The following transcript is based on a shooting script for our Pixel 6 Pro Teardown video; it may not perfectly match the spoken dialogue of the video.
The Google Pixel 6 almost slipped through our teardown lineup this year, but after our deep dive into the iPhone 13 parts pairing fiasco we decided we had to at least take a peek inside this Pixel 6 Pro—you’ll understand why by the end.
To catch you up in case you missed the video last week: the iPhone 13 has a small chip on the back of the display that is paired with the FaceID hardware, and if you replace the display without also painstakingly moving that chip over to the new display, you will completely lose FaceID.
After the internet made a big fuss about this, Apple quietly told The Verge they would be fixing the issue with a future software update.
That pretty much confirms this was never a matter of security. More likely, it was one more shot fired at independent repair, or maybe an accidental bug they couldn’t be bothered to fix before release.
In stark contrast to Apple’s behavior, we have Google’s Pixel 6 Pro. Thanks to Hugh Jeffrey’s teardown, we know these phones have a similar software trigger that disables the fingerprint sensor if the display is replaced.
But! Google has done something right here. Let’s open this up and see what’s going on.
To get started I’ll put this Pixel on our heat mat to soften the adhesive on the display. Like iPhones, Pixel phones usually open up on the display half of the sandwich, which means screen repairs are usually easy since they’re the first component off.
Once I’m past all the adhesive, the display can be fully removed by disconnecting this single cable here.
And here’s the first thing Google did right: instead of just gluing this screen to the rest of the phone, they actually added a plastic frame around the edge of the display with little clips to hold it in place.
This accomplishes two things: 1, it adds a small layer of protection to the back of the screen to save the fragile OLED panel from your opening pick; and 2, it means if you can’t or don’t want to replace the adhesive after a repair, you don’t have to! Clip the screen back on and you’re ready to go. Just watch out for water.
On the back of the screen you also can see the in-display fingerprint reader is attached here, which is what we’ve seen in other devices.
So speaking of fingerprint sensors, let’s sidebar for a sec. Whenever biometric authentication is involved, it’s obviously important for companies to consider security as they design their devices. But the less obvious thing that’s also important to consider is calibration.
Calibration is what Apple is usually picky about when it comes to paired device components, and there is some actual reasoning there.
Displays, cameras, any face or fingerprint scanners, and many other components go through calibration during the manufacturing process, and swapping a part after the fact can have an effect on the user experience, especially if the new part isn’t up to spec.
So what’s the way around this?
Well, if the original component can be calibrated at the factory, the new one can be calibrated too! And that’s the second thing Google has done right here.
Rather than force you to pay them to repair your phone and keep fingerprint sensor functionality, they made an incredibly easy to use web tool that will recalibrate the sensor in your new display, as well as (I’m guessing) verify that it’s a genuine part.
And they had this ready for launch! No waiting around crossing your fingers hoping for a software update. Great work, Google.
I just hope this tool sticks around longer than some of their … other software endeavors.
Alright, back to the Pixel, I’m not going to go much deeper because we’ve got some other exciting teardowns to get to, but I do want to check out this weird battery pull tab, and look at their original chips.
In my way are three graphite stickers, which might seem harmless but if you’re trying to remove them carefully to re-use them, they will quickly become your greatest enemy.
Then some screws holding down this metal shield, and then I can finally disconnect the battery.
It seems like Google has included this clear plastic tab hugging the battery as a way to help remove it, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it’s supposed to do.
We thought maybe you could wiggle it back and forth to slice through the adhesive, but the plastic isn’t strong enough to cut through it without a healthy dose of isopropyl alcohol.
Ultimately our strip broke and we reverted to the good old suction cup method.
That’s the third thing Google did right, or at least tried to do right. Lithium ion batteries age and eventually lose their ability to hold a charge, so it’s important to make them easy to remove and replace. But this design needs some work—or maybe just a friendly guide that would tell you how to use it.
Alright, let’s wrap this one up with some tasty chip ID.
You can see here I’ve got a crisp bag of Google’s Original Chips, thanks to user Tanuki Man from our community. I’ll just open these up and see if I can’t figure out what a few of them are. First one is…Oh I think that might be the new Tensor processor! With a hint of Micron memory.
I hate to be a tease but I’m going to leave the rest of these chips for my other iFixit friends. If you want to see more of Pixel Silicon let us know in the comments, and if enough people want it we’ll post something on our site.
So the Pixel 6 Pro is sort of a mixed bag at the end of the day: I love the protected display, and I really love the free pairing software, but I feel that is something that we should expect, not give extra credit for. Battery removal procedure gets a C for effort, but leaves a lot to be desired, at least without included instructions.
Stay tuned to our channel for some exciting teardowns coming up: we’ve got new AirPods and a fairly repairable phone, if you know what I mean.