November 27, 2013
Adventures in Smart Phone Repair
At first, I was a bit confused. Did I not plug in my cell phone completely? Did my computer going into “sleep” mode cause it to stop charging the phone? Eventually, after experiencing the problem with four different cords, including two at home, one at work, and one in the car, I was forced to come to the obvious conclusion: my smart phone wasn’t charging correctly.
It took a while to admit it to myself, because dealing with these sorts of things is inconvenient (although I didn’t know, at the time, quite how inconvenient it would turn out to be). Also, sometimes it charged up just fine, lulling me into a false sense of security.
On the way to services last Friday night, it wasn’t charging, and after unplugging and plugging it back in repeatedly with no change, I hit it against my leg a few times, plugged it back in, and suddenly it started charging. “This,” I concluded, “is a hardware problem.”
After services that night I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about taking my phone into the store to be looked at, and he said he was having the same problem. He and I bought the same model phone around the same time, so I thought, “Aha! This can’t be a coincidence! It must be a known problem with this model. Now I know I should take it into the shop.”
It turns out my friend got an appointment at the phone store the next day 20 minutes before the appointment I had made. As I sat down to wait for the technician, I checked my text messages, and saw one from my friend telling me it’s an easy fix: His phone just had a big piece of lint in the place where the charging plug goes.
So the technician shows up, with an eager-looking trainee in tow. I tell him the whole story, and he doesn’t find any lint. He questions me to make sure I don’t just have a faulty power cord at home, because it seems to be charging just fine in the store. I remind him the problem has been intermittent, and tell him it’s happened with four different cords.
He takes it in the back to make sure. Then he and the trainee come out of the back room, and start talking to another customer. They’re far enough away that I can’t hear what they’re saying. I start to wonder whether they have mistaken her for me, but I decide that can’t be it, because she would have corrected them by now.
Finally, the two walk over to me. The technician looks down at his hands, then starts patting at his pockets. He looks at the trainee, who looks back at him helplessly. Where is my phone? Apparently the technician gave it to the other customer he had been speaking with. Luckily, she is still there, and he sheepishly retrieves my phone. He tells me he can’t find anything wrong with it.
We conclude that when I hit it against my leg the previous evening in the car, I must have dislodged whatever was stuck in there. That theory holds until I get up on Saturday morning, and find my phone, which has been plugged in all night, is still at 10%.
So I make another appointment for that afternoon, and I head back to the phone store. There I find vindication! After about 15 or 20 minutes of being plugged in at the store on their Official Cable, the phone is not charging. Their diagnostics, however, insist the battery is just fine. Despite my theory of a hardware problem, the technician trusts his diagnostic program and insists it must be a software issue.
So, on the advice of the technician, I go home and restore the software on my phone from the backup. It doesn’t charge. I then restore the software on the phone as if it’s a brand new device (in case any of the backup files are corrupted), and it still doesn’t charge. I smack the phone around a few times, and it starts to charge. Hardware.
On trip three to the phone store on Monday evening, the technician who sees me listens to my story, and picks up my phone. He notices something moving inside. There is only one thing, he says, heavy enough inside the phone to feel like that when it moves around: the battery. He concludes the battery adhesive has failed, causing the battery to move around and intermittently lose connection while charging. This theory fits in with my experience of hitting it to make it charge.
The technician takes the phone into the back, where the battery is removed and a new one is put in. Even though the battery itself is fine, a new one is necessary because they don’t keep battery adhesive in the repair room. Seriously.
Apparently they don’t think it’s necessary because it’s unheard of for a battery to come loose. In fact, they often have so much trouble unsticking old failed batteries that they have to warn customers – including me – that when they try to remove the battery, they may break the phone, so I may have to end up buying a new phone. Each new battery comes with its own adhesive, so buying a new battery is the only way for me to get a solidly attached battery into my phone. I tell them to go ahead, I’ll pay for a new battery.
As I write this, it’s Tuesday afternoon, and my phone seems to be charging correctly. I’ve gotten used to my daily visits to the phone store. I sure will miss those guys.