Sunday, December 10, 2023

First Pixel Watch teardown video shows it’s a repairability nightmare


Google’s first smartwatch has divided opinions in a rather extreme fashion. On one hand, the Pixel Watch design is a breath of fresh air, and the UI looks slick, too. But the asking price of $350 hardly justifies what the device has to offer, especially when compared to smartwatches from Apple and Samsung.

If you’ve been eying the Pixel Watch despite all its glaring flaws, you might want to protect your precious smartwatch like Gollum safeguards the One Ring, because repairability is not the device’s forte. In fact, the teardown treatment given to it by iFixit makes it abundantly clear that this first-gen product must be worn with great care.

Pixel Watch Teardown: Google’s 1st Gen Answer to the Apple Watch

The sloping display is easy to pry open, but replacing it is anything but. That’s because the display connector is buried underneath the battery (which is covered in cheap-looking plastic), and it is fixed in place using adhesives.

Sam Goldheart of iFixit remarks that “it would be nice if a cracked screen didn’t run the risk of battery replacement.” More importantly, it appears that Google is not really inclined to repair a shattered screen, and the wisest solution is to get it insured so that a replacement unit can be secured.

What if you crack a Pixel Watch screen?

One unfortunate Pixel Watch user cracked the screen on day one and faced the wrath of poor repairability the hard way. “I contacted Pixel Watch support in order to figure out how to buy a replacement screen, and they told me that I cannot have Google repair my watch at any price,” says one sad post on the official Google Community forum.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

That curved glass looks appealing, but it’s also an open invitation for physical damage. So, unless you want to get stuck in repair and replacement conversation hell with customer care, wear it with care or put a bumper case on it.

Also, Google’s product documentation makes it abundantly clear that the company can refuse repairs and send back the device in case of screen damage. Below are the exact words:

The glass surface on the underside that stays in contact with the skin is actually replaceable, as the sensor assembly is soldered directly to the motherboard and not the glass cover.

The internal component scenario is a maze of circuitry with a non-replaceable button and a rotating crown. The side button and crown can’t be separated from the steel frame, and if the aforementioned parts sustain any form of mechanical impairment, they can’t be taken out without damaging the adjacent parts. In a nutshell, you’re looking at a full-blown Pixel Watch replacement, again.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you’ve ever seen an Apple Watch teardown video, the difference in how neatly the internals are arranged compared to the Pixel Watch is quite stunning. Words like “ugly” are used to describe the innards of the Pixel Watch in the iFixit teardown video, and it definitely gives the vibes of a first-gen product.

In case you’ve paid a handsome sum for the Pixel Watch and feel rightfully paranoid about the screen sustaining damage, you can buy a watch case and easy-peel protective film from Ringke. If you’re after something more durable for the top face, Zagg is selling a “virtually indestructible” screen display shield for Google’s smartwatch.

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