January 2015 Update: this is still working! Thanks for all the people who are visiting this page: you’re doing a great job fixing your phone!
After about a year of procrastination, I decided to finally fix a nagging problem: the power button on my iPhone 4 was broken. It felt limp and would not respond to a press. This might seem like a small problem, but considering that there’s no way to lock the iPhone any other way, it’s mightily irritating. Every time you put the phone in your pocket, it’s still on, so you have to be very careful not to touch the screen. It make handling it very clumsy and I’ve let it slip more than once.
Luckily, however, the iPhone 4 is programmed to start up automatically when you insert the charger. If this weren’t the case (as I feared when the problem first manifested itself) you’d be in constant fear of a low battery: one battery-drain and the phone would be bricked.
Living without your phone is difficult. So when T-Mobile told me I’d have to miss it for about two weeks, I decided to wait for a convenient time. It turns out, however, that there’s never a convenient time to miss your phone. Last september, my warranty ran out. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Here’s the problem: Apple uses a tiny 3x3mm tact-switch (Alps maybe?) with an even tinier (±1x1x0,5mm) actuator-helper moulded (?) onto the switch. The actuator-helper makes sure the force from the (beautifully machined) power button itself is transferred nicely to the middle of the disc-spring of the button so it makes a snappy “click”-sound and responds okay electrically.
However, on my iPhone, the actuator-helper came loose and was lost (probably somewhere in the phone, haha). The yellow film on the switch is kapton (polyimide), which is a very hard plastic to stick anything to except PI itself. The actuator-helper itself seemed to me like some other plastic, like ABS/PC/PC-ABS. Like I said: tiny error, tiny problem. Big impact on daily use.
I’ve heard more people about the same problem, so here’s how I fixed it:
- Get this part from your masters at DealExtreme. It’ll take some time to arrive. Get some coffee.
- Follow the great iFixit tutorial for replacing the powerbutton itself up to the last page. I found that it’s not necessary to take out the front-facing camera.
Be very careful. There are many things that can go wrong, as the iPhone is made up of a lot of very delicate springs, bushes and screws. Use a magnetic screw mat.
- Use a scalpel or other knife to separate the yellow kapton tape from the original button. Be very careful not to lose any of the disc-springs inside. Also make sure no dust gets inside.
- Do the same for the donor-button. Put the yellow tape (with the actuator helper) on the original button. Make sure all disc-springs are inside and that everything aligns nicely.
- Press the tape firmly; it’s not meant to be reused so it might come loose after a while if not pressed right.
- Re-assemble the phone, carefully following the iFixit tutorial in reversed order.
- Resync time and iMessage. Enjoy your fixed power button.
Although it would be nicer to replace the whole switch or the whole cable assembly, my approach takes a lot less time (and is less risky). Besides, the cable assembly also holds several sensors and a microphone. I didn’t trust the DX cable quality enough.
All-in-all it took me about two hours to take the phone apart, decide how to fix the problem, fix the button and putting it all back together. This is not an easy repair. If you’ve never fixed something like this before, don’t do it!
I hope this helps anybody out there. I’ll let you know how it holds!
Like this? You might be interested in my latest project. It's a desk light made completely from a single sheet of printed circuit board. Check it out:
Thanks for the guide. My issue was similar although not related to the actuator helper but due to the replacement power button I’d bought which, unlike the original part that I wanted to replace, did not have a spacer disk (round shiny chrome like disc) installed. So the effect is the same as here, as if there is no actuator helper, as a further recess is created.
Man, thanks for the tip/guide! It worked like a charm!
(the button doesn’t feel the same, but now at least it is working!)
Great tutorial! I ordered 10 replacement contacts via eBay for less than $2. Upon disassembly, I found all the pieces of the original contact separated with the yellow tape torn. I reread your instructions multiple times as it was hard to digest that I had to separate the new contact into sections, but I finally grabbed an X-Acto knife and worked the contacts with tape loose from the tiny circuit board.
All went well and this microsurgery worked perfectly! The button operates and feels as new! It took about an hour due to my disbelief, but if I had to do it again, it might only require 30 – 40 minutes.
Less than 20 cents to repair one iPhone. Nice. Thank you!
Hi & thanks!
I tried to epoxy some rubbery plastic onto the tact switch, but couldn’t get it to stick. Anyway the button feel would have been worse with elastic material.
I ended up soldering some solder tin onto the metal button. It’s tricky as it has to be of right height, which is the same as the sides on the button. Makes one wonder why the circle shaper disc on the button isn’t originally of correct height… Also the solder does not attach well, I accidentally rubbed it off twice when tinkering.
I did end up with slightly too high solder blob, and couldn’t tigthen the left-side screw completely (or the button would have been always depressed). We’ll see how long the screw holds; luckily the button already worked with only right-side screw, so there’s backup 🙂
Hello, the ribbon from the power button flex cable is ripped. Could I fix it with adhesive tape wrapped around? Thank you!
I don’t think so. The traces on the cable are probably ripped as well… A new power button is a few dollars on eBay though!
Hi there. I reached the same conclusion – that the small disc on the rear of the on/off button wasn’t pushing on the actual ‘switch’. My solution was to put a very small blob of Araldite on the circle on the rear of the on/off button, allow to dry and harden overnight and hey presto! All works well. I guess any glue which dries hard and non-tacky, and is not electrically conductive will work.
Nice idea. I guess that would work equally well indeed 🙂
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