Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Nexus 6P experience

The Nexus 6P was a phone made by Huawei for Google.  I bought my Nexus 6P when it first went on sale. I anxiously waited for it to arrive in November 2015.  I was excited at the time to get an Android phone with no bloatware installed on it.  It would be my first Android phone with stock Android.

I have to admit the 6P was a total disappointment for me.  The monthly updates Google sent out for the 6P made me feel like a beta tester.  The updates frequently had Bluetooth updates that royally broke the phones ability to connect to other Bluetooth devices.  One of Google’s Bluetooth updates caused my Toyota 2015 Highlander’s Entune system to reboot continuously while I was driving the car (It used to work perfectly before the update).  I was ready to make an appointment with the car dealer assuming the radio had a loose wire but I researched the program and found out it was the Nexus 6P causing my car to reboot!!  Once I unpaired the phone from the car, my Toyota was working perfectly.  I paired my Toyota with several other branded cell phones and they all worked fine, it was the 6P causing my issues.

Google sent out monthly updates, it was comical to see how my Toyota could work for one update and then go broke for the next update.  My background is software development, it was clear to me Google was doing a lousy job testing their software. 

Then in August 2017 came a total surprise when I discovered my Nexus 6P screen had pushed itself out of the phone!  For the first few seconds I thought my 6P came out of my Spigen case.  Once I took the case off it was clear the glass display had separated from the phone.  My 6P had never been dropped or serviced.  There was no reason for the screen to lift off like that…..  Well there was.  My first thoughts were the glue/tape had simply let go.  But when you tried to push the screen back on the phone it resisted you like a strong spring.  Then the bell went off in my head, the Lithium battery most likely had puffed which would cause something to have to give.  In this case the glass screen.  It could have been much worse, sometimes when a Lithium battery expands it could push against a sharp edge and damage the thin foil casing the battery is made of.  If it were to get punctured the battery could catch on fire. 

Lithium batteries when they start failing have a nasty habit of expanding in size, commonly known as puffing.  I have seen this in old Apple iPods that used the click wheel.  I had done a video on how to repair a stuck click wheel on an older iPod which was caused by a Lithium battery that had puffed over the years. In that case the battery was many years old and it was understandable that it eventually failed.

The surprising part here is my 6P was not even two years old.  How could a Lithium battery start to puff so quickly?  I suspect the amount of faulty battery failures in the 6P can be blamed on the ‘Rapid charging’ technique that Huawei used.  It was not based on the Qualcomm’s quick charge technology which is what most modern day mobile phones use.  More than likely the technique that Huawei used to rapid charge the 6P is a design flaw.  Charging Lithium batteries quickly is a tricky set of logic that monitors amps, voltage and temperatures. 

What came next really bothered me.  I decided to call Google even though my one year warranty had expired.  My reason for calling them was I felt the Nexus 6P’s battery failures was a manufacturing defect and should be covered by Google since it's their brand.  With no surprise the person from Google support was not in the USA.  It was some overseas support member who dazzled me with total stupidity.  She asked me where I got the phone and I said directly from Google.  I tried explaining to her that my glass screen had separated from the phone due to a puffed battery and was well aware that these batteries were failing prematurely. I had informed her this was a common problem and was well documented from many complaints online.  She informed me that there had been no issues with batteries or screen coming out. That was clearly a lie and I told her to use Google’s search engine to see how many customers were having issues. Her next statement was a jaw dropper. She asked what recent apps do you have installed on the phone, the screen probably got pushed off from an app you installed ………  Yeah think that one over for a second.  She is claiming an app from the Google Play Store has the ability to push the screen out of the phone……. 

Ok Houston we have a problem, I got a bonafide dumb ass on the line.  I told her no app would cause this sort of problem, this was a hardware problem and not software.  It did not matter to her, she basically shut me down. She stated the phone is out of warranty and you have to contact Huawei and pay them to repair your phone.   So Google does not even arrange for the repair! It’s the usual finger pointing game.  I was not happy with her answer and requested a supervisor.  She told me none were available and I could be put on a call back and the maximum wait would be 30 minutes.  I waited 5 hours and no call was ever made.  They never called me back.

So I did my research on Huawei’s repair process and was not surprised to find out they stink.  You don’t get your own phone back.  It will be someone else’s phone that they ‘maybe’ repaired.  It was common to read user experiences where they sent back a phone in perfect cosmetic condition and get back a phone with scratches and dents.  And in most cases Huawei does not even replace the battery!!!  They can send you back a refurb where the battery won’t even hold a charge for half a day.  So clearly Huawei’s refurb process is poor.  I’m used to companies like Apple where their refurb process includes a new battery and a new shell.  The device looks like new.  After reading all the complaints it was clear to me sending my phone back was not an option. 

There are numerous articles that explain how to get a Nexus 6P apart.  I watched several videos and decided to try it.  I ordered a new OEM battery on eBay and some double sided stick tape to bond the glass back to the phone.  You will need a heat gun or hair dryer to successfully take the 6P apart.  The heat gun is required to help melt the glue that holds the back glass on by the camera and the lower edge which is plastic. You will need a hobby knife, some old credit cards or guitar picks and a small Philips screwdriver.  It’s a royal pain to get the 6P apart but it’s doable.

Once I got the phone apart, it was surprising how difficult it was to remove the battery. They glued the battery in.  And you cannot use a screwdriver or knife on the battery, if you puncture that thin layer the battery could easily catch on fire.  I used a credit card very carefully to wedge under the battery to release the glue.

Once I got the battery out and installed the new battery the screen easily went back into the phone.  So the battery was puffed enough to force the screen out. I used some double sided tape to hold the screen down and used a couple of strips on the new battery.  Reassembling the phone was easy.

The new battery is doing a lot better than my original.  I can only hope this battery will last maybe 18 months?  But will the Nexus 6P last that long?  While researching all the battery issues another hot topic was discovered – boot looping.  It’s a huge issue, the Nexus 6P won’t finish booting and gets stuck in a loop.  It’s not software, the motherboard has a CPU issue.  There are many possible reasons for this problem but they all point back to another manufacturing defect caused my Huawei. 

So where is Google on this?  This is where I feel Google is a total failure.  They contracted Huawei to manufacture their flagship phone for 2015.  The Nexus line is Google’s brand.  But in spite of that fact, Google passes the buck and tells their customers to call Huawei.  Does Apple tell their customers to contact Foxconn when their product fails?  No, of course not.  And just this year (2017) Google has surpassed Apple in worth yet Google offer’s support that feels like a 3rd rate company.

This is what my phone looked like with the puffed battery:

And a video: