Many initial impressions with the Google Pixel 3 from around the web have noted something potentially problematic about the new Google flagship’s smooth touch glass back. Perhaps most notable was a photo that ArsTechnica‘s Ron Amadeo took in the demo space of a phone that had what looked to be egregious scratches on the back… on day one

So I decided to do a brief test myself, by making a custom 9to5Google-branded Pixel 3 XL.

In brief, I found in this quick test — which consisted of drawing on the back of my Pixel 3 XL — that it’s probably not any more scratch prone than any other glass-backed phone. Even drawing on the back of the phone with a pair of keys I was able to quickly wipe off the marks. That’s because it seems to me that these are primarily marks on top of the glass, not scratches into it.

Sure, some of what was witnessed at the event may be true scratching of the back, but I think what we’re primarily seeing here is something one 9to5Google reader — who happens to work in construction — explained in our comments section.

So, if the frosted portion of the backs are actually etched glass (usually acid etched), then I completely understand why this is happening (scratching). It’s because the surface becomes abrasive do to the etching and it is actually sanding the surfaces of whatever you are rubbing against it. The slight residue then fills the pores on the phone back and make it seem like a lot of damage has occurred. At least this is what happens with frosted glass that we deal with in construction… It is a bit harder to keep clean, but generally resilient and probably feels nice. And probably, hopefully, doesn’t actually have a coating at all… I would like to handle the white and black ones before ordering, to see if they show the “scratches” differently.

I can confirm, the back does feel very nice to the touch. More on that in our full review.

All this said, of course it’s still a glass back at the end of the day. And any glass-backed phone, like an iPhone X  or a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, is going to pick up scratches pretty easily — all you need is something a bit harder than glass, like a stray grain of sand in your pocket. But I think it’s pretty clearly busted that the Pixel 3 XL is any more scratch prone than most phones.

Another thing worth noting here: This doesn’t really apply to the white Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL at all in my testing, since you can’t even see these marks. So if you’re paranoid about this and want to avoid the chance of visible scratches altogether, those might be your best bet. I tried to draw the 9to5Google moniker on the white model and had no success getting it to show up on camera. I don’t have a Not Pink model to test with, but I presume that it’s not very noticeable on that one either.

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About the Author

Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.