Pixel phones can now lock up sensitive info before being sent in for repairs

Google Pixel 8 launch hands on area Pixel 8 Pro all color backs
(Image credit: Future | Philip Berne)

As part of its commitment to maintaining hardware longevity, Google's new update for Pixel phones sees the introduction of a Repair Mode.

Repair Mode, according to the company, allows users to place the data on their mobile device under lock and key, giving people some piece of mind whenever they take their smartphone in for repairs. It prevents other people from taking a peek at your photos, messages, or contacts. If this sounds familiar, some Galaxy phones also have a Repair Mode which functions similarly.

Google doesn’t explain how to activate Repair Mode in its announcement post, however, Tom’s Guide does provide step-by-step instructions on how to use the feature. First off, it can be found in the Settings menu under the System tab. 

Upon activation, you will have to enter a screen unlock method, like a PIN, and once you do, the phone will instantly restart into Repair Mode. There will be a notification on the Pixel interface stating it’s currently in Repair Mode with the option to exit it at any time. Tom’s Guide says in its coverage you will have “limited use of your phone… but any changes” made or actions performed will not be saved. Photos taken by your Pixel phone in this state, for example, will not be saved. 

The few limitations

There are some things to keep in mind when turning Repair Mode on. Customized colors will be reset to their default and only a small amount of apps will be available. Judging from the images on Tom’s Guide, the apps consist primarily of first-party software like Gmail. To revert back, select Exit Repair Mode in the aforementioned notification and enter your screen unlock password, PIN, or whatever you entered earlier.

In addition to Repair Mode, the company is giving users a way to “launch the Pixel Diagnostic App” straight from the Phone app. This lets you test your device before or after it’s been fixed to see if any lingering issues need to be addressed.

A ton of resources

To help people get started, Google is releasing a ton of resources to its Pixel Phone Help website. These updated pages will show you how to find spare parts, how to order them from the company's service partner iFixit, and offer access to repair manuals. The documents, available in English and French, have been rewritten so they’re easier to follow. That said, they are restricted to a handful of models.

The English manuals will only be for the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and the Pixel Fold. The French manuals, on the other hand, will cover the Pixel 7 line which includes the base model, the Pixel 7 Pro, as well as the Pixel 7a. Google does have plans to upload documents “for previous and future devices in the coming months”, but no word when that’ll be.

So, we reached out to the company for more clarification on the release of the other manuals and the availability of Repair Mode. Google doesn’t say if there are any limitations such as whether or not a Pixel phone needs to be running certain software or if it’s exclusive to recent models. This story will be updated at a later time.

While you wait, check out TechRadar's list of the best Pixel phones for 2023.

Update 12-22-2023:  A company representative got back to us stating Repair Mode will be available on the Pixel 5a and newer models. The device, however, must be running the December QPR update for Android 14. And repair manuals for other Pixel phones will come out next year. Google didn't give us an exact date.

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Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.