Category: How To

Repairing the iPhone power switch – aka “Nerves of Steel”

By , August 3, 2013 7:49 pm

About a month ago, my iPhone’s power switch stopped working reliably. This is the switch on the upper right that toggles the phone into standby mode. It’s also used for taking screen shots, which I find really useful. Everything else was fine with the phone, so I thought I would see if I could figure out how to fix it myself.

Great kit with screw organizer.

Great kit with screw organizer. Click the pic for a larger view.

A quick search on the web got me to I studied these instruction several times and thought, “Hmm… I could do that”, but I needed the tools. So a quick hop over to Amazon got me a list of  iPhone repair kits. The one that won me over was the Syba SY-ACC65061 Repair Kit with Dis-Assembling Tool for iPhone and iPad because it came with a very unique holder for the screws. Having messed with iPhones before, I can’t begin to tell you how microscopic the screws are.  This kit rocks and was just the thing for my little endeavor.

It’s got parts for the iPhone 4S and 4 as well as iPads, etc. In reality, the only things that I really needed from the kit were:

  •  * Pentalobe screwdriver – removes bottom screw securing the case.
  •  * Tiny phillips – no, I mean really tiny. You don’t have one of these.
  •  * Screw organizer – worth the price of the whole kit.

I could have used some of my regular tools for the rest of the effort. However,  I cannot emphasize how great it was to have the screw organizer (yellow thing in the picture).

The other thing that I needed was the actual part to replace. It’s weird how parts pricing can be all over the map. I found parts from $3-35. They all looked pretty much the same. Some came with tools, others did not. I originally ordered a part that was advertised as OEM and was only $10, but after my order I was informed that it would take 1.5 months to arrive – from China. OK, so much for that. I ordered another part from an outfit in California for $5. Generic BestDealUSA Replacement Proximity Light Sensor Power Button Flex Cable Ribbon for iPhone 4S
It arrived in 2 days. It’s that weird black ribbon cable looking thing in the picture above.

Nerves of Steel:

Battery and power cable has so much glue!

Battery and power cable has so much glue!

One thing I HATE about the iPhone is that all the parts are so tiny and they use a lot of adhesives. I’m always nervous to pry things that are glued down or to exert great pressure on tiny parts. Well, this process gave me plenty of those situations to deal with. Almost immediately I had to deal with this in order to remove the battery and the power cable. Both of those are secured with a double sided adhesive. Argg. So after some careful prying, I was able to get the phone to the state you see to the right.

One thing I do like about the iPhone is that the connectors for the various parts (camera, antenna, speakers, etc.) area ll very easy to disconnect and reconnect. I always admire how they got these complex connectors to secure so well and how exact the cable routing is inside the phone.

In the picture to the right, the battery is out and the power cable is folded to the left. The grey stuff on the cable is the adhesive. That little round thing in the bottom left is the vibration device.

&$^%%! – Clips!

As it turns out, the battery would be the easiest thing to take out. The next steps required lots of prying and removal of clips and tiny grounding pieces. Here’s a closeup of the innards. The power switch is attached to the metal frame of the phone on the upper left. You can’t get to it until you take apart most of the phone. There’s no clearance to reach the screws until the motherboard is out of the way. The open silver spot is where the camera goes (removed in this picture).

The business end of the phone - the top.

The business end of the phone – the top. All those IC looking things are the connectors for the cables.

Of all the items in the dis-assembly process, the darn metal clips that secure the front facing camera and the power cable are the most nerve wracking. They are tiny and hold fast. I tried using the plastic spudger (blue lever with a curved end) that came with the kit, but it’s edges just got destroyed. I ended up using a regular micro screwdriver to pry the clips loose. The whole time I was extremely worried that I would break something in the process. In fact, the original power assembly cable tore when I was trying to remove it. Thank goodness I didn’t need it since it was being replaced. In the picture below, you can see it above the phone. Those pieces are supposed to be one assembly.

Halfway There (living on a prayer):

At the end of the process, here’s what my phone and desk looked like. You can see I had a spotlight on the phone itself as I worked on it. I needed the light to see all the tiny parts. I even broke out a magnifying glass a few times to double check fit. You can see the evil clips on the top of the yellow organizer. The tiny black one in the center held the power cable assembly onto the phone. The silver one (below and to the right of the black clip, help the forward facing camera in place. These clips will make you get a few white hairs.

Time to put it back together.

Time to put it back together. Click the photo for a full view.

After I got to the picture above, I literally had to go take a break because I was a bundle of nerves. I was mentally preparing for my phone to be completely busted when I re-assembled it.

In the End:

Well to make a long story short, this had a happy ending. After the major pain of reassembly, the phone worked! The only odd thing is that my SIM card holder won’t go all the way in to the phone anymore. It sticks out about 1mm. When I put a bumper case on it, I can’t notice it so I decided to leave it alone since the phone was otherwise working fine. The bottom line is that this is NOT an easy fix. Set aside several hours and be really patient. I really recommend the screw organizer. Also notice that I placed it on a magnetic tray (got it at the auto parts store) to make sure that no tiny screws fly out and get lost.

