Google Pixel 5 Suffers From Alarming Build Quality Problem

Posted on October 20, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Mobile, Android with 43 Comments

Here we go again. Another year. Another Pixel. And another problem. Is this the end of the line for Google’s beleaguered smartphone family?

Granted, I’ve been wondering that for years. This is a product line that has never sold well, has, in fact, sold fewer units every year than the previous year. So it’s no surprise that Google switched strategies this year to focus on low-end and mid-range handsets: It needed a hit. But its 2020 lineup is more muddled than ever, with years-old camera sensors, weird feature matrixes, and, in the case of the lackluster Pixel 5, too-high pricing. So I’ve pretty much given up on Pixel, at least for now. What else could go wrong?

This: Multiple Pixel buyers are complaining that their new $700 handsets are literally coming apart at the seams, with the display separating from the body. You can find these reports on Google Support, XDA, and elsewhere; that latter (YouTube-based) report also notes an issue with the Pixel 5’s weird cardboard-like coating, which, no surprise, is rubbing right off. Reviewers—many of whom originally gave the Pixel 5 positive reviews—are now reporting seeing the gap as well.

What’s most troubling is that these problems are happening so soon after launch: Most Pixel 5 owners just got their new phones, and many Pixel 5s are arriving with the screen and body separated in the box. Some users have even gotten replacements from Google already and—wait for it—those replacements have the same problem too.

Of course they do.

And given how few Pixel 5s must be out in the world, it’s safe to assume that this problem will only get worse over time, and that it is most likely an endemic design issue that will need to be fixed.

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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Google Pixel 5 Suffers From Alarming Build Quality Problem”

  1. crunchyfrog

    Is that possibly from a battery swell or just poor manufacturing processes?

  2. roland

    Just (before this story broke) ordered an upgrade from the pixel 3 in google fi. Delivery date is after Thanksgiving. Hmm.

  3. gohliangsong

    I guess Google is taking security seriously with this phone...they are air-gapped!

  4. Daninbusiness

    I wonder who / what survived from their HTC acquisition? HTC (and most other manufacturers, for that matter) seemed to have figured out screen adhesion...

  5. bbennett40

    Looks like how my Lumia1520 ended up.

  6. avidfan451


    So dumb. And, sadly, so predictable.

  7. melkiades

    The Nexus line showed OEMs what to do. The Pixel line shows them what not to do.

  8. ebraiter

    Ah.... Google won't care. They made $138 million [or 85% of their revenue] from their advertising division.

  9. ghostrider

    Yeah, not good. Hopefully just a bad batch. Google don't actually manufacture them, so it should be relatively easy to fix. QC is a little lacking though.

    I will add that some of those comments weren't accurate. The Pixel 3a was the handset that re-invigorated the Pixel line, and was Google's biggest selling Pixel handset - with the 4a likely to continue that trend.

  10. ben55124

    Google should throw in the gcam software for any Android one device. And then focus on making android one more popular. Consistent updates and gcam processing don't require a hardware platform.

  11. mike2thel73

    same ol same ol google.

    they really need to stop making devices period.

    their own apps come out faster and are better on iOS.

    my nexus 6P was great but as I was using it going into year 3 it pretty much fell apart....battery started to die, no new android system update, and games started bringing the phone to a crawl.

    I am using a Pixel 3. Battery life was unimpressive from the get-go and now lately the phone is overheating.

    I want to get rid of it but I'm not ready buy an iPhone 12 (any version) because the only 5G available to me is the low band kind which is not a valid 5G argument plus the C-band auction is coming up in December and it's going to take at least a year for the carriers to start rolling that out. I don't even know if the iPhone 12 will even support that.

    previous iPhones do not come down in price enough. They only take a $100.00 off which is a complete joke. They stop making the pro/max devices after a year and then if you want to save on an iPhone you either have to buy second hand or hope that a "refurbished" device from apple will be a decent option if you're quick enough to snag one.

    Samsung is overpriced and double app'd.

    Oneplus updates are better than what they were years ago but as their phones go into year 2 OnePlus puts them on the back burner for preference of newer replacements and sometimes they skip a month or are a month behind on security updates.

    ONEPLUS, that's not good enough when you're charging $700 or more for your devices now.

