Hardware: The Phone Has a Problem

It took me a while to figure out that my LG G5 phone was changing shape. The unevenness in color on the screen finally made me think about what might be causing it. The screen was slightly bowed. I chalked it up to the battery having starting to expand. I ordered a new battery. Today, I had both the phone and new battery together, and thought I would swap batteries. Nope, the expanded battery was stuck in the case.

I had to go through a chunk of the standard disassembly to release the enlarged battery. There are a few things I didn’t see in the various YouTube tutorials on doing the disassembly.

First, separating the screen/motherboard from the phone back requires spudging, but I missed any warning about spudging too deep. When I got the thing apart, I discovered a loose piece. I had run the plastic too deeply and dislodged it. I had to find detailed pictures of a back to figure out where it went. It turned out to just be a conductive piece to improve electrical connection to the metal body. I was able to lay it in place. I inspected the rest of the body looking for anything else I had messed up, and found another one that had been moved from where there was an obvious contact page on the motherboard circuit. I set that one back in position.

Second, my phone is back together without a small black plastic part that goes in the bottom right of the phone, with a hole for the retaining screw to go through. I figured that out because I also ended up doing the disassembly on Diane’s G5, which has had a severe problem in its ability to get a good GPS location, and the little black piece in hers made itself known. I found the one from mine on the floor after that.

My G5 hadn’t been doing too well on getting and hold a GPS location, either, so I have been looking at online discussions from others in the same boat. There are a variety of “fixes” suggested for the problem. A lot of them say to carefully bend pins on the mother board up. I decided not to go that route. The set of three pins often mentioned are connections to the volume rocker switch, and likely have nothing to do with GPS. The GPS connection of interest is in the upper right corner. LG uses small pieces of conductive mesh in various places to make connections with pins, posts, and pads on the motherboard. In both phones, I made some pieces of folded aluminum foil (about four of five layers thick) sized to go on the ~3mm square pad in the upper right, and another about 6x6mm to cover a similar size piece of conductive mesh, still at the upper end of the phone, but further to the left. Then I carefully laid the screen/motherboard back into the body. After getting the sim card tray back in, put the retaining screws in, and the new battery, I pressed the power button and held my breath. The phone booted normally. The GPS Status and Toolbox app found satellites and locked a position within five seconds. Diane’s phone similarly seems to be doing much better on getting and keeping a GPS lock. What hasn’t improved is that Diane’s phone seems to have more than usual difficulties in getting a cellular connection. My phone can have several bars of 4G LTE reception, and hers just adjacent may be in 3G or claiming that there is no signal. I probably need to look for further discussion of that specific thing online, and I probably have another disassembly to look forward to.

One factor that made it somewhat easier to contemplate doing the repair was that we bought both phones as refurbished units. When there is no warranty coverage, one can find motivation to get more technical in seeking fixes for problems.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

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