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

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.




About song

Tech guy in the silicon valley. If you need anything else, look on the blog. It's all there.
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