Though early units might have been less reliable on the inside than later ones and sequels, the original 2007 iPhone was built pretty tough—enough that a family member’s hand-me-down that has been continually used (inside cases) for nearly three years now is still working fine. At least, it was until a week or two ago, when a certain little “nag screen” became way more naggy than normal. Even when the phone wasn’t actively being used, the “this accessory is not made for use with iPhone” screen would pop up for a brief second, then disappear, and the screen would randomly turn on now and again without a message, as well. Our family member asked whether she should just go to the store and get a cheap iPhone 3G. “No!” we said, “even Steve Jobs is saying already that the next iPhone is an A+ update. Do you really want to buy into the nearly two-year-old iPhone 3G on the verge of something like that?”
So we tried to fix the iPhone. The simplest “3 R’s” troubleshooting techniques suggested by Apple didn’t work: “Restart,” “Reset,” and “Restore,” respectively just turning the device off and on, clearing its settings, and then wiping its content altogether with iTunes. Restore seemed to have the greatest impact, but the nag screen quickly returned. There was clearly a hardware problem of some sort, and the most obvious culprits were a screwy Sleep/Wake switch or a dirty Dock Connector. If you haven’t seen what a typically pocketed iPhone’s bottom looks like after three years, these pictures tell most of the story—believe it or not, this is what the iPhone’s black plastic bottom panel looked like after it was cleaned. Tiny specs of grime had probably found their way onto the Dock Connector.
Since it’s really, amazingly easy to damage the Dock Connector’s super thin, small pins with anything metallic and quite possibly even small pieces of plastic, we went after it with the gentlest and thinnest items we could find on hand—card stock that was a little thicker than paper, plus a little rubbing alcohol on the end of some tissue paper. This isn’t ideal for cleaning—something that doesn’t leave fibers behind would be better—but the junk we got out of the Dock Connector port, including bits of fuzzy lint, little crusty things, and who knows what else collectively left the iPhone in completely working order again. A little extra work with a toothpick after the first two photos were taken got the extra junk out of the port’s corners. Thus, after 15 minutes of careful attention, there wasn’t a need to toss the hardware away and replace it with its plasticy sequel.
Yet. We’ll see what Apple shows up with this summer, but from what we’re hearing so far, it’s going to be worth buying into.