The pitfalls of do-it-yourself iPhone repair


— 4:46 PM on January 20, 2011

There comes a point in every man's life when he looks at his $699 (retail) phone and says, "Phone, you are, perhaps, my only friend. And as your friend I must do the thing that friends do and tell you it's obvious that you've been hitting the juice a bit hard of late. Seems like you can't even go an entire morning without needing a nip from the dock. I think it's time you got help. But not professional help. No, I think we can take care of this little intervention with just you, me, and a third-party battery from the gnarliest parts of China."

And then you cry. Because you're talking to your iPhone instead of on your iPhone.

Yes, the battery on my 18-month-old iPhone 3GS decided to go all Col. Sanders on me and went teats up. While my wife's iPhone, purchased at the same time, continues to hold a charge not unlike my afro in a balloon-and-wool-sock factory, mine couldn't make it through the morning without tethering itself to the grid. Weak, man. Weak. I blame too much Infinity Blade.

So, as a man who built and continues to reluctantly use a moderately stable Hackintosh (currently running System 7 with MultiFinder), I decided to put a new battery in myself. Armed with a $10 battery and kit I'd acquired off eBay, along with several helpful YouTube videos, I attacked my phone a vengeance. Assuming you define vengeance as a suction cup.

Truth be told, the procedure isn't that difficult. Assuming you have either 20-plus years experience as jeweler or fly fisherman, are a neurosurgeon, are gifted/cursed with abnormally tiny hands and possess the digital dexterity of a sleight-of-hand man. I only qualify for about 70% of the latter. Them connections is itty-bitty. But most are standard-issue press-on connectors. Except for one, known throughout the web as iPhone Connector Number 3. Not only is it super tiny, it lurks underneath connectors 1 and 2 (all three connector attach the LCD screen to the phone).

Connector No. 3 has a locking mechanism that you must flip up before sliding a ribbon cable out. In theory, this bit is not terribly difficult. Unless your screen, after 15 minutes of trying to gently pull it away from the bezel, releases at terminal velocity, yanking all three connectors from their nanomoorings. Good times.

Fortunately, this violent act did not actually break Connector No. 3. No, that mishap would not occur until re-assembly. Bear in the mind the cable that's supposed to slide into Sauron's own socket is less than an inch long, underneath two other cables and soldered to the touch screen. Somehow, after much cursing my lack of Steve Austin's bionic eye, I managed to slip the ribbon cable in just so. Sending the flip-lock level shooting into the abyss.

Fudge.

Thinking that the connector would stay in place anyway due to a lack of stress on that ribbon, I completed the assembly and booted up my phone. Which worked. Except for the proximity sensor (one of the things controlled by Connector No. 3). And I couldn't get service in several parts of my house. And the battery wouldn't charge. Otherwise, it was perfect.

After a full night of being plugged in, the phone had not gained a single percentage of battery power. I attempted every manner of resetting the phone to no avail. At that point, I officially gave up and hit up Google for some local iPhone repair options. Turns out, there are many sketchy-looking phone repair places littering the DFW Metroplexicon. I was just lucky enough to have one nice-looking one literally a mile from my house.

Cell Phone Repair Center opened at nine. I had a dentist appointment at nine. Bummer. However, the gentleman must've been impressed with my newly shined teeth as he quoted me a whopping $45 to do what he thought would be needed. And what did it need? Another new battery and a new antenna (I had apparently damaged that as well, yay me). I did not have them repair the proximity sensor because, well, I don't care. I'm six months (or less) away from an iPhone 4 or 5, and I've never had an issue misdialing with my face. Yes, I have better facial dexterity than manual dexterity.

So, all is relatively back to normal with minimal financial pain. And the next time I think about tinkering, I'll try something easy. Like adding lasers to my kids' Duplos.

Later,

Fox

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