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Google Refurbished Pixel 2 is Always Defective (bootloader unlock)
There is an obscure feature that few phone makers other than Google include in their phones. According to the internet forums and my personal experience so far, this feature is broken in most of the warranty replacement phones shipped by Google. Nobody but Google can repair it. Because of its obscurity and technical nature, few support personnel are understanding or sympathetic. I think there may be some kind of bureaucratic disconnect that is preventing this issue from being addressed, or Google has decided the number of affected users is too small to be worth the resources needed to fix the flaw in their refurbishment process. The name of the feature is "unlockable bootloader".

Google has shipped me 2 broken phones so far in their attempt to remedy an unrelated defect in my original Pixel 2. I just finished the phone call to have the second replacement exchanged for a third replacement. Both times the support technician has in the end told me that there's nothing they are allowed to do for me other than fill out an order form for another refurbished phone and leave a comment in the order for the fulfillment team to read. Requesting an unlockable bootloader in the comment didn't work the first time and, based on the forum posts I've seen, I have my doubts that it will ever change anything.

I don't know what else to do, so I intend to keep sending them in for a replacement until I receive one that isn't broken.

For community reference, I can see on the RMA information that the refurbishment is being handled by an external company, "Cynergy". A quick web search shows that this is probably their website: http://www.cynergyus.com/. Anyone else interested in devices with unlockable bootloaders should probably be wary of manufacturers that partner with Cynergy.

Technical log:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools>fastboot flashing get_unlock_ability
                                                   (bootloader) get_unlock_ability: 1
OKAY [  0.001s]
Finished. Total time: 0.003s

C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools>fastboot flashing unlock
                                                   FAILED (remote: 'Flashing Unlock is not allowed
fastboot: error: Command failed

Steps to reproduce:

1. Acquire a refurbished Google Pixel 2. (GA00126-US-RA)

2. Power it on without inserting a SIM card and skip everything in the initial setup.

3. Unlock the secret "Developer options" by tapping 7 times on "Build number" in the "About phone" settings page.

4. Enter the "System" settings page, enter the "Developer options" sub-page, and find the "OEM unlocking" setting near the top.

5. Because OEM unlocking is greyed out and says "Connect to the internet or contact your carrier", connect the phone to a Wi-Fi. (Set the connection to "metered" while adding the Wi-Fi to prevent it from wastefully downloading updates.)

6. After some time, reopen developer options and enable OEM unlocking. (Note: I have found that the setting of this slider and the state of get_unlock_ability persists across factory resets. At this step after doing a factory reset, you will find the slider is already enabled from the last time. The setting being greyed out or not does not affect get_unlock_ability.)

7. Completely shut down the device by holding the power button for a few seconds and selecting "Power off".


8. Enter fastboot mode: "Press and hold Volume Down, then press and hold Power." Let go of the power button once the phone vibrates but keep holding the volume button. (If you continue holding the power button you will accidentally trigger the "Start" command from the fastboot menu.)

9. Connect the device to a PC with "Android SDK" and "Google USB Driver" installed.

10. Open Command Prompt on the PC.

11. Run a command to navigate to the SDK platform tools folder: cd /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools"

12. Run the command to verify that you have enabled OEM unlocking: fastboot flashing get_unlock_ability

Command response should be: (bootloader) get_unlock_ability: 1
If it responds "get_unlock_ability: 0" then OEM unlocking was not enabled properly at step 6.

13. Run the command to unlock the bootloader: fastboot flashing unlock

Instead of initiating the bootloader unlock process on the phone screen, command response is: FAILED (remote: 'Flashing Unlock is not allowed')

If you boot back to the normal system at this point, you will find the "OEM unlocking" slider is greyed out again no matter what the internet state is. get_unlock_ability is still 1. It can only be un-greyed by doing a factory reset and starting over from step 1, but you will find at step 6 that it is already enabled. Disabling, rebooting, and enabling again does not help.

Further reading:

RMA phone from Google is not unlocking the bootloader

OEM Unlocking Grayed out on non-VZW Pixel 2.

PSA: RMA refurbished Pixel 2's can NOT be bootloader unlocked.

