Friday, January 13, 2017

Cell Phone Repair

I like my cell phones naked, which means that their screens get cracked. I usually ignore this, thinking that it makes them less likely to get stolen. No one wants a broken-ass phone. In fact, my phone had been sufficiently cracked for some time.

But I dropped it again, not only sending large cracks across the screen but also breaking out chunks of glass near the corner it struck.

Lucky for me that I have a place down the street that does wonderful repairs. We've had phones repaired a number of times at WGA. However, I received a nice small-electronics repair kit for Christmas and was dying to try it out.

So I set up a repair station and got to work.

It's a second-generation Moto X.

The first order of business is to remove the back. You do this by removing the SIM card and, using the SIM removal tool, push the back off from inside. The back is merely held in place by an adhesive matrix.

I was surprised to find schmutz inside my phone. I understand that this is something that you often hold, but this was under the backing that was glued to the backplane. Huh. To remove this back plane, you pry off the rubber boots to the upper-left and lower-right, pop the connectors off under each of those, and remove the eighteen torx screws that clamp the backplane to the screen assembly.

Eighteen T3 torx screws. That lovely kit above only goes down to T4, which explains the little baggie of other tools, which include T3 and T2 torx drivers.

Once that is off, you're left with the motherboard which is snapped to the screen assembly.

Before you pry that off, there are digitizer and screen thin-film connectors to disconnect. That involved pulling up the small bits of Kapton tape, gently flipping up the connectors, then using tweezers pulling the connectors out.

At this point, the phone is as torn apart as it needs to get. The new screen assembly (screen, digitizer, and frame) simply replaces the old one and everything goes back together as it came apart. Great, in theory. In practice, I was putting the screws back in when I accidently turned it on. Good, I thought. I can make sure this works before I get it all put together.

Well, the screen worked but the digitizer didn't. Gah! I must not have reconnected it correctly. So I fixed it, but in the process messed up the screen connection. So I went back in and fixed that, then spent considerable time making sure that the digitizer was connected the right way.

Once I had those thin-film connections right, the phone went back together and worked.

Still one thing missing - the decorative ear and mouthpiece bars. Well, they're a bit more than decorative. They also let the phone rest on them rather than the screen when face down. I had pressed the old ones out of the broken screen assembly, but they are very, very tight.

I don't necessarily recommend doing this, but I put them back in with needle-nosed pliers. I put a plastic bag under my phone so the pliers wouldn't mar the back and I carefully squeezed them back into place.

And that's it.

This repair would normally cost about $200. For me, the screen assembly was $115. Add in the price of the tools and you're still a it shy of $150.

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