A phone’s life In my hands

– verb
To strip a smartphone of all its useful features. To make it as useful as –

I performed my first open case surgery on the iPhone to replace its failing battery last weekend.

Pop quiz:

Do you spend $15 to do it yourself or give $80+ to Apple, plus suffer through a week without your phone while it ships back and forth to God knows where?

What do you do?


I’m not trying to sound arrogant. In fact, think I have a pretty solid track record of modesty.

But in this case I do have skills.

See that? That’s me being optimistic. Damn, you never have a camera when you need it. Skills or not though, I do have the right tools.

I had my grounding strap to avoid frying the whole thing with a small static charge, a suction cup to pull off the glass touch screen, a magnifying glass to help see/disconnect really small ribbon cables, and my trusty small tools kit to get at a few small screws to pull the motherboard. I got that stuff out of the way and suddenly the battery was right there, waiting to be plucked from the bottom of the case like a sleeping baby in a basket.

It only took two hours – and the removal of almost every component in the phone.

It was touch and go for a while. There was a “Do Not Remove” sticker I had to peel back to get at one of the screws holding down the motherboard. It didn’t want to peel back. Considering the unambiguous language, I figured it was best not to shred it. It took a good ten minutes by itself, but I’m happy to report the sticker survived.

If you thought my favorite part of this exercise was putting the last piece back in place, you’re way off the mark. The closer I got to finishing, the more nervous I got. You see, that’s when you find out if you screwed something up – if you broke it.

I was anticipating three possible outcomes when I turned it on.

One: I’d have an iPhone with a new battery.

Two: I’d have an iPod touch with a new battery.

Three: I’d have a light, pleasing to the eye, plastic and glass desk ornament – with a new battery.

Despite what you might think, with the iPhone 4 just around the corner (and being eligible for upgrade pricing), I was not rooting for two or three. No matter the cost, replacement money won’t be seen in the Kauffman coffers for a while.

Which really begs the question: why the hell did I go off and pull apart my iPhone by myself, instead of putting up the extra money for a trained technician to do it? With money tight, I must be a crazy person, right?

I’ve never taken one apart.

Which really begs the question: do you really know me at all?

Oh, yeah. The phone works. Was there ever really any doubt?

Go ahead, answer that. I dare yah.

Or not. No pressure.


The cash stampede

I didn’t even know it had a name. I’d never seen it before my Beth’s PowerBook started having problems last month.

Apparently there is a screen of death on a Mac, the dread blue-screen equivalent: the GSOD, or grayed-out screen of death. I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. It’s rarely seen in the wild, confined mostly to secret labs, under highly controlled circumstances, with experts trained in the clandestine arts of infiltration and subversion.

But sometimes it does find it’s way out. Even the experts don’t know how.

Anyway, I’ve run hardware tests and software tests. I’ve run multiple diagnostic programs. I’ve even gone where few Mac users have gone before: I did a clean reinstall of the OS.

“No you DIDN’T go there!”

Yes. Yes I did.

You know what happened the minute the install completed and it rebooted? Yep, the damn GSOD.

I think I finally know the pain, regret, anguish, and envy that come as a standard options with every copy of Windows.

I think this is a sign my beloved old 12″ PowerBook is starting to die. This presents a few problems, besides the obvious, emotional ones. One of my favorite computers of all time is slowly dying. (sniff) It means there will be one less computer in a house that’s come to depend on many. It means Beth will start asking to squeeze in on my time with the MacBook. It means I may have to learn how to share again.

Cheryl, bless her heart, saw this for what it was: disaster on the horizon. You’ll take my Mac from my cold, dead hands.

She immediately sought out options. She looked at iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros… and looking over her shoulder my heart started to heal… to hop and skip with a little excitement even (with a pinch of survivor’s guilt though). Then reality set in: the financial ruin we’ve come to call our checking account. We thought about an iPad, but we decided it probably wouldn’t fill Beth’s needs for a computer to do school work. Plus, until many of the sites she visits stop using Flash (I’m not holding my breath), an iPad would likely find little use… by Beth.


by… Beth…?

That’s when inspiration struck. Neither of us could rely on an iPad alone for our computing needs. However, I find there are evenings when I don’t pick up my MacBook – sometimes not even to write (my thumbs got skillz).

When I got my first laptop, desktop computers felt bulky and constraining. Who wants to sit at a desk when you can work on the couch, or better: under your cozy blanket in bed? Not surprisingly, the same thing happened when I got my iPhone. I found I never had to go further than my pocket for a computer… and it is a computer… a computer that also happens to be a phone. The miracle I discovered with the iPhone is this: I can do 80% of what most people use a computer for (the internets, in various ways), plus a few things most people don’t (read a good book).

And here’s the kicker.

Wait for it…

I can do it all comfortably with one thumb. (Caveat: I use the remaining four fingers on the hand to cradle the phone, and my left hand lends an assist if I decide to write something). In fact, there are some things I prefer to do on my iPhone, like checking my news and blog feeds on google (with a slick app that syncs with google reader), or wandering through twitter and Facebook.

Since the iPad will talk to a bluetooth keyboard – and I just happen to have one of Apple’s shiny aluminum beauties – some of my longer writing moods could conceivably be satisfied by an iPad. The software I use to keep a journal is about to release a companion app for the iPhone, there are already apps for my WordPress blog, and iPhone apps will supposedly work on the iPad (until dedicated apps are written). So, between my iPhone and an iPad, I could go days without feeling the need to pick up my laptop.

This sharing thing could actually work.

Bless you Cheryl.

Software hopping

Why do I even need to blog from my phone? Isn’t it bad enough I spend a chunk of my PC time writting? Now I’ve got to encourage a repetitive motion injury in my thumbs typing on my phone?

You should know that I don’t like to use the “PC” acronym here, which implies Windows, and all the evil associated with that label.

Yes, I do. I did some blogging lite before, when I was wandering around in the wilderness with my Palm. There wasn’t a good input mechanism, and no link to the Internet (away from home), so I didn’t use it for much more than quick notes or thoughts – to be fleshed out later when I had my PowerBook. (Be gone PC label, be gone!)

Now there’s no need to wait for fleshing, while my thumbs rapidly develop into a preciscion machine.

Now the problem is software – and the fact that too many of the iPhone’s apps are crap. Many of them show promise, and the platform is in it’s infancy – as far as developing software goes. But that doesn’t change the fact that many apps are really buggy, suffering from numerous crashes. They don’t crash the whole phone, but just quiting unexpectedly, not knowing how much of you work will be saved in between, is enough to pull your hair out.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the thing is the best thing since my PowerBook. I owe my in-laws big time for getting them for us, making this huge drain on my free time possible. It’s fast becoming indispensible. Someday soon I’ll forget it at home and my coworkers will grow alarmed at the weeping gentleman in the next cubicle over.

Now I just need a better spell check utility and I’ll be all set.