So that’s my experience. I have left comments on the iFixit website for those who may decide to try it out yourselves. My iPhone will continue to serve me now since I won’t be totally annoyed by a broken power button.




Making a Mobile Application Video Demo

By , May 19, 2013 11:47 pm


Intro for Video of Mobile Application Demo

Intro for Video of Mobile Application Demo


OK, so you have created a great mobile application and you want to show it off to the world. How can you be sure that potential users see it in the light that you want, hitting all the key points? Well nothing beats a video demo. If you’ve called a professional video production house, you’ll soon find that it’s too expensive! It’s not uncommon to spend $1,000 plus on a video demo. Well, there’s a better way.


As the Vice President of Product Management for Mobile at Deem, I managed the team creating all kinds of great mobile applications. We had apps for booking travel (hotel and ground transportation) as well as expense reporting and local offers. We wanted to create great videos and we figured out how to do it for pretty cheap. Here’s an example below before I describe what we did.

Example 1: Deem Ground Mobile Demo:

This application is used when you want to book a ride with a "Black Car" service right from your mobile phone.


Creating the Video:

So we took a wooden plank and installed a pipe fitting into it. At the end of the fitting we put some suction cups. To the suction cups, we attached the smartphone. At the other end of the plank, we simply took a tabletop tripod and mounted a digital camera that had HD video capabilities. Here’s a quick sketch of the setup.

Simple mounting system for the phone video recording.

Simple mounting system for the phone video recording.

Now, I installed the finished application on my phone and then wrote a quick script in a scene by scene format. To capture the video, we simply turned on recording while I ran through the demo!

Did you notice the nice blurry background? Every once in a while you’ll see someone walk past. We recorded the video in a conference room and simply had the normal office activity as the background. By using a very narrow depth of field on the camera, we got the background to be blurry. Simple huh?

There were two things in the video that required a professional. First, we had the “bumpers” created. These are the intro and exit animations. Second, was the post production work in overlaying the bullets, matching the recording to the sounds and finally adding the bumpers.

Oh, I should mention that since I wrote the demos and was the “voice talent”, that part was basically free. So how much did all this cost?

  • Mount for phone and camera – $15 materials
  • Script and voice talent – free!
  • Bumper animation – $250
  • Post production to bring it all together – $500

OK, so this is still a bit of an investment. However compare this to a professional video production house and I think you’ll see it was a bargain. Besides, you can re-use many of the parts and then you’ll only have to worry about the post production bucks.

Having a nice professional video helps to establish your brand, educate existing users and attract new customers. It’s also how people expect to see things these days. I mean, who reads manuals?


Fix the Leather car seat again

By , July 6, 2011 10:52 pm

About 10 months ago I repaired some ratty looking leather using a product called Leather Magic. Link to Leather Repair. It looked pretty darn good after the repair, but I got a lot of inquiries about how well it would hold up. Well, I have the answer for you now.

First a caveat, I may not have prepped the repair area perfectly as it was my first try. It looks like the seat that gets the most abuse, the drivers seat, started to show wear again in the repair zone after about 9 months. I spent a few hours one Saturday afternoon and did a quick touchup. Here are the results.

Repair seat Leather Magic

Driver’s seat by the door where most of the wear happens.

I could have let it go a bit longer, but I thought that maybe it would be easier to repair if I got to it sooner. Also, I didn’t do the full-on airbrush application. I just used a foam brush so you can see brush strokes if you look close. In reality, you’ll hardly notice it in daily use.

So now we have the real world update. For me, the repair lasted 9 months. Not too bad for the investment cost.

Here’s a link to the original post if you haven’t seen that: It covers a detailed overview of the first repair process.

===<Another Update>====

Today (8/25/2013) I refreshed the front seats of the car again. So it’s been about 1 year and 3 months since the last treatment. The driver’s seat outward panel had the most wear and a lot of the previous finish had come off completely. I had to carefully cut out flakes with a single edge razor and then re-coat a 2×3 inch area.

The leather compound material I had was hardened and I had to order more. The color coat material was still good and I was able to finish the front seats and my steering wheel. Tomorrow I’ll use something new called a “Gloss Restorer” to top off the job. The finished leather tends to be tacky and the Gloss Restorer is supposed to reduce that.

I’ll update with more pictures later in the week.

Here’s a general repair kit from Leather Magic that you can get on Amazon. However, if you call them directly they can arrange a color match for you. That’s what I ended up doing.


All the Gory Details

By , May 19, 2011 7:11 pm

I recently changed my black iPhone to white. I found a vendor on eBay that sold all the pieces as a kit for $75. That was a lot better then $199 at the Apple store with another 2 year contract! It was a bit of a commitment getting this done, but with the right tools and patience it can be done by a “regular” tinkerer like me. My process took about 1.5 hours in all, but I was going really slow and cataloging everything with pictures. Here’s the process in a few pics.

The paper with screw guides on a magnetic tray

All the parts can be seen above. I have already taken off the back as that’s super easy. Two screws on the bottom and you just slide it up and pop it off. The magnetic tray I got from an auto parts store. It was invaluable to keep the tiny screws from disappearing.

