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Google says its bad Pixel 5 design is a ‘normal’ feature

Published Nov 4th, 2020 11:04AM EST
Pixel 5 Screen Gap
Image: Google

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  • The Pixel 5 screen gap problem that some buyers discovered after purchasing the brand new Google phone is “normal,” according to Google.
  • The company explained that the ugly gap is to be expected, although it’s not the kind of Pixel 5 feature you’d see advertised anywhere in official imagery or marketing materials.
  • Google says the screen gap will not hurt the Pixel 5’s water and dust resistance or the functionality of the phone.

The Pixel 5 was just released and the phone has already experienced its first major issue. That’s hardly surprising for anyone keeping track of Pixel hardware or software issues that Google has to fix immediately after launch in the past. Pixel 5 buyers started noticing a gap between the screen and the metal chassis. They posted plenty of images showing the design issues, wondering whether the gap would impact the phone’s IP68 water resistance rating. Google did not address the matter at the time, but it now has an official answer for buyers who are complaining. The troubling gap apparently isn’t a problem. Instead, the bad Pixel 5 design is normal. Google does say that it will work with buyers to address concerns, though we’re not entirely sure what that means at this point.

A Google Community Specialist says the company has investigated the problem and found no issues. The person also said that the gap has no effect on water resistance:

We’ve had a chance to investigate units from customers and, combined with our quality control data from the factory, we can confirm that the variation in the clearance between the body and the display is a normal part of the design of your Pixel 5. There is no effect on the water and dust resistance or functionality of your phone. We will work with customers on an individual basis to address any concerns they may have.

While that might be the case and Google certainly should know what it’s talking about, anyone can confirm that gaps are ugly and indicate that corners were cut somewhere in the design process or during manufacturing. We can’t pretend the gap is fine just because it doesn’t impact the functionality of the phone. That’s like saying phone design doesn’t matter, a point we can confirm that Google is wrong about. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 are great examples of how a bad design can ruin a phone’s appeal.

Pixel 5
Pixel 5 phone shown in Sorta Sage green color option. Image source: Google

We can all agree to confirm that Google’s imagery on its website offers perfect Pixel 5 shots with no visible gaps (above and below). Also, there’s no mention of a “variation in the clearance between the body and the display” in Google’s marketing materials for the handset or on Google’s website.

Pixel 5
Pixel 5 marketing image shows no visibly annoying gap between the screen and the metal frame. Image source: Pixel 5

Meanwhile, here’s what the gaps look like in real life:

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

Would you really want to pay $700 for that phone?. Paying any money for a brand new device that doesn’t look exactly like the photos is very disappointing, and anyone can confirm that.

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

Separately, we can confirm that a teardown of the Pixel 5 looked at the problem and identified the potential issues before Google claimed it’s all normal. Apparently, the glue that holds the screen in place might be impacted by heat, and that explains the gap. Maybe that’s the sort of manufacturing problem that can be fixed, but not if Google continues to pretend there’s no problem.

Whatever the case, there’s nothing normal about saying a glaring design issue is normal. If you needed another reason to skip the Pixel 5, the “normal variance in clearance” is the kind of thing that should have you convinced.

The Pixel 5 teardown follows below.

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.