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repairing the pinephone

the only phone which you can repair without getting sued in 2021

about two weeks ago i broke my pinephone screen. luckily the pinephone is meant to be repairable so the fix seemed easy. just get a new screen and swap it out. no need to throw out the whole phone like with any other phone right?

so anyway ordering the screen was straightforward. the main issue is it takes a while to ship (from hong kong), and while being able to order parts for your phone can help reduce e-waste there is also the aspect of there presumably being a whole plane to fly this out across the world but i guess it's an improvement at least. i assume lots of people have pinephones in the US so it may make sense to just ship a bunch of parts out and store them in the country so it's easier to deliver when people need them here. anyway after a week it got here

the repair part... turns out really all you need is a small phillips screwdriver. it helps to have a spudger but you can do it all by hand too. though to be honest i would really prefer if they used torx screws instead of phillips because phillips is really easy to strip. i think the convenience of not having to get a torx set which i guess most people don't have is not quite offset by the risk of stripping phillips. torx is literally just better. but all pine64 devices seem to use phillips anyway which kind of sucks

the phone has a back cover which can be removed by hand, then an inner frame which is screwed in, then the mainboards, components like cameras and speaker, and some ribbon cables, and this all sits in the front chassis assembly which includes the screen. you get that whole front part as a single unit with the screen assembled into it already. so it's just a matter of removing every component in order and then assembling them into the new front chassis/screen piece. i even almost got this right the first time! i found out i forgot to move the top speaker at first. there are a lot of small pieces so you have to make sure you have them all

also, i discovered yet another design flaw during this process and i'm not entirely sure how to reliably fix it. the bottom speaker output had not been working on my phone for a while. i assumed it was potentially a software issue but it turns out when i looked at it, the bottom speaker connects with a ribbon cable to a side board which contains the usb-c connector and some other things. the problem is, unlike every other ribbon cable in the phone which was attached with mechanical connectors, this one was soldered directly onto the board. and the other problem with this board was that the only mechanical attachment to the chassis was with these plastic pins on the chassis that go through holes on the board -- and the pins are too small, so the board can wiggle in place. which particularly becomes a problem because it'll wiggle every time you plug in the USB. so the end result was the solder joints for the speaker just broke. and..... yeah i need to find some way to mechanically secure this board despite it being probably the most regularly stressed part of the whole phone, and then solder the speaker cable back. or something. idk what i'm going to do yet

this is kind of an example of yet another design issue that can only be discovered by actually using the phone for a long time. or idk, being smart and realizing the usb board is not a good place to attach things. or making those pins wider. literally anything. on one hand it's nice that this is literally the only phone which you can actually repair easily but it's also not a good phone and it's fundamentally unsalvageable without a major hardware revision imo. oh well. maybe the next generation of linux phone, whoever ends up making them, will be better