Cannot unlock Pixel 2 bootloader

Web Search: "get_unlock_ability: 1" "Flashing Unlock is not allowed"

(Unrelated bug: This message board does not support links ending in a quote mark, even if you manually set the link target in the editor.)
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To the best of my knowledge, I truly do not believe this is a bug.
There are certain Carriers (Network Service Providers) such as "Verizon Wireless" in the USA and "EE" in the UK that LOCK the bootloader and DISABLE bootloader unlocking permanently.
This is a common and very well known practice. This is widely accepted in the Tech/Gadget industry. Furthermore, it is a popular reason that many people avoid those Carriers.
The point in case is that, regardless of YOUR carrier, if you are getting a refurbished device, it is highly probable that the origin of said device is one of these other, more restrictive carriers.
To add to the confusion, there is no way of discerning or distinguishing which devices have an unlockable bootloader by looking at the appearance of the device. One would only know upon starting the phone and viewing the settings, which is why the team sending you the replacement device wouldn't know what they are sending you. 
I hope this information is helpful and gives you some peace of mind!
Let us know if you have any other questions!
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Assuming that's true, that could be a valid point if I were dealing with a 3rd party but I am dealing with Google. Google is capable of truly factory restoring Google's phone.
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I apologize, I probably wasn't clear enough about how the "locked bootloader" carrier phones work.

Those models are "network unlocked" meaning they are capable not working on all networks/SIM cards... However the phone itself is a model that is specific to that carrier, such as a "Verizon Google Pixel" not just a "Google Pixel."

It is the model of the device, not the software. 

Hope that provides some clarification...
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There were two models of the Pixel 2 sold by the Google store, the regular model and the Verizon edition. The regular one had unlocked bootloader and the Verizon edition did not. I purchased the regular edition, and Google knows that. (I told them, and it's in my account records because I bought it from the Google Store.) Based on what I've read, the companies are able to tell which edition a Pixel 2 is by checking its IMEI against a database.

I suspect that this is a worse problem than an edition mixup: Their refurb process might be actually damaging the unlock feature of individual devices that used to be unlockable.

The techs have asked for IMEIs during the troubleshooting phase and they did not seem to find anything helpful after I gave it to them, but I will ask them explicitly about this problem during the next return to confirm it.
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Update: I was able to get a reply from the higher levels in Google and they simply informed the man handling my case, to his astonishment, that the refurbishment process is intentionally locking the bootloader and that is the way they designed it to operate. No options were given to me to remedy the issue and I was asked if there was anything else I wanted to discuss before they ended the call.
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The replacement phone I received has the same behavior (cannot unlock bootloader). It is unacceptable that they intentionally replaced a Google version Pixel 2 with a locked bootloader.
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At the end of that call I transferred the case back to the hardware support division and re-submitted my original hardware defect information over email. When they offered the replacement I explained the situation, requested a refund or anything else instead, and I am currently waiting on their reply while they "are looking into this". I will post the results when this concludes.
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Same issue. After sending in the bug report to the Google Support Team (store-support@google.com), I cannot seem to get anything out of them beside the following canned response.

"We are still working on the issue, Google is committed to continually making improvements to our devices and regularly provides free software updates to customers. Or specialist is still working on the issue. We'll get back to you at the earliest. Thank you for your patience."

The way I read the response above is "We are not fixing your issue". I am getting ready to open a BBB complaint against Google.
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This has happened to me too.  I just got my refurbished pixel 2 phone this week, and I can't unlock the bootloader either!

Sent a bug report into google and waiting to hear back from them.  If I don't hear anything by January, I'm calling them and asking for a refund.
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After a waiting period of 85 days I received an RMA for my Pixel 2 and since mailing it in I have confirmed the refunded amount was the full price I paid for the phone originally.

I believe the key that allowed me to make it through this process is the fact that I never let go of my original defective phone; I always gave them back their locked phones. (The "advanced" return process lets you keep your phone until the replacement arrives.) After I re-submitted my hardware defect information and they offered me a replacement phone over email, here is the reply I wrote:

"I have been informed by high-level Google support staff that all refurbished Pixel 2 phones coming from the Google refurbishment center are effectively the same as the Pixel 2 Verizon edition. (Carrier is still unlocked but the bootloader is locked.) My phone is not the Verizon edition and I am not interested in owning a phone with a locked bootloader. What other options are available? I would accept a partial refund, a new Pixel 2 instead of a refurb, paying the price difference to get back a Pixel 3 instead of a Pixel 2, or maybe some other phone.

After that, they replied to me several times to let me know they were still working on my request and eventually let me know they had processed my request and I would receive a separate email soon. I would like to thank John for being patient with my skepticism during that period.

The total time spent on this issue, from the first phone call to the day I received the RMA instructions, was 137 days.
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