Posts tagged: iphone

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 iFixit.com. 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.

 

 

 

Are Knockoff Bumper Cases Any Good?

By , April 30, 2013 9:47 am

When I got my iPhone, the first case I got was a bumper case from Apple. It served me well, but I was never able to resolve the $30 price for a piece of plastic that simply wrapped around the phone. I was very impressed with the quality and build of the case. If you perused my blog at all, you’ll realize that I have tried all manner of cases – TPU, metal, leather, 2 piece plastic, clip on, or simply a skin. Despite all these options, I hankered for the simplicity of a bumper case, but I wasn’t going to pay $30. Besides, a new iPhone is coming this year (right?) so I’ll be changing again anyway.

Then one day I was browsing Amazon and I cam across this item. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0069Y3AS0/ref=oh_details_o04_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1   . You got to be kidding, a $2 case with great reviews and the shipping was free. What have I got to lose – well, except for $2? So I ordered it.

Apple bumper case?

Great packaging. This looks exactly the same as the one in the Apple Store!

The first thing I noticed when it arrived was that it was even packaged like the cases in the Apple Store. No cheap plastic bag in a non-descript case, but vacuum formed plastic bonded to a glassy paper base. I mean, you can’t even make that packaging for $2.

A quick inspection of the case itself showed that it had metal buttons and the grayish plastic just like the original. If this is a knock off, it’s a really good one.

OK, enough package inspection and commentary. Let’s open this up and see if its build and fit is as good as it is packaged. I’ve had good looking cases that didn’t fit so well.

 

After I opened this up and closely inspected it, I noticed a spot where the molding lines were not completely smooth. I also wondered if the gray rubber surround would pick up the color of my jeans like some other cheap plastic cases in the past.  Putting the case on the phone, I was nicely surprised by how snug it fit and that all the opening and buttons were aligned perfectly. Here’s a closeup of the case before I put it on my phone.

3/4 view of the knock off iPhone bumper case.

3/4 view of the knock off iPhone bumper case.

Fast forward 1 week. I’ve been using this case for the better part of a week now and I am beginning to wonder if this isn’t actually a Apple iPhone bumper case made by the same manufacturer that created them for Apple. The rubber hasn’t picked up any residue, the fit hasn’t changed and the protection that it affords my phone if wonderful. A part of me wonders if they are just liquidating these since a new iPhone is imminent and these will become the “old model” in the near future. If you were to judge by the build and quality of the case, you’d never know it wasn’t from the Apple store.

So in summary, if you are in need of a super inexpensive case for your iPhone 4/4S and you like the minimalist look of the bumper case, you can’t go wrong with this. It’s the best $2 case I’ve ever seen. Shipping is even free. I’m still shaking my head that they can create and package something like this for such a low cost.

 

Modern Stereo with iPhone Integration

By , December 29, 2012 6:25 pm

So every time I get a loaner car from the car dealer or when I get a nice rental car, I notice that their electronics is light years ahead of mine. They have bluetooth integration for phone and audio and some have HD or satellite radio. Envy got the best of me and I decided that I needed to upgrade my factory stereo in my S2000. Each time I had considered this in the past, I aborted because replacing the radio would mean losing my dash controls, rendering a bunch of convenient buttons useless on the left side of my dash. This Christmas, all that changed.

 

Pioneer DEH-P9400BT unit installed in my S2000

Fast forward 10 years and things are a lot better! Looking through the Crutchfield catalog and website, I noticed quite a few stereo units that allowed steering wheel control. I also noticed interface boxes that would enable those controls. Sure enough, there was one for the S2000. So began my journey. After lots of research, I decided to get the following setup.

Axxess ASWC universal control interface – $69.95 from Crutchfield.

Pioneer DEH-P9400BH – $229.99 from Crutchfield. This unit included a mess of features!

  • Bluetooth phone with remote microphone.
  • Bluetooth audio streaming
  • HD Radio – look it up at www.hdradio.com
  • iPhone interface for charging and control
  • Pandora streaming support
  • USB port 2 or any USB key or device
  • Aux input
  • CD player with MP3 player ability.

I couldn’t think of another unit with all this goodness! Also, the display is awesome with color matching for the dashlights and also the ability to have a dot matrix animated display. Just all kinds of goodies. So this is what I asked Santa for.  This is the story of my install.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I am not afraid of tearing apart and installing anything. In fact, I rather enjoy it and think I can do a better job than a lot of installation shops. All it takes is a lot of research to prepare and some good old common sense. Of course, props to the folks at Crutchfield who have made a lot of the steps a lot easier.

So the first thing to do is to get the old radio out of there. This was made easy by the Crutchfield master sheets. These give a step by step and pictorial manual to follow. My S2000 was pretty simple. I just pried off the stereo cover and vent with my “bone tool” to removed it. It took some yanking to release the clips, but overall it wasn’t too hard.

