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Repairing an iPhone 3G

Preamble

I bought an old iPhone 3G (or is it a 3GS? See Identification below) from the dirty old market behind Pracha Songkro, for 200 baht. The chap selling it said that it had a problem with the battery, so I took along a portable power bank and let him charge it up. The case, on the back, said that it was a 16GB version and it seemed to work- that is to say that it power up, and the screen and digitizer worked. It seemed pretty functional, apart from the home button, so I bought it. For 200 baht, what’s not to like?

Identification

Upon trying to identify the iPhone, looking in Settings->General, I discovered that it was only an 8GB iPhone, so the case was obviously from another iPhone and this made it somewhat difficult to ascertain exactly what iPhone version it was.The case is required, as Apple do not, bizarrely, provide this information from the software. Looking at the following articles, do not help, in this respect:

The model number in the general settings was MB489TH, but a quick google did not throw up anything definitive, apart from it being a Thai phone, from Complete list of 3G/3Gs Model numbers country&carriers.

How I finally discovered that it was in fact a 3G, and not a 3GS, is that the iOS version was stuck at version 4.2.1, with no upgrade path available. See iPhone 3 – Software, on Wikipedia. The 3GS supports up to iOS 6, and maybe beyond.

The fact that the 3G did not support iOS 5 was annoying, as iOS 5 offers Assistive Touch, and the virtual Home button.

Cydia related virtual Home buttons

However, this YouTube video, iOS 4 – Assistive touch for iPhone 3g (iOS 4.2.1), shows that Cydia has QuickDo.

A cydia tweak that similar to Assistive touch for iOS 4 called QuickDo, add xsellize source and search QuickDo. It can even run on iPhone 2g (Just search a version with the name “QuickDo for iOS 3” of this tweak QuickDo).

Note that the short URL, where it says

Link download (QuickDo 3.6.5):

contains a link to a virus, so don’t click that.

You will need to add a new repo to Cydia, http://cydia.xsellize.com, following these instructions: How to download and add xsellize to Cydia.

However, the whole Xsellize thing seems quite dubious. Once I added the repository and refreshed Cydia, and number of errors were received. I quickly deleted the XSellize repo.

Try Menu Button Emulator (Version 1.6-1) instead, written by Vatsal Manot and available from BigBoss repo. However, this did not seem to work on iOS 4.2.1, although it is meant to work with iOS 3 and above. Maybe it requires Activator as well? I added Activator, and still nothing obvious appeared. After all, the blurb of Menu Button Emulator says that no additional configuration is required.

Also worth a try are iHome and SPTouch

Investigating a repair

On the way home, I checked in a number of places to see how much it would cost to change the button and the battery. The button varied between 500 and 700 baht, and the battery between 500 to 650. The cheapest options were of course in Fortune Town. One chap did say that there was a two to three week lead time, as the parts were not readily available.

Even though the battery did charge, and held its charge, the charging was erratic, jumping from 2% to 14%  then 52% and then 87%, then down to 57%. In addition, it seemed as if the battery had blown as the front of the iPhone was bulging at its seams, along the sides.

Taking it home, I discovered that the Wi-Fi worked, as did the speakers, although the silent/mute switch didn’t seem to work. The iPhone had also, presumable been jailbroken, as it had Cydia on it.

However, the lack of a Home button was too annoying. So following this YouTube video, How to Quick Fix Unresponsive Home Button – iPhone 3G/3GS, I proceeded to take it apart, after having located a suction cup for 7 baht in a 20 baht store.

Removing the two screws and then the screen was easy enough. As was lifting the screen up from the bottom, using the top as the hinge, so as not to disconnect the connectors. However, inevitably, the connectors did come off and the front panel became free. It was a simple job to reconnect the connectors 1 and 3 though, and the screen came back to life.

Screen death

However, I was somewhat lazy in shutting down the iPhone after a while and so, finally, one time that I connected 3 and 1 back, the screen refused to come back to life..! Note, that it was possible to disconnect and reconnect the screen several times, with the iPhone still powered up – I am not sure why it decided to die at a certain point.

I also noted that connector 2 was not connected and so, realising that just watching the first video on YouTube that I found, was probably not enough information, I watched another, to see what was necessary to reconnect connector 2. So I watched Fix Home Button Not Working or Acting Up on an iPhone 3G 3GS.

Connector 2 certainly is a lot more fiddly than connectors 1 and 3. However, I seemed to get it connected, but still the screen refused to lit up.

