thanks to a teardown from iFixit.
The first thing to know about the Pixel 3a is that its plastic frame is not water-resistant. That’s not great if you plan to use it in the rain, but it does make the phone easier to disassemble. Getting the chassis open is the first step in tearing down any phone, and the Pixel 3a is easier to access than most. iFixit didn’t need to apply any heat to melt adhesives — it just has a bit of porous, spongy glue holding the screen down.
After prying the phone open, the screen came off easily, and iFixit was able to confirm the Pixel 3a uses a Samsung OLED panel. That’s surprising as LG is also making mobile OLEDs, and they tend to be a bit cheaper. The battery is under the display, and it’s not heavily glued either. There’s also no wireless charging coil to remove in this phone.
The motherboard was easily removed with a standard Torx screwdriver, but iFixit notes there are a lot of ribbon cables to disconnect. There is no secondary circuit board in the Pixel 3a, so all the important stuff is on this one component including the Snapdragon 670 SoC, 4GB RAM module, flash storage, and the Titan M security chip. There’s no Pixel visual core chip, though. Both the USB Type-C port and headphone jack are modular, meaning they are not soldered to a circuit board. If either one breaks, it’s a much easier repair.
iFixit gives the Pixel 3a higher marks for repairability than most phones with a 6 out of 10 rating. It praises the phone for using standard Torx screws, easily removed adhesive, and modular ports. The only negative is all the ribbon cables, which are easy to break when digging around inside your phone.
The iFixit teardown is a helpful reminder that many of the things we associate with “premium” phones
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