For some reason my smartphone has been getting more difficult to charge lately. The initial symptom was slow charging with the USB cables. This showed up on higher amp chargers that normally worked quickly. Eventually, my smartphone would charge barely if at all on the best of chargers and would slowly lose charge on the others. I also noticed an increasing amount of connect/disconnect notifications when plugged into my laptop through USB as well as frequent failure to mount as detachable storage. This put me in a position of powering down the phone to charge slowly as I went to bed and barely using it to save battery when I was awake.
In this tutorial we will look at a couple of procedures I took to diagnose the issue from easiest to hardest to fix cause. Keep in mind that some of these procedures may damage your phone if you make a mistake or simply run into bad luck, so consider carefully whether it is worth your time to repair this on your own versus going through a paid or a warranty-provided repair service. For me, as my smartphone is customized exactly as I like it and has important documentation on it, it was imperative that I did not lose my data as would be expected during a factory motherboard replacement.
In many scenarios, poor battery performance on a smartphone is simply due to excess running software on your phone. Applications in the Android frequently will autoboot or run as a background process after being open only briefly. This significantly increases usage of system resources and will decreases your overall battery life per each charge. The easiest fix is to install a good task manager, open it frequently to see what’s currently running. That way, you could also group shutdown everything that you do not need at the time. If you notice a program or feature has a nasty habit of running when it should not be, consider uninstalling it as well.
Many of these loaded programs are known as bloatware, which is software from your mobile provider’s partners that they are paid to install on your smartphone and stop you from removing it through conventional means. If you bought a subsidized phone you will almost certainly have bloatware. If you are amenable to voiding your warranty and of the belief that you can do what you like with your lawfully purchased property, you should consider rooting your phone and removing the unwanted applications with Root Manager or similar software.
To root your smartphone, you will need a specific guide to find out the procedure unique to your device and model. Here is our COMPLETE GUIDE to rooting your smartphone. Be sure to look for your exact smartphone, android distribution, and carrier of your might accidently (and irreparably) damage your smartphone). If need be, rooting may be reverse for warranty service by resetting your smartphone’s flash counter and reflashing the stock, factory ROM. I’ve also have some luck stretching my battery out by underclocking my smartphone in period of disuse through SetCpu.
In many cases, bloatware applications actively monitor your data, web usage, and physical location for reasons completely unrelated to the function of the software. One particularly annoying examples of this is the angry birds’ location tracking feature.
Consider looking into the following programs if you would like to go further into enhancing your information security and reducing logger resource usage as well:
- Logging Test App: This program provides many enhancements to encryption, ip settings, etc, blocks and deletes hidden logs, removes CIQ, and permits access to secret menus. Extremely easy to brick your phone with, you will need to restart and then backup your phone after every change you make. Software changes may break your phone in ways that are not apparent until your next attempted restart. If your phone becomes unable to boot, a Clockworkmod backup will allow you to return it to its previous state.
- LBE Privacy Guard: This program enables you to manage the permissions a la carte of every installed and system application. Notifies you whenever an application requests a permission not previously granted. Now you can battle those green pigs without your search, web, and location history being sold to marketing firms.
One of the first things you look at on any dysfunctional smartphone device is its physical connections. Whether it’s the power jack on your laptop or the headphone jack on your smartphone, physical connections exposed to your daily movements are quite vulnerable to cracked solder or lifted traces. This is especially true for the fragile components of micro USB cables as they get put in pockets, purses, cars, and cases and banged about.
It could very well be that your charging issues are the result of a damaged charger. In my case, I took one USB cable I knew to be broken, cracked it open, and checked for damages. Sure enough one trace had lifted and was quickly fixed with a bit of soldering. The case was broken in the process, but easily enough replace with a bit of electrical tape as it was a backup USB cable anyway. Although my newly repaired cable worked great on other devices, it still did not work for my phone.
As your smartphones move around in your purse or pocket it can easily be penetrated by whatever lint or garbage is in there. First up, to prevent data loss and reduce the risk of damages, remove your battery, SIM card, and memory card. As always when dissecting electronics, make sure that you are properly grounded, stationary, and not otherwise contributing to the risk of static discharge. Under strong light and with magnification if available, take a look into your smartphone’s micro USB jack. See anything that shouldn’t be in there? Pull it out with a needle or thin, pointy object of your choice. I also found a clean dried toothbrush to be particularly helpful.