The radio cover come off after some prying and wiggling.

This left the mounting screws exposed and easily removable. After taking out 4 screws, the factory radio came out. I just unplugged all the cables (there was only 2 of them) and the unit came out.

The wiring sheets and harnesses are the most complicated part of this job.

Now comes the complicated part.  We need to connect all the harnesses together in all the right spots. Again, I must give big props to the Crutchfield folks who shipped a harness for my car along with my order. This harness plugged into the factory recptacle and prevented me from having to cut factory wires for the radio. However, I still had to cut wires for the Axxess steering wheel control box.

In the picture above, the Black box in the upper left is the access control box. The blue plug is the harness that Crutchfield supplied that goes into the factory plug. The black harness at the bottom goes into the new stereo head unit. For the most part, connecting the radio harness to the blue harness was easy. Most of the wire colors matched right up and there was only a couple of unused ones that need to be taped off.

The one complication was the Axxess wheel control box. It had 2 wires that needed to be tapped into the factory wiring. I had to cut wires for that and solder them. It wasn’t difficult, but it is always with some intrepidation that I cut factory wires.

The Axxess box translates the steering wheel controls to signals for the new radio head unit. There’s a special input (3.5″ mm plug) for that in the radio.

In the picture above, you can see the Axxess box being installed. I only had to use 5 wires for this install. There were a LOT of wires that I had to tape off.  Of the 5 wires, only 2 were unique for the system control. The others were just power, ground, and switched power. Pretty standard stuff.

I use solder joints and heat shrink tubing for a factory look.

Most installers will use crimps for wires. This is terrible. You need to solder the wires for the best connection. Also, many installers will just tape up the joint after soldering. Me? I like to use heat shrink tubing. It provides a super clean and very well protected joint. It also looks totally factory. In the picture above, you can see me shrinking the tubing over a joint after I finished soldering it.

Testing the new head unit before final assembly.

So after all the wiring is done (took about 45 minutes) it’s time to plug it all together and test everything out. I like to test before I do the final assembly in case anything goes wrong and you need to re-do something. Luckily, everything worked the first time out. The only confusing part was a orange wire that was supposed to goto a “dimmer”. The factory harness had an orange wire for dimmer and also an orange/white for illumination. What the heck was the diff? Turns out, one is for dimming the stereo at night when you turn the lights on. The other was to dim the unit along with the dimmer control for the dash. Lucky  left it unassembled as I experimented with the two wires to figure this out.

After all was well, I put everything back into it’s place. In the picture above you can see how it all looks. I also installed a custom iPhone mounting plate from www.modifry.com. This gave me a perfect place to mount my iPhone. I use my iPhone as a GPS when I drive.

So how does it all work? So far it’s been 2 days and I think it’s going to be be great! I can’t believe the flexibility I have now to listen to whatever I want and to also have a hands-free phone that’s completely integrated into the car. The Pioneer unit performs flawlessly and I love the features that it has! It’s mind boggling that I can integrate with my iPhone, stream with Pandora, use HD radio, and even a USB stick or harddrive, not to mention CDs! There’s just SO many options now.

So what’s wrong with the setup? Well, the “Mute” button doesn’t seem to want to work. Pressing it on my dash control does nothing. In practice though, I only mute to take a phone call. Since this new head unit will automatically do that for me when I press the phone button, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. So I have been in contact with the Axxess folks and they just tell me to manually re-program the entire unit! Yuck. Since everything else works, I think I’ll just leave it alone.

A final tip. Pioneer has since introduced a new head unit that has even more fancy stuff! Because of this, it appears this unit is now “last year’s model” so the price dropped! I found this for $153.95 on Amazon. I’m telling you that this is a total steal for that price.  So if you have been hesitant to tackle this and get a modern stereo head unit into your car, don’t delay! This is amazing and the price is right.

 

 




Multi-function Dock and FM transmitter that doesn’t suck!

By , February 23, 2012 10:53 pm

I’ve been trying to find a way to get my iPhone, iPod, Nano, etc. to play in my cars without having to replace or hardwire some new deck into the car permanently. I’ve also tried all kinds of things like tape deck adapters and FM transmitters. They all mostly suck big-time. Recently I wanted to add handsfree capability to our family SUV (Volvo XC90) and discovered that it used a fiber optic based system that was ridiculously expensive to upgrade. So I went looking for another solution.

This is ridiculously cheap, but it works!

On Amazon I started reading all kins of reviews of units that basically had lukewarm to bad reviews. In this search I started thinking I could use another charger for the car that would double as a mount. You know how those web searches can become a big black hole.

