A growing number of Pixel 3 and 3 XL users say their phones are dying an early death. For months, reports have been piling up on Google’s issue tracker, support forums, and Reddit, all saying basically the same thing: one day, the phones suddenly stop working and become completely unresponsive. The phones can’t boot into Android and will only show a Qualcomm recovery mode called “Emergency Download (EDL) mode.”
The phones that display EDL mode are completely useless bricks. Some Googlers in the support thread are asking for Android-generated bug reports, which collect a ton of diagnostic data about running processes. But users can’t submit those reports, because the phones won’t boot into Android. The normal tricks used to flash a fresh version of Android onto the devices won’t work, as users can’t get out of EDL mode and into the normal bootloader, where they can use the standard recommended flashing tools like “fastboot” or Google’s slick, new browser-based Android Flash Tool.
EDL mode is rarely used in the Android hacking and recovery scene, but it’s meant for recovery, presumably before any of the standard Android boot and recovery chain gets loaded onto the phone. When plugged into a PC, phones in EDL mode will identify as “QUSB_BULK_CID,” followed by a serial number. The PC software that communicates with EDL mode is called “QPST,” or the “Qualcomm Product Support Tool,” and could theoretically attempt to flash a new copy of Android onto the Pixel 3, assuming you could get the full NAND image in the right format. Google admirably provides dozens of Pixel 3 system images for download, but they’re meant for the normal Android flashing tools, not QPST.
Getting the right files still probably wouldn’t solve anything. We can only speculate about what the problem is, but reports of phones dying over the course of several months and a complete lack of recoverability indicate that the issue is not due to a software update. This sounds a lot like a batch of hardware components with a poor shelf life. It’s all very reminiscent of the bootloop problems that plagued LG phones for years, including the Google-branded LG Nexus 5X. In that case, phones would suddenly stop booting thanks to poor solder joints between the board and the CPU.
The Pixel 3 marked the start of Google being a more independent hardware company (instead of partnering with various competing Android OEMs), and most reports peg the Pixel 3 as being manufactured by Foxconn. The Pixel 3 was released at the end of 2018 and continued to sell for about 18 months, so whether you are still under the two-year warranty or not will depend on when you bought your phone. Google recently extended the Pixel 4 XL warranty to three years due to certain hardware issues, such as random reboots and a quickly draining battery. It would be nice to see the company provide the same support for Pixel 3 owners.