The Pixel 3 Brain Swap Project


This project was done on May 8, 2020.

Back in early 2020, I purchased a Google Pixel 3 in order to test out its camera features and its “Google Flavored” Android software. I manage to get a pretty good deal on a “Not Pink” Pixel 3, which, in my opinion, look really good.

Google calls this color “Not Pink”

It was not long before I found that this Pixel 3 had some serious power management issues: It refuse to shutdown(immediately turns itself back on when it is powered off) and would drain all of its battery in a matter of hours, in idle. After some troubleshooting(mainly flashing factory image files since this Pixel 3 was of the Verizon variant, which had a permanently locked boot-loader), I have determined that the issue with this phone was hardware related. It was most likely that there was a fault on the motherboard, which I could not diagnose or fix. I wished I have the schematics of this phone and proper micro soldering skills, but I did not. At this point, I decided that the most logical option to get a fully function Pixel 3 was to purchase another broken one.

On the left: the 2nd Pixel 3 with a broken display

I managed to get a pretty good deal on the second one as well. It was of a different color(“Just Black”)had a broken display, but was of the factory unlocked variant(unlockable bootloader) and works as intended. I do not recall the exact amount I paid for both of these devices, but I do recall that getting these two broken devices costed me less than the market value at the time. Now, onto the good part: swapping the internals of the 2nd Pixel 3 into the Not Pink Pixel 3.

I wish that iFixit have sponsored me, but their tools are great regardless.

A few hours of dealing with screws, antennas and ribbon cables later, I had a perfectly functional Not Pink Pixel 3! I also put in a replacement battery while I was at it. The saddest part about this entire project was that after the transplant the Just Black Pixel 3 have not only a broken screen, but also a faulty motherboard.

I was really happy with the result of this project, and used the Pixel 3 as my main phone for a few month. Even after it was replaced with a better device, I still used it extensively to take photos. Here are some examples of the photos I took on this wonderful little device:

The little line on the bottom left corner is the International Space Station. I did not point the camera at the correct angle.
I miss Maine.

Lastly, as of April of 2022, this Not Pink Pixel 3 is still working perfectly as a backup/tinkering device. Its decent specifications, small size and unlockable bootloader make it a really lovable device.

New case, same old Pixel 3

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