Pixel 3, 3XL devices bricking unexpectedly, users complain
Ahead of the highly-anticipated launch of the Pixel 5, Google's Pixel brand has begun garnering some unwanted attention. Users on Google's IssueTracker, its support forums, and on Reddit say that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL have started "bricking" with no prior warning or indication. The worst part is that the nonresponsive devices cannot be recovered since you can't even get to the bootloader.
As the name suggests, bricked devices are reduced to expensive sandwiches of glass, metal, and circuitry. The devices characteristically become completely unresponsive to software-level user inputs. In some cases, hardware-level inputs like forcing a reboot don't work either. Usually, bricked devices can be revived by entering the bootloader and using recovery mode or installing new firmware. Internal repairs by trained personnel could help, too.
The bricked Pixel 3 and 3XL devices enter Qualcomm's Emergency Download Mode (EDL) that is designed to load even before the Android firmware does. This prevents the tech-savvy user from using the bootloader and possibly trying to recover the Pixel. Ars Technica reported that EDL is a recovery tool that communicates with an obscure PC software called Qualcomm Product Support Tool (QPST).
Well, that's great, right? People could use QPST and flash new firmware! Wrong. You'll need the correct NAND image in the right format. Google does offer several Pixel 3 system images but they're meant for conventional Android flashing tools, not QPST. In a nutshell, almost none of the people facing the issue would be able to revive their Pixel phones by this method.
The cause of the problem remains unknown and Google hasn't commented on the matter yet. However, the issue is reminiscent of LG's boot loop problem that plagued devices for years before poor solder joints between the board and CPU were found causing the issue. Thankfully, since Pixel 3 was released in late-2018 and sold for 18 months, some might still be covered under warranty.
The number of Pixel 3 and 3XL users facing this issue is unclear and most of them could be out of warranty. Thankfully, Google recently extended the Pixel 4 XL warranty to cover unforeseen hardware issues. We're hoping the same treatment is extended to the unfortunate Pixel 3 and 3XL owners stuck with bricked devices.