Essential Phone Teardown Reveals 'Hot Mess' And Rookie Mistakes With Dreadful Repairability

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Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone has definitely gotten off to a rocky start. Following the flagship Android smartphone’s debut, Essential faced disappointing shipping delays, and more recently, a rather embarrassing violation of user privacy. Now, Essential Phone is being assaulted from another front thanks to a new teardown report from iFixit.

Actually getting into the device proved more difficult than expected, as iFixit’s usual arsenal of sharp tools and heat guns were ineffective at [non-destructive] penetration into the Essential Phone’s frame. There are few visible seams (along with heavy-handed applications of adhesives), making it damn near impossible to get into the device using conventional methods. So instead of continuing to crank up the heat, the gadget gurus decided to put the phone on ice. However, the team was greeted with a cracked display panel for its troubles.

Once the display panel was lifted out of the way, a midframe shield had to be removed to get to the guts of the Essential Phone. Inside, they encountered the 11.70 WHr battery (slightly more capacity than a Samsung Galaxy S8), that is held in place with stretch-release adhesive. “Stretch-release adhesive is the most repair-friendly adhesive, and we wish more manufacturers would adopt it,” writes the site. “Unfortunately, it's kind of wasted on a phone that's this hard to get into.”

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Delving deeper into the device found some interesting design decisions regarding the pop connectors of the dual camera module and the fact that the selfie camera and earpiece speaker are joined as a single unit. iFixit also dinged the Essential Phone for the decision not to include a headphone jack. While this design decision is usually simply frowned upon, the site took issue with the fact that the USB-C port (which doubles as the connector for your headphones) is soldered directly to the motherboard. Given that the port will be subject to a lot of abuse, replacing a minor circuit board associated with the USB-C port gives way to replacing the whole motherboard.

However, that distinction is basically moot given the extreme measures that must be taken to get inside the device in the first place.

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In the end, iFixit gave the Essential Phone a repairability score of 1 out 10, which is downright miserable. Considering that the display was cracked in the process of gaining access to the inside of the device, it seems though a big fat goose egg would be a more fitting score…

All images courtesy iFixit