Power connector unfastened and battery is coming out

I heard that the battery was easy to take out…NOT! It was secured with adhesive and I had to pull very hard and firmly to get it to finally lift out. The picture above shows the battery being lifted out.

There are 5 connectors at the top near the camera.

You can see the little screws are  in their respective circles. Also in this picture you can see the vibrating device just outside the top edge of the phone. It’s pretty cool how it’s contacts are connected. There’s basically a copper plated spring steel “prong” coming off of it. Screwing it in place forces the prongs to contact the power source. I thought it was a nice way to accomplish a connection with no wires.

Main board is being removed. Speaker box at right.

After all the connectors are out, you can lift the main board out of the phone. In this picture you can also see at the far right, the plastic box that holds the speaker and causes it to amplify the volume. The audio cable is a teeny tiny black wire with a unique circular connector. I was really fascinated by the various fasteners.

The touchscreen and LCD assembly is held by these 10 screws.

It’s hard to understand the scale of those top screws without actually trying to handle them. I had to break out tweezers for this step. Those 10 screws hold the touchscreen and LDC assembly to the phone frame.

Separating the screen was the most nerve wracking part.

I had to pry quite a bit to get the glass separated from the frame. You see, there’s an adhesive involved. I ended up using a swiss army knife blade to cut and pry until it came loose. I was afraid I was going to crack the glass, but I didn’t.

The button was a PAIN to replace as well

Again they don’t tell you that there’s adhesive securing the plastic button to a rather delicate mylar film with contact stripes on it! So once again I broke out the swiss army knife and ever so carefully pried the button away from the mylar, all the while hoping that I didn’t damage the contact stripes. It proceeded VERY carefully as there was no replacement for this. If this button didn’t work, I would be royally screwed. Luckily it all went well.

So that was the last major setback. After that, I just had to re-assembly everything in the right order. The tolerances are extremely tight in the phone. They did not waste an lot of space.

So a few tips, get really really small screwdrivers. I just needed a Philips and a flathead. The magnetic tray was key! It kept all those tiny screws from getting lost. It also kept them pretty close to the circles on the paper I was working on . The circles are roughly equal to the locations on the phone interior.

Finally, if something doesn’t fit just perfect, stop and check clearances and how the parts are seated. Everything fits in a very precise manner. If something looks bents or is not flush to the surface next to it, it’s probably not right. Take it apart and check it again.

OK, that’s my experience that I wanted to share with you. If you decide to go for it, good luck and take your time!

White iPhone Satisfaction

By , May 14, 2011 10:34 am

So when the first iPhone came out, I got the first one available. It was black. When a white come came out, I “upgraded” and got a 3GS. It actually had a faster radio and more memory so it really was an upgrade.  Fast forward and the iPhone4 is introduced in black and white. I wanted a white one, but they were not available. Once again I got a black one.
Now history repeats itself. The white iPhones are introduced last month and there are already rumors of an iPhone 5 in the works. What’s a guy to do? I like the white, but I don’t want to get the same phone and pay a ridiculous premium just for a color. Hmm, perhaps there’s another way.

So I figured that replacement parts for the white phone must be available now since it’s officially introduced. Did a quick search and … bingo! Not only that, I came across this awesome video on how to do the face swap. Now if you know me, I am a tinkerer so I ain’t afraid of nothing, even it means breaking the device.

I thought I’d start “easy” and do the back first. I ordered a white back from an eBay seller and thought I’d give it a go. It arrived quickly and upon inspection, it looked like a really good quality piece. It really was OEM as stated. Sometimes you can’t be so sure on eBay. Taking the back off was simple – two screws and a push.

With back off, I can also see the inside of the phone. Getting the new back on was simplicity itself. Plop on the new back (be sure and take off the plastic protectors) slide it back into place and replace the screws. Really, that’s it.

The new back looks as slick as I had hoped.

As you can see, I now have a white iPhone back. So far it has been a week and I still love it. The quality is great and people think I got a “new” phone. Now the giveaway is the front. It’s still black. This is where it gets tricky.

You see, the front cannot be replaced so easy. If you viewed the video  on the website I mentioned earlier, you’ll see that the front is a bit more of a commitment. Also, the part isn’t so cheap as you will be replacing the entire touch screen and the LCD panel. The best deals I can find are around $80-100. It’s still cheaper than a new white iPhone. I’m still thinking about it, but it’s just a matter of time. I’ll probably bite the bullet and do it.

In the end, I have managed to get most of my white iPhone satisfaction and I won’t have spent more than the cost of  a few cases. I’ll also have some spare black iPhone parts for sale.

Oh, one more thing. The white iPhone parts seem to make the phone slightly thicker. It’s hardly noticeable expect that cases will not fit quite right. So I am going caseless for now. I figured that since I know how to replace the back and front, a damaged panel is not a big deal anymore. 😉

So if you are hankering for a white iPhone, know that you can convert your black one for not much more than $100.  Now the iPhone 5 watch begins…

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