One point to note is that I was not using a spunger, just my finger nails, so  maybe I had caused a static issue?

The iPhone was still working, as I could hear a ‘bing’ when I connected the charger. It was just that the screen was dead.

After sleeping on it, I decided to check to see what each connector was for, in case I had damaged connector 2, and that was the reason for the screen fail.

The connectors are as follows, taken from What does the ribbon connectors labeled 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 are for?

1: LCD
2: Digitizer / Touchscreen
3: Earpiece speaker, Proximity Sensor
4: Dock connector
5: Headphone Jack / Volume Buttons / Power Button / Vibration Motor
6: Antennas

So, even if I had damaged connector 2, that should not cause the screen not to light up – connector 1 is the problematic connector. Upon further inspection, it is the hardest connector to get to stay in place. Maybe I had damaged it, in trying to locate its seating?

However, for 200 baht (£4) it was worth the try. I do wonder if the screen will come back to life? Maybe I need to wait for the battery to discharge and then restart it? See Lcd wont turn on after replacement.

Second, I had an iPhone 6’s screen that went dead on me today. I power cycled the phone (disconnected the battery) and it fixed it for me.

Unfortunately, I can not power the device off, as I can not see the screen, and so I can not swipe to power off. Which leads to the question, how did the chap who I quoted above, actually turn off the iPhone? By disconnecting the battery – however, on an iPhone 3G it does not seem that apparent how to do that, without complete dis-assembly, see iPhone 3G Battery Replacement.

After waiting for about a week for the battery to fully discharge (don’t forget, there was no screen attached to use the battery charge up), I halfheartedly reconnected connectors 3, 2 and 1. Upon unplugging the USB charger in, the screen lit up and came back to life. We were on again!!!

Repairing the Home button

The home button, and its associated circuitry, seemed to be in need of replacement as the two contacts seemed to be non existent and in their place, some signs of previous soldering blob attempts was evident. There was also a fine copper wire present, which seemed like it should not be there, or it was n attempt at reconstructing the obviously worn out contacts. After touching the lower of the two contacts (the one nearest the bottom of the screen), and trying to raise it, as the video suggested, it eventually fell off!

Broken/Missing Contact
Broken/Missing Contact

See the highlighted red circle, only one contact is remaining

iPhone 3G - missing contact on Home button flex
iPhone 3G – missing contact on Home button flex

Time to give up and take it to the shop I think.

However, a quick search on eBay revealed that I just needed to purchase a new “Home button flex repair part”

Home button, flex and contacts
Home button, flex and contacts

For 50 baht (0.99p), you could get two from China, from 2 PCS HOME BUTTON FLEX CABLE REPAIR PART FOR IPHONE 3G #A-067.

Also, worthy of note is the IPHONE 3G HOME BUTTON & FLEX FOR LCD TOUCH SCREEN FRONT GLASS CABLE CIRCUIT IE, for £1.83, which has a button, repair flex, and comes with a screen protector and cloth… Could be useful if you intend on breaking your Home button cover… Meh…

Either of these options is certainly cheaper than 500 baht repair at the local repair shop. However, doing it, is another matter, Following How To: Replace iPhone 3G & iPhone 3GS Home Button | DirectFix.com

The above video makes it seem very easy to remove the LCD, whereas it actual fact it is not. This following video is much more detailed:

Either way, a heat gun (or hair dryer) is required, as are an additional set of adhesive strips, which do not appear to come with the Home button and flex from China, mentioned above.

Adhesive strips

The options for the adhesive strips are:

iPhone 3 toolkit with adhesive strips
iPhone 3 toolkit with adhesive strips

This article, THE TRUTH ABOUT IPHONE 3G DIGITIZER ADHESIVE KITS!, is quite enlightening – the third party adhesive strips can be problematic:

  • Not easy to part from the backing paper – no pull tabs;
  • Poor quality adhesive – heat/humidity could cause the adhesive to loosen
  • Not be properly trimmed
  • Not have excess off cuts removed

This article, The Truth About iPhone Screen Repair, explains that the expensive kits ($60+) are no better than the cheaper $12 kits.

Adhesive strips or not? notes that you may be able to reuse the old adhesive strip, if care is taken when dismantling the touchscreen.

Replacing the battery

However, the battery from eBay was 115 baht for the part, from New 1150mAh Li-ion Internal Battery Replacement Parts for iPhone 3G, so hardly seemed worth the effort, unless I just wanted something to do.

iPhone 3G battery
iPhone 3G battery
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