Last week there was a great article in Popular Mechanics about the trade-offs in upgrading your smart phone to the latest and greatest model. Eric Limer nailed the shortcomings of current ~$1K pocket computers: battery life and repairability. While screen size, slimness, and biometric advances garner all the press, the longevity of these expensive devices falls through the cracks.
About a month ago my iPhone 6 started going dead in the middle of the afternoon, requiring an immediate charge on location or in the car. I went to iFixit.com and ordered a replacement battery. Subsequently, while waiting for the battery to arrive, I developed a problem with the Lightning port. I had to hold the cable, or place a pen under it with a weight on top of the phone to get it charged. I went back to iFixit to order a Lightning port assembly.
When I had both parts, I read over the instructions for replacing both battery and Lightning port. The battery procedure was rated “moderate,” with the difficult part being the removal of two 3M-style adhesive strips that the battery is mounted on. The Lightning port replacement was rated “difficult.”
iFixit is a great resource for parts, tools, and explicit instructions accompanied with photos. They also support the “Right to Repair” legislation efforts in many states. This effort started out as the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, but has expanded to include most electronic devices as well. The maker of my iPhone opposes this legislation.
Preparing for my repair, I grabbed a couple ice cube trays (shallow ones are better for retrieving tiny screws;) a tray– or in my case a tupperware top, to catch errant screws. Also my 3.00 reading glasses, Meade LED lighted magnifier, and a tabletop magnifier. The final touch was a full can of beer to hold the iphone top open while you disconnect the various cable connectors. I chose a Jacks Abbey Harponius Union IPL. You should have at least two beers on hand: one to open the iPhone; and one to hold it open while you reconnect the same cable connectors. I followed the instructions for opening the iphone and removing the battery. The great hidden feature of iFixit is the crowd-sourcing to be found in the comments to each step. Don’t neglect to read these! Had I read all the (20!) comments for step 21 I might not have needed to pull out my heat gun to soften the one broken adhesive strip.
Anyway I removed and replaced the battery successfully. Then I proceeded to remove the Lightning jack / headphone jack/ microphone assembly from the iPhone. Everything came out OK, but putting the new part back in… There are a few items to transfer from the old assembly to the new: the headphone jack gasket, rubber microphone cover, and antenna interconnect clip. The big issue is plugging in the new antenna connector. (Like a smaller version of a wifi adapter cable.) This is step 21. The 10 comments are essential. Unfortunately I broke my antenna connector after an hour and a half of trying to connect it. I then cut the old antenna cable a 1/4” from the end, and stripped a bit with my knife. I fired up my soldering iron and dropped a bead on the twisted wires. The hard part was cutting a piece of electricians tape small enough to cover the join. The old connector slipped on easily.
All in all a successful repair! But not without drama, and it did take me a whole night. But the lesson here is to read all the comments on a site like iFixit. They will give you the real deal on the feasibility of the operation.