    I'm not happy with the state of smartphones right now.

  12. wolters

    As a day one Pixel fan, I understand why the move to upper mid-range for the Pixel but still sad to see where it is right now. I for one loved the Pixel 4 was so consistent...face unlock was awesome and phone was always smooth. But I do like to upgrade yearly. This will be the first Pixel I will not be upgrading tom primarily due to the's a downgrade from the Pixel 4XL and now using a Note 20 Ultra, just can't make the screen size adjustment.

  13. ryrynz

    RIP the Pixel 5. Get a 4XL or a 4A instead.

  14. jwr375

    Verizon replaced my Pixel 4XL due to a malfunctioning battery. I guess my next phone will be a Galaxy. I will miss having a clean version of Android with no crapware.

  15. Saarek

    As Android is supposedly open, why don't people just buy the phone they actually want and then flash it with stock Android or something?

    Appreciate this might sound incredibly naive, but there seem to be a load of guides online as to how to do this and if its running a bastardised version of Android already it should just support stock Android, right?

    • ianbetteridge

      In reply to Saarek:

      Basically because Android isn't really open source, at least not in a meaningful way. Google began moving chunks of the operating system into Play Services - which is very much not open source - and its own apps, of course, aren't open either. "Stock Android" - the AOSP release – is pretty useless. It's not quite at the point of being as open as macOS, but it's not far off.

  16. ngc224

    Are there any alarming build quality problems with Surface Duo? <crickets>

  17. Trickyd

    I've had my UK sorta sage Pixel 5 for a week now and it's standing up to normal use without a case well and not exhibiting this issue.

    Overall I'm very pleased with it - the screen is really, really good (and I came from an S10 and S8 before that) the bezel is thicker than expected but even all the way round and not noticeable in dark mode and of course no dreadful notch like Apple are still foisting on peoples retinas!

    Performance is very good in reality even if poor on benchmarks (it comes in at 50-66% of S10 levels on Geekbench) .

    I specifically wanted an easily pocketable sturdy phone without a glass back as fed up of buying 2 or 3 clear cases every year for jewel like Galaxies, and the Pixel 5 fits the bill well , so far the aluminium back seems sturdy enough , doesn't show fingerprints but will lose the matte effect when rubbing against keys etc. The gorilla glass 6 scratches just as easily as versions 1-5!

    My main niggle is the main camera having heard rave reviews of every Pixel camera I was expecting to be blown away but in reality it seems to be only a bit better than my last google phone a Nexus 6P and not really in the same league as Galaxy S10/S8's for sharpness and resolution , phone startup and software perfomance is good but I think the actual lens itself is not up to scratch.

    In constrast the wide angle lens seems to work well and gives comparable results to the S10.

  18. SvenJ

    Guess I'm glad i pulled a Paul. Ordered one, thought about it and cancelled a couple of days later. Don't think I'll be re-ordering, though.

  19. nicholas_kathrein

    Lets just wait and see what happens. It could be a small batch. We don't know yet.

  20. yoshi

    Ah boy, here we go again. How is Google so bad at phones?

  21. innitrichie

    This gap was designed to allow the Pixel 5 to breathe properly. After all, we all know it's high-performance components will generate a ton of heat.

  22. Vladimir Carli

    it's incredible. Pixel is down the drain, I can't stand Samsung's UI, Huawei has been killed by the amazing US government. Basically there is no viable android flagship option for me and no alternative to the apple black hole

  23. mikegalos

    Guess they need Larry Page to come back as CEO so he can tell people they're holding it wrong.

  24. beckerrt

    Getting harder and harder for the Pixel team to justify its existence. I can't imagine why the executive team at Google would allow this to continue. Where's the path to profitability? Is this smartphone adding so many users that it makes sense for Google to keep it alive? I don't think so.

  25. beckerrt

    Bring back the Nexus!

  26. dcdevito

    is anyone actually surprised? Google hasn’t once proven they can deliver a reliable device without issues.

  27. donaldhall3

    Given Google’s overall lack of commitment to quality why is anyone surprised by this? The just throw stuff out there, people buy it, and then they either cancel the product or let the product die. You’d be crazy to invest in any Google hardware at all.