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No Smartphone

Author: Marius Timmer

More than a week ago my Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus fell on the road. Actually, that’s (usually) not a big deal, because until now (at least for me) it has always been considered relatively robust. But this time the display broke. Fortunately, the display was still working and the touch function was also working perfectly. However, I didn’t want to walk around with a broken display for a year again (like with the last mobile phone), which is why I decided to buy a protective cover and a repair set on Amazon. As I’ve just seen, prices have risen by more than 10 Euros since then. After only two days the package arrived and I was looking forward to finally being able to replace the display. I was surprised that this is possible at all, because nowadays all devices are glued together, which makes the repair almost impossible.

The repair set

Unfortunately there was no manual for the repair set, so I searched the internet and quickly found a YouTube video showing the process. But at the first step I had to realize that it wouldn’t be as easy as shown. The display couldn’t be detached from the rest of the phone because the glue was just too tight. Also with the help of the enclosed plectrum I could not get between the mobile phone display and the back. I tried my best for a couple of minutes, but made little progress (which means none). Only when I really got down to it and the screen broke apart more and more I made it. After I had cleaned my bleeding fingers, I could go on. Antenna and push buttons could be removed relatively easily and some cables and screws could be loosened.

The battery

When the motherboard was removed, the next step was to remove the battery, which unfortunately was not screwed, but glued. In the video the whole phone was placed on a hotplate at 80°C, which was supposed to loosen the glue. So I put the remaining half of my mobile phone into the oven at 60°C. If you scratch your head in astonishment, let me tell you:

Putting hardware in the oven (but not the microwave!) is quite common and helps, because contacts are corrected, or even glue slowly gives up.

After three minutes I took the technique out of the oven again. When I tried to lift the battery with a supplied tool, the tool broke due to cheap processing. So I took the screwdriver, but I guess I hit the warm battery unfavourably. At the appropriate place I saw it glow immediately. So I blew quickly and it stopped - only to light up again two seconds later. At that moment I realized that I had to act quickly before the battery would go up in flames. So I quickly fetched a large salad bowl (made out of aluminium) and pushed the battery into it, which had already started to smoke a lot. Within a few seconds I brought the burning battery to the house door and tore open all the windows and doors. For one hour there was smoke in the air, whose acrid smell must have been poisonous in any case.

Digital Ruins

At first I thought buying a new battery on the internet would help me and I could just go on two days later at exactly the same place I was. However, I soon saw that the burning battery had taken some cables with it and that the built-in power supply/speaker/microphone combination had partially melted. So it was clear to me that I could buy a new mobile phone. Even if I would have got the suitable spare parts for 60 Euro, the case would have been scratched from opening.

So that’s how I’ve been without a cell phone since the weekend. And after I did the cold withdrawal from Facebook a few years ago, I thought I’d handle it pretty well. And in fact, I have to say that I think everything is going quite well. Even if you suddenly write more e-mails than before, which is a nice change. On the other hand, I now realize how dependent you have become on a mobile phone (sometimes unconsciously). On the way to work I usually listen to music or podcasts via Spotify, that’s now gone. Writing messages with friends in WhatsApp is now a thing of the past. Playing one or the other game: Also drops out. All the more I am happy to use services that are not limited to mobile phones, like Telegram, or at least only partially limited, like Instagram (writing messages is not possible in the web version).

If I didn’t know that I would very soon have another mobile phone to put my rescued SIM card into, I would have other problems because all two-factor authentications (online banking, Google signups, GitHub, etc.) no longer work. I’m definitely looking forward to being back online very soon. Even if my taken pictures and videos are probably gone with it.