Let’s say you’ve removed all the trash inside and the charging issue still persists. At this point, if fixing your USB charging cables, and removing background software did not work either, then you should probably try and replace your smartphone battery completely. In many cases, smartphone manufacturers have recalled whole series of stock batteries. Talk with your smartphone manufacturer or search online to find if this may be the issue.
If even this does not work, then it is most likely a broken pin on your USB jack, or corrosion from sweat, humidity, and exposure to liquids. You have to consider the cost/benefit of taking apart your smartphone instead of looking at a professional repair. Your smartphone has many fine components that may be easily lost or broken. In some cases even, the manufacturer may have intentionally or otherwise build the smartphone in such a way that it is not user serviceable and that any attempts at service may be detected and automatically void your warranty. With all that said and done, if you still want to attempt the fix, here’s what you’ll need:
- Distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
- Exacto knife
- Cotton swabs
- Micro screwdriver
- Cup/ glasses for cleaners
- Rubbing Alcohol/ unflavored vodka
- Soldering iron/ heat pen
- Paper towel
Carefully remove all of the screws holding your smartphone’s inner case. Make sure you make note of any variations in length and tamper evident features such as color coding paint or tear away stickers to help with reinstallation. Use a micro flat head screwdriver to lift the inner case panel one section at a time until the mainboard is exposed. Many smartphones will have stick on antennas mounted to the inner plastic case. When removing, be sure to watch out for these as tearing a connection will ruin the associated antenna. In the case of the now famous Samsung Galaxy SIII, all of these connections are physical connections held in place by the case itself, allowing removal of the case without damages.
You will find the main board is connected to the camera, display board, secondary antennas, and other such components by a series of cable connectors. In the case of the Galaxy SIII, these can be easily taken on or off a limited number of times. Consult a tear down guide to your smartphone before pulling at any connection that appears permanently mounted. Disconnect no more than is absolutely required to freely access both sides of your USB port.
Inspect your micro USB port closely. Is there physical damage on either side? Most likely, this would take the form of cracked or lifted pins where it connects to the main-board. If you find one, you will need to solder it in place with a precision soldering rig or with careful application of a heat pen. In my case, there was no visible physical damage, though corrosion was apparent about the USB port.
The worst case repairable scenario is visible corrosion. This may manifest as a green, white, or orange accumulation around the area of the port. If not properly addressed, it will spread like a fungus until it eats through vital components. In my case it was simply a thin film blocking conductivity in the USB port. If it is evident on your logic board, you will most likely need a new phone in the near future, in which case you should immediately back up your important files via cloud storage or an external memory card. In the case of my phone, there were only traces of white corrosion about the micro USB port. Using an old photographer’s trick, you may remove these with vinegar:
Dab cotton swab in distilled white vinegar. Rub all visible traces of corrosion around port with thin film of vinegar in a gentle scrubbing motion. Do not allow any vinegar to reach unaffected areas. Thankfully Samsung had the forethought to coat the areas adjacent to the port with a thin film of clear epoxy, without which I would surely have suffered further damages. Use a cotton swab or a craft knife to place a drop or two of vinegar inside the USB port. The surface tension will hold it in place, reaching every nook and cranny of the port. After 5 minutes, pull out the vinegar with the corner of a paper towel, repeat step 2 two more times to fully clean port. Now to remove the acidity, wash out the port by filling and emptying it three times with a high proof rubbing alcohol. Clean surrounding areas carefully with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to ensure full evaporation.
From there, remount the ribbon and cable snap on connectors with even, light force. They should gently click into place. Bear in mind these are not designed for repeated use. You should minimize any usage or strain placed upon them. Next reconnect your inner plastic case, ensuring all screws are in their original position. Pop in the battery and cards, hit the power button. If all has gone well you have saved yourself a costly and inconvenient repair and learned a little more about a device you use every day. If the fates were not on your side, well it was broken anyways right? If you did not root your phone and followed these instructions exactly, you still may be eligible for a warranty repair.