Wednesday, 4 June 2008

iPhone #2, finally solved the problem

Remember the wifi-less iPhone that I have? Well, of course you do. Today I made history (or almost;) for every people who has a broken DOA wifi. As you probably know, my iphone had DOA wifi (greyed out) and as a consequence a fast draining battery (dead in a matter of hours, even faster if you use other functions). I got sick of this all, I tried every possible software hack to somehow enable wifi but to no avail (almost bricked it couple of times). There was just no wifi, and a dead battery in a matter of hours. I just got sick of this all and I decided to remove the wifi chip/IC from the iphone's comm board. Why I wanted to just remove the chip? Probably it was causing some short circuit or low resistance so the battery drained extremely fast. So my logic was: no wifi chip == no short circuit == no battery drain == no extra heat.

There is a guide how to replace comm board on ifixit but I "just" wanted to get to comm board and remove the wifi chip.

photo by, edited by

So I followed the guide how to disassemble the iphone and followed it almost to the letter. On the guide they are using some special tools like thin metal spudger and iphone opening tool. None of this I had but actually there were not necessary. What tools did I use then instead? Victorinox's swiss army knife (small blade and can opener, tweezers, and plastic toothpick), paper clip, small pointed pliers and finally some really small philips screwdriver. I tried no to completely destroy the lower plastic part but I managed somehow to open the case. I read couple of use experiences not to accidentally short circuit the battery because it has exposed leads. Well, truth be told, I disassembled quite a few electronic devices so I wasn't really a noob when opening the iphone. I had a small problem with disconnecting the antenna wires because the connector as you can see on the picture are really small, fragile and under a rubberish glue.

photo by

They used the plastic tool to remove them but this is not the best way to remove it. First you need to remove the rubberish glue (thankfully it isn't plastic glue) with tweezers, small knife and then you very gently pull up the connector with pointed pliers. Doing the way it is shown on the picture you will probably get bent connectors (which are, again, very fragile) and that could mean you cannot reattach them when you are finished.

But what am I saying? If you are going to remove the wifi chip you dont' need to remove those wires. Anyways I just got carried away with the guide so I kept disassembling. Removing those wires wasn't necessary and after I realized that I took out the upper part of the metal casing which is protecting the comm board chips. I was afraid of this step more than any because frequently those cases are made very solid and no to be opened again. But I was pleasantly surprised because this one opened easily. I located the wifi chip (much in advance though because I was staring at those pictures months ago) and found out that it was glued (hmm, not a right word, and I don't know the technical term here) to the board. It is just a minuscule block of silicone and without any visible connections. All of the connections are on the "inside" part of the chip. So in an adrenaline rush I destroyed the wifi chip with the can opener. I was very careful not to leave any part of the silicone debris which formed on the board. Afterwards, I reassembled everything and to my horror, the phone wouldn't turn on. I connected it to pc and it booted. Everything after that was ok.

I was kinda nervous to see if the battery is still draining (and the phone case was mildly warm, which wasn't a good sign) but 3 hours passed and battery indicator was full. So it was all fine finally. I polished the lower plastic part of the case with a fine sand paper so it almost looks as a new phone. All in all, I took a gamble and it payed off.

Quick sidenote:

As I finally seen the interior of a iphone I can draw some conclusions concerning battery replacement.

As it is, battery is relatively easy to replace if you know how to hold a small knife in your hands and solder 3 joints. One problem is slight disfiguration of the plastic back bottom of the case. This can be remedied in part with some sanding.

There was a lot of talk how iphone's battery is so squeezed it cannot be user replaceable. This is just bullshit. I've seen mobile phones who had batteries placed so precisely it was a matter of microns. Another argument it crops out here and there is that for a user replacement battery, to be replaceable, it need to be in plastic case. That is rubbish, because in that argument it was secretly presumed that plastic casings are huge. Which isn't more further from the truth. At least they could do tight plastic "bag" which some home cordless phones had. One thing I'm pretty irritated about is connection between battery and comm board. Those wires are soldered directly to the board and it seems somewhat clumsily. All over the phone there are very delicate and miniature connectors and they could do a small connector to connect the battery and the board. They did it this way just to make sure that if even if you can open the phone (as pretty much anyone can do) you can't resolder the wires because not many people even have soldering equipment, and even less would like to resolder their phone.
Small edit: I just wanted to link this post to my other posts with regard to the same problem:


Cupitor said...

