Refurbishing/Restoring an Old Smartphone





Introduction: Refurbishing/Restoring an Old Smartphone

Hey guys this is my FIRST INSTRUCTABLE,my native language is not English,still I will try my best!

I am 18yo from India and was in search of new Smartphone,tried to find out what happens to old one? The answer was,they are waste,we do not have any recycling centers/plants here in India.So I borrowed an old phone from my sister which she was not using and restored it for myself by Stepping out of my Comfort Zone!

After doing everything(restoration) I did my homework on how harmful e-waste is? And believe my guys it is really dangerous if not paid much needed proper attention! So,if I have this(recycling) problem someone else surely have the same problem! Right? So here you go.

Lets get started! I am terribly sorry for not sharing pictures of process as I had no plans of sharing this until my 'homework' was finished.

All values are in INR (Indian Rupee) and you can google them as per your country.I will follow elimination procedure so as for better information and procedure! If you find something you are not comfortable with or any difficult job leave it if possible (like I did!).

I am not responsible for anything good or bad happens while handling safe/unsafe batteries,damage caused by anything or anyone(including you) to person(s) or your device.

Step 1: Identifying Problems:Hardware

Check for physical/visible damages on frame,rear panel/cover and screen.

determine weather part needs replacement or can be repaired using glue.Screens obviously cannot be repaired with glue it only needs replacement.

Note everything down which needs replacement including buttons and covers(like microSD card).

You can skip this step if don't want to do full restoration(still a screen will be needed).

Step 2: Turning on Your Device

Check if it has a good battery or not be it user replaceable or not. Try switching it on!

If it does not switches on,try connecting it to charger. If it still does not startup seek professional help or abandon project if you are not an expert.

Confirm above conclusion because maybe the display is out or the charging port does not work(why you discarded that phone),see for any signs of life like vibration or sound.

Most of phones will start and you can procedure further.

Step 3: Identifying Problems:Software

After turning it on,try to recall weather it had history of any software misbehaves or bugs.

The best option which I recommend is to do a "factory reset",if any important data is on device take backup of it before but remember not to take app backup as it can actually 'back up' viruses and malware too.So, you would be stuck on same problem!

You can even flash suitable ROM on your device but it is very risky and complicated job.IMO stick to OEM ROM and update it to latest version available.

Almost 99.99% software issues are solved on factory reset!

Step 4: Identifying Problem:Sensors & Outputs

Most companies have a 'test code' on their device to test it's functionally before leaving the factory.

For Samsung it is *#0*# test your device there and find and faulty sensors.

Your device may have different code depending on manufacturer,you can google it.

Make list of these faulty sensors.

Step 5: Is It Worth Restoring?

You smartphone may not be up to local legal norms like FCC,SAR value etc. so check that out before starting,after that...

It is totally up to you! Why you want to restore your phone? Be it to safe keep as vintage or use it daily.

Estimate cost of parts needed by googling and see is that cost worth spending to revive smartphone?

For example,in my case this phone costed me around 16,000 INR and now magically resale value is 1,500 according to a local dealer. A new phone's average costs about 8,500 INR (yep! much cheaper) and nothing was really wrong with this one.

It cannot be used for long term as world is on 4G,this being 3G and it is only 1GHz single core running on out dated Ice Cream Sandwich.Much investment obviously did not make any sense.

Above all you are saving environment (you can hunt for a recycling center in mean time) and you can also wait for newer technology cell phones.

Also manufacturers don't provide any software,firmware and security updates on dated models.

Step 6: Gathering Parts and Tools!

So,you finally made up your mind and now you can start your work!

Find your model number from your phone's box or from sticker which as other info.And order parts online or buy in person from retail outlet.Pay special attention to battery a Good quality battery is a major safety concern!

Apart from obvious things you require...

1.A clean environment

2.Decent Lighting

3.Things stated in image

4.All parts to be replaced

5.Steady hands

Step 7: Opeaning Up Your Device!

Switch off your phone and remove all things like MicroSD card,SIM and battery grab a suitable screw driver and open all screws remember to keep removed screws safe!

Now you have to pry open your phone and not to use too much force to break 'clips' or deform/dent plastic parts.

If something is not coming out easily you may have left a screw or two still in place,some phones have screws hidden under decals or stickers.

When you use screwdriver as prying tool it multiply your power through leverage enough to break some parts.

Now you must have a motherboard or PCB in green colour in front of you.Remove all flex and ribbon cables coming from somewhere or the other to PCB using our "little prying tool";see for a screw or 2 holding motherboard in place if not it must have a few plastic clips holding it in place remove it slowly so you can get attention of whats going wrong like you forgot to remove the smallest and most important flex cable.

Again Don't Force Anything!!

