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The Pixel 5 was just released and it’s already falling apart

Published Oct 20th, 2020 7:03PM EDT
Pixel 5 Gap
Image: Google

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  • The Pixel 5 might suffer from a serious design or manufacturing issue, as several buyers report that the screen’s plastic bumper is peeling off of the bioresin-coated aluminum frame.
  • The resulting gap might impact the Pixel 5’s water and dust resistance.
  • It’s unclear how many people have experienced the issue and what’s causing it.

Google called an audible with the Pixel line this year. The company launched three distinct devices rather than four, and there’s no real flagship this time. Google compromised on the hardware to release a $699 Android device that offers 5G connectivity. That’s still a high price to pay for Google’s best phone this year, considering what’s available from Apple. For $399 or $599, you can get an iPhone 11 with a processor that’s significantly better than the Snapdragon 765G. For $829, you can get the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 that will run laps around the Pixel 5. Then on Android, you have the $749 OnePlus 8T or Samsung’s $699 Galaxy S20 FE.

While Google failed to compete on hardware with the Pixel 5, we still expected the phone to feature a build quality worthy of flagship status. But then we learned of another significant compromise that Google made with the Pixel 5. The rear-facing shell is made of metal and features a large cutout on the back to make wireless charging possible. That’s not a problem yet, but Pixel 5 owners have run into an unexpected issue: The Pixel 5 is breaking apart.

The Pixel 5 is not a premium device or a flagship, but if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s the company’s annoying tradition of significant flaws. From the first Pixel, users have been dealing with hardware and software issues after launch that Google has had to fix. From sound issues and screen quality problems to software and performance inconsistencies, Google has to fix Pixel problems every year, and it started doing so soon after the Pixels launched. Some of those problems led to class action suits that Google eventually settled.

Pixel 5
A gap between the Pixel 5 screen and the chassis can be observed in the top image, with the bottom photo showing a close-up of the gap. Image source: Pixel Phone forum

It’s even worse for the Pixel 5. We’re in an unusual year already, with the coronavirus health crisis impacting the global economy. Many people might not be able to afford expensive phones this year — even the $699 Pixel 5. On top of that, the Pixel 5 launched at the same time as the iPhone 12. The latter features a design makeover, as well as premium specs and build quality, and early reviews suggest that it’s yet another stellar entry.

Some Pixel 5 owners have started noticing gaps between the display and the frame and posted their photos online for others to see. It’s unclear how many people have encountered the problem (not many people buy Pixel phones), but the issue might be serious, considering that several Pixel 5 users have noticed the problem.

Pixel 5
A photo taken by a Pixel 5 owner highlights the Pixel 5 gap problem. Image source: XDA-Forum

The screen’s plastic bumper seems to be breaking apart from the aluminum frame that’s coated with a bioresin, reports Android Police. The issue appears mostly around the front-facing selfie camera. That’s not something you’d want to see in a brand new device, whether from Google or a smaller brand, and whether it has an IP rating or not. It so happens that the Pixel 5 is water-resistant, so there’s reason to worry that the gap might ruin that.

The number of complaints has been picking up on the Pixel Phone Help forum and XDA Forum. Google has yet to comment on the situation. It’s unclear what causes the problem and whether it can be fixed or whether the entire unit has to be replaced. If this turns out to be a serious design or manufacturing issue, then replacements might behave similarly. After all, they’re coming from the same assembly line.

You might want to continue staying away from the Pixel 5 until we know more. The Pixel 4a 5G is a much better option. It’s practically a Pixel 5 with a few additional compromises, but those do not affect the only reasons why you’d want to buy the handset — fast Android updates and the Google camera experience.

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.