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Smartphones and tablets are known to be hard to repair. Yet the problem is often less complicated than it seems. In the Repair Café, more than 40 per cent of the smartphones and tablets that are brought are successfully repaired. In more than 30 per cent of the cases, the owner receives advice or is referred to a specialist. This is shown by the RepairMonitor, in which Repair Café repairers keep track of their repair data.

Eline and Yazan, repairers of Repair Café Houten (the Netherlands), have a lot of experience with smartphone repairs and can give many practical tips. “Try to charge your phone for an hour first”, Eline recommends. “Sometimes the battery is so depleted that the phone doesn’t switch on anymore.”

Below, Eline and Yazan share their solutions to the five most encountered problems.

1. ”It’s not working properly”

An overactive or incorrectly set system causes the device to malfunction and slows down. Removing apps and photos, closing tabs and scanning for viruses can help a lot. An outdated system or awkwardly configured apps also make smartphones and tablets less usable. So check such software updates before you dive into the hardware. Incorrect settings can also cause GPS and network problems. Repair Café repairers often come up with a clear problem description and solution together with the visitor. Many visitors need some extra help to understand their smartphone. The RepairMonitor shows that almost half of the devices had a solvable software problem.

2. “It no longer charges”

A working charger is step one in solving charging problems. First, try charging it with a cable you’re sure that works. Never use a broken cable as it’s a fire risk. If this doesn’t help, make sure the charging port isn’t blocked. It can be cleaned with compressed air, a toothpick or a (non-metallic) mini tweezers.

If all this doesn’t work, you can open the device (or have it opened) and measure whether the port is working. The port is the hole where the cable goes in. By measuring it, you can discover if there’s any power going through it. Repairer Yazan knows that often only a cable is loose, so the power is no longer connected to the correct part. With many parts, such as the screen, the problem can be caused by such a loose cable. This can cause the screen to show weird colours.



3. “The battery depletes quickly”

If a device runs out of power quickly, it may mean that the battery isn’t working correctly. Batteries can be measured with a multimeter. This measures whether the battery still gives voltage. If it doesn’t, it’s broken and can no longer supply power to your device. Batteries are often replaceable, but unfortunately not always.

Eline’s tip: pay attention to the replaceability of the battery when you buy a new device. This is usually no longer possible with more recent models of smartphones.

Many Repair Café repairers have received training from professional smartphone repairers

4. “The buttons no longer work”

Buttons are often crooked or a little loose, or stuck. To fix this, the device must be opened. Buttons are attached to the inside of the system. Eline and Yazan often use Google, Youtube or iFixit to find out how a device works. The latter clearly explains how to disassemble tablets and smartphones. By searching by brand and model name + disassemble, they generally find useful tips. If fixing the old button doesn’t work, then you can order new buttons via, for example, AliExpress. Search by model + the type of button you’re looking for (volume/power/home button). Pay attention to the reputation of the seller.

5. “I spilled liquid over it”

If moisture gets on your smartphone or tablet, remove the device from the liquid as quickly as possible. Immediately disconnect the power by turning the device off and disconnecting it from the socket. Keep it tilted so that as little fluid as possible can flow through the device. For example, if you have thrown a glass of water over the bottom of your phone, do not hold it upside down (the water will run deeper into it). Keeping it tilted will prevent more significant damage. If you can remove the battery, do so. Then dry the outside with a cloth.

Open the device and see how big the leak is. You can often solve a small leak by cleaning the surface with a cotton swab and some cleaning alcohol. If it was a sugary or acidic drink, you should first clean the surface with soapy water and then with distilled water. Then you can clean it with alcohol on a cotton swab. Let it dry completely. This can take a long time, but if you turn it on before it’s dry, you can cause a short circuit, and you will be worse off. You can speed up the drying process by using a fan. Please don’t use a hairdryer unless it can blow at a very low temperature; high temperatures can damage components.

For this maintenance, you can get help in the Repair Café. During the visit, it’s best to be honest about what happened to your device. “We’re not going to discuss the warranty,” says Eline. “If you tell us what happened, we know what to look for.” Components may be broken, but often cleaning can solve a lot.

Visit your Repair Café for assistance

In many Repair Cafés, repairers can at least indicate the smartphone or tablet problem. To find out if this is the case in the Repair Cafe near you, please contact the organiser. If you can’t come to your Repair Café, you can also get a lot from online videos and a bit of practice.

This post has 4 comments

  1. My iPad keeps bleeping once every 2/3 minutes. I don’t think it’s my landline phone, as i disconnected that from the wall, but it still keeps os doing it. A short one second bleep, driving me up the wall. I’ve switched it off from the internet, but still it goes on. I dare not undo all the wires, as I would never know how to put them together again. Can you help?

    1. Dear Andrew,
      I’d suggest that you get in touch with a local Repair Café near you, to see if the experts there can help, possibly even from a distance while Repair Cafés cannot plan live meetings.
      You can find all Repair Cafés here on our website, including a useful map to zoom in.
      Best regards,
      Claudia from Repair Café International Foundation


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