What kind of dentist do I see for Bluetooth-aches, anyway?

What was so bad about good old wired connections, anyway? Photo: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science, public domain
What was so bad about wired connections, anyway? Photo: Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science, public domain

I love Android, but it’s so darn finicky.

To be fair, most of the issues I run into can be blamed on the fact that I like to modify devices and run custom software on them, but I only take it so far. I only run major, stable releases of CyanogenMod, which is the most popular community-supported distribution of Android. And my phone model (Galaxy S3) is one of the most popular Android devices of all time, so that helps to guarantee an above-average level of software support and performance.

Above average isn’t perfect, though!

After running an update recently, I realized that my Bluetooth headphones’ “Play/Pause” button was now only being interpreted as a “Play” button, meaning I couldn’t pause anything. After a bit of research, I found instructions on what to change in a specific system configuration file (/system/usr/keylayout/AVRCP.kl) to fix how the system handles Bluetooth input. Of course, if the phone weren’t rooted, I’d have been out of luck entirely.

On top of that, I realized today that whenever LTE service is available, the phone simply cannot connect to the network anymore. It tries to, but it just hangs indefinitely. I had to force it into no-LTE, CDMA-only mode to at least get a 3G connection in the meantime. I’ll have to flash a new modem on the phone to see if that clears up the issue.

Update: It turns out the LTE problem was carrier-specific. Flashing a custom APN XML file cleared up the issue.

Oh, Android.

My foray into the world of smartphone/tablet repair

My Nexus 7 repair didn’t work, but I have the feeling that the tablet was already water damaged beyond hope. It’s possible that a new battery might revive it, but I’m not confident enough in those odds to want to invest in the cost of a brand new battery. They’re quite pricey.

However, I did just successfully replace the battery of an iPhone 5! So that’s good. It was a multi-step process involving a fair bit of disassembly, but everything went according to plan. Getting the old battery out was quite difficult due to the strong adhesive bonding it to the shell of the phone, but after a few minutes of prying, I was able to peel it out.

In retrospect, I probably ought to have taken some photos of the process– but I was primarily focused on just getting the procedure right!

These are the items I picked up recently for working on small devices, including this iPhone repair:

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The bit set is nice for its inclusion of a plastic spudger and pentalobe bits, but the Phillips-head bits don’t run small enough. I still have to use a glasses repair kit to deal with the smallest of screws.

For the second item– I didn’t know that magnetic project work surface mats existed, but now that I own one, I love it. The idea is that you place individual sets of screws/etc grouped together within the frames, then label what they are using a dry-erase marker. The weak magnetic surface keeps stuff from sliding or rolling away. I actually used to do the same thing using pieces of paper or (perhaps bizarrely) our stovetop, since the stove surface is pure white and works well with dry-erase markets.

The magnetic wand has been a lifesaver. It’s crucial for picking up (or finding, period!) the kinds of microscopically tiny screws used in smartphones and tablets.

The ESD wrist strap is kind of basic IT equipment, but I’d never bothered to buy one before.

And the head-mounted magnifier is something I’d originally picked up for soldering, but it occasionally has its uses in working on tiny devices, too.

(One more thing: it’s good to have a strong suction cup. I used one half of the Orbit smartphone mount set, since the ball provides a great, sturdy place to grip while prising a screen off, but can then act as a kickstand to keep the screen readily accessible and easy to grab.)

I would LOVE to get the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit:

But I really can’t justify it, given how rarely I actually crack open the shell of a device! All that other equipment listed up above COMBINED only costs HALF of what one Pro Tech Toolkit costs. It’s a shame.