Then I came across this All in One unit for the ridiculously low price of $12.69! No this is not a typo. For the price of a cable I could have a mount, charger, fm-transmitter, and a remote. It was ludicrous. Since I have Amazon Prime and the shipping was free, I figured, “what the heck”?

I also perused the reviews and there were a surprising number of good ones considering this cost less than I spent on lunch today.

So in 2 days time, good old Amazon Prime came through again and I had my unit in my hand. I snapped a picture to share with you and then started to fiddle with it. Besides the fact that this thing has more appendages than a baby in a bilirubin chamber (ok, total non-sequiter) it seemed pretty well made. The mounting was secure, all the parts fits and the cigarette lighter adapter even had some rubber protrusions to makes sure it fit tightly.

The “remote” was amusing. They tried to make it look like a ipod! I really didn’t expect it to work so well, but hey, in the next weeks the truth will come out.

My phone in the cradle with the remote to the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, so how has it been in the past few weeks? Well, it’s a mixed bag. There are some goofy things, but also a surprising number of good things to report.  So let’s get to the deets.

GOOD STUFF:

  • The FM transmitter actually works! I get a light static, but other than that the music is clear and the GPS voice directions are fine! I am amazed. It’s so much better than the half a dozen other FM transmitters I have tried.
  • I can use it as a speakerphone for handsfree! This solves a world of problems for me. This is much better than a bluetooth headset or my Jabra clipped to the visor.
  • It charges the phone, but a little slowly. Actually, if I am running the GPS, it charges it TOO slowly. Sometimes the battery level goes down after a trip with the charger plugged in.
  • The crazy little remote actually works! It’s IR so you have to point it at the top of the unit, but it does work.
  • The stalk is bendable and stay put.
  • The phone mount is very solid and holds the phone securely.
  • There’s an additional USB port on the side to charge another device.

BAD STUFF:

  • The GPS seems to get confused and loses the signal at times. This may have to do with the fact that my mount is on the center console so the phone doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. It is annoying as I lose the signal a lot more than when I had it mounted higher up on the dash with the vent mount.
  • Although the lighter adapter is tight, The weight of the unit caused the entire lighter assembly to wiggle around.
  • The FM frequency is on top of the unit, covered by the iPhone. It’s a pain to see the station if you need to change it in route.
  • The charger is weak.
  • For some reason my iPod touch will not transmit via FM if I plug in the main charger. I can use the USB port charger on the side without issue.
  • It a bit janky with all the cables coming out of it.

 

The bottom line is that for $12.69, this is a total steal. Consider that Apple charges $19.95 for the cable alone and it’s no comparison. In Summary, this is worth a try for the price. It ain’t pretty, but it’s functional.

Dock it to me! iPhone 4 charger and speaker by Altec Lansing.

By , February 4, 2012 7:37 pm

Here’s my latest new gadget. I was in the market for a new charging cable. The one that I normally use at my desk at home was getting all frayed and ready to bust at any time. If I goto the Apple store, they want $20 for the cable. If I goto Fry’s they have a “compatible” that goes for $7. Surely there must be something in between that would be better and perhaps get me more functionality.

Fits perfectly, charges the phone and sounds good too!

Now, I’ve been hankering to get some external speakers for my iPhone that wasn’t huge and a big hassle to have around. I started poking around Amazon (where I go for everything these days) and looking for a cable and a speaker.

Then a happy accident happened. For not much more than the cable from the Apple Store, I could get an Altec Lansing docking station with a speaker. The reviews were surprisingly good and the measurement showed that is was rather a small box. Now, I am very skeptical of things with very small speakers sounding any good at all. However; anything is better than just cranking up the built in (tiny) speaker of the iPhone. Besides, I was going to leave this sitting at my desk for background music while I worked in the office, so it didn’t need to have wicked bass or anything like that. It just had to sound good at low volumes.

So what the heck, I ordered it and thought I could always return it if it wasn’t any good. Boy was I surprised!

It has been over 3 weeks now and I can say without reservation that this little speaker / charger / dock really is a great device. As you can see from the picture at the right, it’s a simple unit. I just plug my phone in on top and the little green light illuminates to show me that it’s charging. Easy huh?

When I play music (like Pandora) the sound comes through the speaker and sounds really good. In fact, it’s a lot louder than I expected. As you can see in the picture, I usually end up turning the volume way down (about 1/4) and it still has plenty of volume to fill my office.

So in summary, I think this is a great little unit that fits the bill perfectly. It was about $28 which is much cheaper than I ever expected and it hardly takes up any space on my desk. I’ve been very happy with this unit. So, if you are thinking about a new cable to leave on your desk for charging, why don’t you notch it up a bit and get a full blown speaker and charger along with it!

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