The Pixel 3a is a practically perfect phone. A pinnacle of photographic prowess, with a value that predicates panic among more painfully priced phones. It’s also phenomenally preferred among people who like to pinch pennies and pay profoundly less. A prerequisite to purchasing though, is to politely, pragmatically, and painstakingly pry open the Pixel to pinpoint any potential pitfalls. Let’s get started. The trick with opening up the Pixel 3a is to know where to put your pry tool.
With a little bit of heat the screen comes off first, and will most likely break during this process…if it’s not already broken. The safest of the unsafe places to start is up at the top, between the glass screen and the first plastic lip, since the fragile ribbon cables are down along the bottom of the phone. After the adhesive at the top is cut, I can work my way down each side of the phone with a soft piece of paper or card stock, because if anything touches the display underneath that glass, it will shatter.
It’s a dangerous operation. Lastly, after getting a small gap, I can use a bit more heat and carefully take the same piece of paper and slice through the adhesive holding the bottom portion to the screen. Then the whole thing can lift off, exposing a single ribbon connector under this black piece of tape. The ribbon goes through the mid frame to the motherboard underneath with only 2 t3 screws holding the little silver bracket over the single Lego style ribbon cable.
This could very well be the easiest screen replacement of 2019. With no other steps involved, it’s a super simple way to fix the most often broken component of a cell phone. Nice work, Google. The Pixel 3a is much more repairable than the more expensive Pixel 3. There are 14 more of these same t3 screws holding down the mid plate. I’ll link the tool kit I use down in the video description. The metal mid plate is probably what kept the Pixel 3a from snapping in half during my durability test. Once the screws are gone, I can now pry into the second gap between the black plastic lip and the purplish plastic of the phone. Then the whole thing pulls away from the phone body with just the top front earpiece attached to it. We get our first glimpse at what looks like a very complex inner workings of the Pixel 3a, but it’s actually not that bad.
Let me show you. The battery connector is underneath the side squeeze sensor ribbon. I’ll unplug that and then pop off the extension ribbon, just like a little Lego, on both ends. Then I’ll unplug the right side squeeze sensor, and the left side squeeze sensor. Does anyone actually use the squeeze sensing functionality? I kind of forgot they existed until now. There is good news about the battery though. It has magical pull tabs, signifying a very easy battery replacement…that is, of course, if you don’t break the pull tabs like an amateur and have to commence the Pry of Shame.
I, of course, would never break a pull tab on accident. I only do it purely for educational purposes. The battery is a 3000 milliamp hour capacity and does allow replacement by dogs. You can see how the left over pull tab adhesive pulls away from under the battery. See? Education. Next I’ll unplug the side button ribbon cable and our little friend the headphone jack. The jack does have a little water damage indicator on the bottom. This phone is not water resistant, so if it does get wet, the sticker will turn pink, avoiding any warranties. Underneath the motherboard we have one little ribbon cable for the rear fingerprint scanner, and two wire cables that run down along the left side. The motherboard houses a singular megapixel camera unit, which does include optical image stabilization. This is supposedly one of the best cellphone cameras on the market right now, but I’ll let the other tech YouTubers compare the actual photo quality. We’re here for the hardware.
The front camera is an 8 megapixel little guy with no optical image stabilization. No thermal paste or heat pipe on this plastic contraption. Down here at the bottom we have 3 screws, one on the board and the other two on the sides of the USB-C charging port. This crazy little board has the ribbon connector for the charging port, and it’s own white water damage indicator sticker and a microphone. The USB-C port has no rubber ring around the tip, but it is super simple and easy to replace. I’m a huge fan of the modularity on the Pixel 3a. If you want a cheap, easy to fix phone, with features like a headphone jack, this is a great option. The bottom loud speaker for some reason is very securely attached to the plastic frame, but is pretty large and has it’s own gold contact pads to communicate with the motherboard. The last interesting thing to come out of the Pixel 3a are the side squeeze sensors hidden below this long plastic rod for the electronic buttons. The squeeze sensor is embedded into the side of the phone, and is made up of little resistors that are sensitive to being flexed…even sensing something as minor as a squeeze on both sides of the phone.
This activates an app or a camera. Pretty crazy technology. Lastly, we have the neon power button. It’s plastic protrusion is held in place by a little black flap. Not as ingenious as the buttons on the Nintendo Switch, but with the long black plastic rod holding it in place, I have no doubt it will do it’s job well. I It’s been a few videos since I’ve put a phone back together in working condition. I’ve had to break open the OnePlus 7 Pro and Red Magic 3 to get access to the heat pipes under the screens. But this Pixel 3a should go back together just fine. Getting the fingerprint scanners and two side wires attached to the underside of the motherboard is pretty much the hardest part.
Then the whole thing can flop over underneath it’s little plastic latch, and I can situate the headphone jack back in it’s slot. One screw holds down the motherboard, then the extension ribbons, squeeze ribbons, and battery ribbon all get plugged back in. Then the mid plate can come down and hold everything securely and structurally in place with it’s 14 screws. The easy to replace screen gets plugged in next to the motherboard through that mid plate. A brand new screen would probably come with it’s own adhesive, otherwise you can just use thin double sided tape. And that’s it. A fully functional Pixel 3a. I’m a fan of where Google is headed with this one.
A phone that accomplishes all of the essentials while keeping money in your wallet. What do you think about the Pixel 3a? Hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already. Come hang out with me on Instagram and Twitter. And thanks a ton for watching. I’ll see you around. .
As found on Youtube