Remove as much as parts as you can easily and nicely(except display and other soldered things on PCB). Some parts can even require you to heat the phone to deactivate the glue holding them in place,especially screen and frame (on laminated displays). I do not recommend taking them out unless necessary.

Remember what you take out and from where,you obviously need to keep track of it as we have to reassemble it again.

Step 8: Replacing Old Parts

Frame:Remember what you took out replace that with new one while reassembling.

Screen:there are 2 types one is laminated other is...(let it be x-type)

In x you have digitizer(touch sensor),LCD module,Backlit everything in different layers.You can google on how to replace these things specific to your model but it is really risky as even the smallest particle of dust can ruin your display.

In laminated you have all these layers fused into one and usually supported by really tough glass mostly gorilla or AGC etc. Even if any one thing fails it require you to change the whole display

To find what type your display is just look at it from an angle 45 or less if you find the glass sits really close to display you have laminated if not it is x type.

Camera:Remove older camera module by lifting off a thin sheet like plastic on PCB and disconnecting ribbon cable and follow reverse to reassemble a new one.

Battery:most of older phones had user replaceable battery and I do not need to tell you how to do it.But on inbuilt batteries it has a ribbon or flex connector going to motherboard or PCB.

Speakers:Varies with models,you can google this topic for some general videos and replacement explanations,remember not to force anything.

Vibration Motors:In most cases it is fixed somewhere on frame but on far older models it is soldered on PCB.In second case do not attempt to change it!

Step 9: Cleaning,cleaning & Cleaning!!

This is like the most important step in whole process! Clean like every particle of dust & dirt on and under PCB but REMEMBER:NOT TO BE HARD ON IT!! These things are really fragile and sensitive to slightest action,if you accidentally pull a SMD resistor or capacitor the whole motherboard is almost useless.Don't use any chemical solvent and even water,as water and electronics don't go hand in hand.If not needed don't open your smartphone's display as you might risk dirt or dust ruining your display.

Usually parts which are closer to direct or indirect openings like USB port,earphone jack,locks/holes which holds rear panel in place etc. are dirtier than other core parts.

Step 10: Reassembly!

Problems identified,faults found,parts changed,parts cleaned now 1 Job remains! Reassembly!

Just follow the reverse procedure of disassembly,this does not mean making things dirty again :P.

Be cautious,go slow take your time and follow exact same reverse order.Connect all cable modules and ribbons etc...

Step 11: Final Testing and Inspection

Install memory card,sim and battery then run the 'test code' again and inspect display,touch,cameras,sensors etc on successful test start your phone to test call quality and microphone,Wi-Fi,GPS etc.

Don't forget to test all buttons and headphone jacks or USB ports!

If anything does not work then you have to open up your phone again and see for any loose contacts proper fitting of flex cables.

In most cases if you follow correct procedure you you will succeed.

Step 12: Apply Any Accessories (optional)

I preferred applying screen protector to screen to prevent it in case of accidents and to protect it from scratches,as it is not having gorilla glass type of protection.

And don't worry if you cant fix something complicated like home button in my case just don't do it,something is better than nothing,I really did not wanted to mess up...

CONGRATULATIONS you just saved our environment!!

Thank you for bearing me for this long time... Hope you have a incredible successful project!

Please vote me up for "First Time Author" & "Beyond the Comfort Zone" Contest!


Step 13: Edit

after opening all screws in body stated above. Pry open and separate frame, again don't force anything.
Then see for more screws holding motherboard in my case there was one a few cms below the label.

Step 14: Separating Motherboard

in my case these 2 clips were holding motherboard in place.
After the clips are undone lift the motherboard really carefully so that you don't stretch or break any cable connected under the motherboard.
In my case the LCD was connected under motherboard, digitizer being on top left 'on the board'.
laminated displays may have only one cable with LCD and digitizer being one.

Step 15: Lifting Up the Motherboard

In most phones, your motherboard can be easily lifted off... but in few like in my case it was not easy,it was soldered to a flex cable which was for power button and power button was fixed with some type of glue.So I just flipped it.

Step 16: Changing Modules

for flex cables like that of camera module you have to lift up a plastic sheet like locking mechanism and gently pull in direction of cable.
note a white line on cables and PCB which helps to judge alignment and is cable all way in.

Step 17:

Thank you, I opened my phone again to click pictures of insides for making this more helpful.
this time I edited and uploaded using android app.



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    2 Discussions

    regarding the test code. Do you have to navigate to a particular part of the phone (settings menu etc) to enter it or can you enter it from the home screen?

    1 reply

    You can enter it from in-built dialing app (the same where you enter a phone number to make a call).
    Or in some Chinese smartphone brands you have to enter settings>about>[next,it Depends on manufacturer]
    You can visit this link to get your code or google it if this doesn't work!!