The Pixel 3 series was released in October 2018, so it is not so old, it is certainly not big enough for people to worry about accidental hardware failures. And yet there are a growing number of reports from Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL owners whose devices are stuck in Emergency Download (EDL) mode. EDL is a low-level recovery mode that shipped to portable devices with Qualcomm chipsets and is used to refresh software when the device does not otherwise boot. For a phone to suddenly enter EDL mode indicates that something is wrong with the device preventing it from starting normally and this seems to be the case here.
Reports of this problem are piled high on Google Troubleshooter, support forums, and Reddit (via ArsTechnica). Reminiscent of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, two devices that have had their own boot failure problems in the past. In these cases, it was possible to recover the phone by installing a modified boot image, but in this case, no such fix has yet been discovered.
Since the EDL feature is designed to flash specific types of images rather than the regular “fastboot” packages released by Google, there is currently no way to recover Pixel 3 or 3 XL from this feature. The problem is also difficult to diagnose: Some Google employees in the support thread requesting error reports generated by Android have been suspended as users are unable to receive these reports without a working phone.
To restore the factory firmware to an EDL-enabled device, you need both a NAND image and a QPST or Qualcomm Product Support Tool. Even if the correct files for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL were obtained, there is no guarantee that the problem that caused these devices to go into EDL mode will initially be resolved by a factory reset. Qualcomm chip phones may start in EDL mode when a serious error is detected that makes it impossible to start the phone, which means that the correct files may not even flash, or if they do, the phone may not start.
It is not known what the root cause of this problem is, although the Pixel 3 and 3 XL are not the first Pixel phones to experience hardware problems. The Pixel 4 XL recently extended its one-year warranty thanks to power and charging issues, for example. We will be sure to update this article if Google issues a statement after investigating the issue.