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Some Pixels have another serious problem that Google needs to fix

Published Sep 11th, 2020 6:50AM EDT
Pixel 3 Swollen Battery
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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  • Google’s Pixel phones have been affected by hardware or software issues starting with the first-gen model and going all the way up to the Pixel 4 series.
  • Most of these issues have been immediately apparent to buyers, and Google did address and fix problems where software updates allowed it to do so. But there’s a new hardware issue that’s affecting older phones much faster than expected.
  • Some Pixel 3 batteries have started swelling and damaging wireless charging and the integrity of the rear-facing glass panel. This is a battery safety feature that should not be observed as soon in the life of a handset.

When the Pixel 5 hits stores in a few weeks, it will be the most disappointing Google flagship phone ever made. I’ve told you this a few times already. It’s going to be the first “premium” Pixel phone that lacks the premium hardware, and no amount of trying to excuse Google’s decision will make it any better. The next-gen Google phone should offer the ideal package, the best possible hardware running the latest Android release. Buyers can downgrade their Android experience from there to meet their needs and hit their price points. But the Pixel 5 will feature a mid-range processor that might not even be faster than the Pixel 4’s high-end 2019 Snapdragon chip. Imagine if Apple had tried to pull off a similar move with the iPhone. Again, it’s not that Android 11 on the Snapdragon 765G isn’t going to run well. Because it will. But the newest premium Pixel should be the best Pixel phone Google can manufacture, and a device whose hardware is future-proofed to last the for at least three years.

Then again, Google had to deal with several issues with the Pixel handsets over the years, and the latest predicament should give you another reason to worry about the Pixel 5.

One of the iconic “features” of the Pixel series is that each premium handset launched with significant issues that needed to be corrected. Pixels aren’t the only phones to experience the problems after launch, but Google has been pretty consistent at keeping this unfortunate tradition. The first Pixel generation came with significant sound problems that ultimately forced Google to have to defend the matter in a class-action suit, which it lost. The Pixel 2 came with significant screen quality issues that started to become apparent only after the first reviews were published. The Pixel 3 came with RAM management issues that had to be corrected. More recently, the phone became the target of a potential class-action suit concerning battery issues and camera problems. The Pixel 4 shipped with a 3D face recognition system that lacked a critical security feature and a 90Hz display that only worked under certain conditions.

The newest Pixel hardware issue concerns the newer generations, as Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 users have started noticing swollen batteries that damaged their devices. That’s an incredibly annoying thing to happen to a device that’s still new. These are 2018 and 2019 handsets that we’re talking about, so the battery health shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s not uncommon to see batteries swell on phones and laptops. It’s actually a great security feature. The alternative would be for batteries to catch fire and explode, which nobody wants. The Galaxy Note 7 fires can’t be forgotten.

As Android Police reports, it’s more than a few Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL owners who have noticed their batteries bloating up. They’ve taken to Google’s own forums and Reddit to complain about the surprising battery defect. Google might offer free battery replacements or free repairs for devices, some of which may be out of warranty.

While most of these complaints concern a version of the Pixel 3 series, some Pixel 4 owners may have experienced the same problems. It started with wireless charging issues for a user who detailed the experience on Reddit a few weeks ago. The phone would not charge on the Pixel Stand, and would get hot at times. The poster did not share images showing any battery swelling, and could not prove that’s what had happened to the battery. The Pixel 4 series was discontinued a few weeks ago, so getting a replacement might be a tough ask if there’s no stock around.

Google has not addressed these issues publicly, and it’s not clear how widespread the problem might be. But it’s certainly one more thing to look out for, whether you own a Pixel 3 or Pixel 4 phone. And one more reason to worry about if you plan on buying the Pixel 5.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.