Thank You very much for your help man!

Prosperous Poverty said...

I'm just glad to be of use. Thanks for commenting anyway.

And btw, sorry for so late reply, I thought I would get e-mail notification for comments (as I set it that way when setting up this blog, but that setting was reset.

khmann said...

Hey, thanks for this article, allow me to contribute my $.02... hope this makes its way into google and helps someone else.

I upgraded my 1st gen iPhone 2G (never altered bootloader of baseband) from jailbroken 1.1.2 to stock 2.0.1 using iTunes, and it ran fine for a month. Suddenly, I noticed I had problems joining and remaining connected to WiFi networks. Sometimes they wouldn't show up at all. I found that if I powered off the phone and back on, usually it would work for a few minutes and then fade out... I also noticed problems with the clock loosing time, and the phone not ringing when asleep. The phone would sometimes freeze up. I found that turning off WiFi in system preferences helped the lockups, but it still wouldn't ring sometimes and the clock kept losing time. I tried to go back to 1.1.4 firmware and got so frustrated with the whole thing that I got a 3G and put it aside.

My son needed a phone so I thought I would try and get it going again. I tried various combinations of firmware (2.2.1, 2.1, 1.1.4), bootloader, baseband, and still issues. WiFi was never grayed out, just would freeze the phone if enabled.

I found that changing the WiFi mac address to 00 from the bootloader would give me a grayed-out WiFi logo and stop the lockups when something tried to enable WiFi but that I still could not receive calls when the phone was asleep and I was still losing time. Also the battery did drain fast.

I removed the wifi chip from the comboard and the phone is totally fixed (other than the obvious lack of wifi...). The procedure I used was:

desolder the red lead from the battery for safety, tape it up.

scrape away some of the glue/epoxy from edges of the chip with a utility knife - careful of the nearby traces.

cover everything on the board around the chip with aluminum tape or foil

hit it with a heat gun while poking it with the utility knife. I found it fell off much easier than I expected. Only about 10 seconds of heat did the trick for me.

made sure I didn't screw anything else up... rehook the red wire, put it back together.


now, in the interest of full disclosure, after the initial problems I had under 2.0.1, I went back to 1.1.4, though still running the 04.05.04_G baseband from 2.x. Since I didn't need an unlock and was having the exact same issue with the phone not ringing, missed calls, as I did under stock 2.0.1, I was scared of the phone locking up during flashing so didn't fool with it. I am now back on 04.04.05_G

My point is I guess maybe results with setting wifi_mac = 00 (deliberately gray-out wifi) might be different under different software versions so _you_ should probably try that first before remove the chip.

hope this helps someone - in my mind this is obviously a hardware issue - not something musclenerd wififix fakeblank bootloader 39fb s_rec s_gold ziphone hack unlock activate blah blah google.

Prosperous Poverty said...

Thanks for the insight and comment khmann, I almost thought that nobody would read this blog but I was wrong;)

pikachu said...

Hi, I have exactly the same problem as yours grayed wifi, I destroyed the wifi chip with a knife.The battery has improved , It stands for a day. but still its gets hot when charged. :(

any ideas??

Prosperous Poverty said...

My iphone doesn't get warm when charging though and the battery easily lasts 2 days with moderate use (very little internet, some mail, quite a lot of sms) so I think that you still have the problem with the wifi chip. I'm sorry that I don't have pictures but as I said in one of my posts I almost did a hole in the pcb when removing the chip. In couple of previous attempts I did remove almost all of the chip and the drain did continue unfortunately. So when I removed it pretty much completely, the drain stopped and the phone continued to work without problem (aside from missing wifi in the first place).

pikachu said...

hi, i made a mistake, I made a really big hole, now my iphone became a ipod touch, theres no signal bars , Its says "no service". but the battery has improved a lot., It gets slightly warm when charged through usb but gets very hot with ac adapter, I think there is some other problem with the comm board.

Thank you..

Prosperous Poverty said...

I'm sorry to hear that Pikachu. Obviously that there is a bigger problem and I hope you can find some good comm board and solve your problem.

Unfortunately for me, I never managed to get hold of a full functional comm board and I don't think it would make much difference now because I "only" miss wifi and iphone 3GS is coming out in a couple of days, and next month in croatia.