Mobile Device Repair Notes

July 12, 2018

In my day job as a computer repair technician for Twintronix, smartphones and tablets are easily the most common types of devices that I have to repair. In addition to being the only vendor-agnostic phone repair service in town, Twintronix also endeavors to be very competitive in terms of price, which ensures that we are the first stop when someone in Moulton damages their mobile device. When I started this job, I had lots of experience repairing traditional PCs and laptops, but next to no experience working with smartphones or tablets. But, as with all the other skills in my arsenal, I managed to eventually teach myself the basics, and gain experience from there. Here are a few notes, based on my time working with touchscreen mobile devices, that might be useful to another tech just starting out with them.

First (and it probably goes without saying), Apple devices are very very different from other types of devices. The most obvious way they differ from a typical Android phone is the presence of the dreaded Torx screws. If you want to work on Apple products at all, you must get a set of driver bits, or even individual screwdrivers, that will work on these proprietary lock screws. I recommend the iFixit Manta Driver Kit (unfortunately out of stock at the time of writing). It is phenomenal. I have not encountered a device, mobile or otherwise, that this toolkit doesn't have 100% support for. Another problem you will encounter with Apple devices fairly frequently is someone bringing you a device that is disabled because of too many incorrect password attempts, or that otherwise is having a software issue. The only option to fix this is to try and go through iTunes. I recommend that you become very familiar with iTunes and all the various recovery options that Apple offers. The "walled garden" approach has led to some unique methods of account protection, so you should always look up info about an Apple device before you attempt to get into it from the software side.

One thing that we learned the hard way at Twintronix is that, in the case of a smartphone with a broken screen, replacing just the glass is often far more trouble than it is worth. This is because a great many models (including Samsung Galaxies and most low-end Android tablets) attach the glass touchscreen to the LCD assembly with copious ammounts of adhesive. This makes removing just the glass without breaking the LCD extremely difficult and time-consuming. Additionally, loose, broken glass that you attempt to prise out of glue is pretty dangerous to your fingers. For these reasons, it is policy at Twintronix to replace the entire glass touchscreen and LCD assembly. This is the best decision for us, for time and safety's sake, and it is in line with what most other mobile device repair shops do as well.

Lastly, I would like to mention some of the devices that I actually enjoy working on. It is no secret that most mobile devices are not really meant to be repaired at all. Disposable materials, non-modular design, tiny screws, and over-abundant adhesive all combine into an experience that can make a repair tech feel more like a surgeon than anything else. However some devices were made, if not specifically to encourage repair, to at least not take pains to dissuade the technician. One of the most common devices of this type that I have encountered is the Nextbook Ares series. These tablets have their front and rear panels attached just with plastic pop tabs, and are very easily disassembled once you actually get into them. Battery replacements are a cinch with Nextbooks. Additionally, some of the iPads are simple to access, provided you have Torx drivers. If you get an iPad, look on the bottom edge of the device for two Torx screws around the lighting port. If they are there, that device should be an easy repair. Additionally, many iPad models (such as the Air) do not use any adhesive to connect the touchscreen to the LCD, so it is easier to fix one or the other on them.

These are just some of my thoughts on working on phones and tablets as a computer tech. I admit that before I started working at Twintronix, I had very little interest in repairing mobile devices. However, I was able to learn pretty quickly, and have repaired a few dozen myself by now. Anyone getting into IT in a repair technician role nowadays should probably be aware that they will encounter a lot of mobile devices. Knowing how to fix these devices is a super relevant skill right now, and will only become moreso in the immediate future. I hope some starting techs can learn a bit from this post!