The Essential Phone pre-orders began arriving last week, but not before a snafu on the part of the Andy Rubin startup involving a “verification” email that shared customer data. Listening to Essential and just looking at the phone make it clear that a lot of engineering work went into the device. An iFixit teardown confirms as much, though creating a black monolithic slab also resulted in an incredibly hard phone to repair.
Accessing the guts of devices usually requires unfastening screws or applying heat to loosen adhesives. However, given the seamless design of the Essential Phone, the first method was not possible and the second did not work for iFixit. Instead, the repair site had to freeze the panels to gain access.
The point of entry for the Essential Phone is through the display, as there is nothing accessible on the rear side underneath the ceramic panel.
To the device’s credit, the cover glass separates from the LCD “rather easily,” but again it will be hard to access in the first place. The same applies to the battery, which uses a stretch-release adhesive — the “most repair-friendly adhesive.”
A heat pipe is used for cooling, while the USB-C port is soldered onto the motherboard making replacement difficult. One particularly interesting design choice, given the lack of branding, is how the SIM card slot features an irremovable tag with serial and IMEI information, as well as a QR code.
The rear dual-camera uses pop connectors, though the iconic front-facer is merged with the earpiece speaker and glued on.
Given the difficult entry and design choices internally, iFixit assigned the Essential Phone a 1 out of 10 repairability score, noting “Nearly invisible seams and copious adhesive means any attempt at repair is likely to inflict as much damage as it fixes.”