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The Fix-A-Phone Feature

Ashley Hallene and Jeffrey M Allen


  • Tips on addressing common issues with smartphones and when to seek professional help.
  • Common scenarios addressed: phone dropped in water, frozen phone, charging and speaker port cleaning, dead phone, and protection tips.
The Fix-A-Phone Feature

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Most people have experienced that heart-stopping moment when your phone slips from your grasp and falls to the concrete. No matter how protected your phone is, your heart races a little as you pick it up, flip it over, and examine the damage. Some damage is too advanced for you to repair yourself, but there are a variety of minor damage problems you can address without calling in the professionals. This month we will look at things you can do yourself and when to call the professionals.

Drop your phone in water? Don’t put it in a bag of rice.  The rice “trick” dates back at least as far as 2007, maybe earlier. People started carrying around these pricey pocket-sized devices that sometimes slip out of pockets and into swimming pools, puddles, and yes, toilets. The claim was that putting your smartphone in a bag filled with dry rice would draw out the moisture so that the phone would work again. In reality, this does next to nothing for the phone. It may help dry the phone on the outside, but the main problem for your phone is the moisture on the inside. Even a strong desiccant like silica gel can not get the most damaging water, which is on the inside of the phone, out.

Sometimes, if water hasn’t permeated inside the phone to do too much damage, then simply leaving it powered off for a period can dry it out. This is likely the reason people think the rice trick works, it has the same effect as simply leaving it alone overnight. In reality, rice can make the problem worse, adding rice “dust” to a moist environment can create a paste like substance that is even harder to remove.  

If your phone is accidentally submerged, instead of throwing it in a bag of rice, your first step should be to power it down. If the water turned it off, do not try to power it back on. Next, remove any part of the phone that can be removed so it can air out, including the case, the SIM card tray, microSD card tray, and the battery (if it is easily removable). Next you can use a fan or compressed air to try and blow the water out of the ports. Unfortunately, this won’t help if water has gone beyond the ports and is inside the phone. If that occurs, you may have to open it up and scrub it with 90% isopropyl alcohol or set it in front of a fan. You may be wondering how to tell if water has gotten inside the phone when you are not supposed to power it on while wet.

Manufacturers have thought about this, and some have built in a sort of liquid damage indicator (LDI). Most Apple and Samsung phones come with an LDI. For the iPhone, you can find out where your LDI is here. For Samsung phones, you can find out where your liquid damage indicator is here.

Fix a frozen phone.  If you find the phone keeps freezing whenever you use the touchscreen or camera, try rebooting it. You can force a reboot by pressing the home key and the power button together. If you have an iPhone that no longer has a home key, then some combination of the volume up button + volume down button + side power button will usually do the trick. For Samsung phones, you can press and hold the power button and the volume down button down simultaneously for more than 7 seconds to force restart it.

Is your phone not charging like it used to? Before you look into a battery replacement, try cleaning out the port you plug the charger into with a toothbrush (not your daily toothbrush). You might try this trick if you start having difficulty hearing someone on the other end of the virtual line. The problem may be a dirty speaker port rather than your hearing. Unwanted debris can collect and build-up in these ports so it’s a good idea to give them a good (but soft) scrubbing from time to time.

CPR for a dead phone. If your phone does not turn on, here are a few steps you can try before calling the professionals:

  1. If you know it hasn’t been submerged in water, try leaving it connected to the charger for an extended period.
  2. If the first step fails, try connecting it to a laptop. If you hear a noise, then it is not dead, but it probably does need professional help.

It’s okay to ask for professional help. This article attempts to shed light on some simple fixes you can do yourself, but when in doubt ask for help. There are a lot of places where you can take your phone for a quick fix. There are online services where you can send your phone away to be repaired, including:

  • Quick Mobile Fix
  • iMend
  • iCracked
  • Best Buy Geek Squad
  • uBreakiFix

You can also look up local companies and call around for an estimated repair quote. Write down your phone make and model and have a general description of the problem, or as much of it as you have been able to work out.

If you want to tinker with an old phone, check out some of the guides from iFixit.

Protect your cellular asset.  This advice has been heralded for a decade plus, but:

  • Keep your phone in a protective case. Otterbox ( offers a Lifeproof series that has some nice options for both iPhone and Samsung.
  • Cover your glass with a screen protector. A damaged display is the most common injury for a smartphone. You should invest in a quality screen protector to protect your investment. There are generally three types of screen protectors out there.
  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) – This is a plastic screen protector. It is the cheapest and least protective of the screen protector options. Their cheap, light, and thin material usually makes them less visible when applied to your phone.
  2. Thermoplastic Polyreuthane (TPU) – This material is a flexible plastic that was prominent in older model screen protectors. It was the kind you had to apply with a spray solution and squeegee. It lacks the smoothness of tempered glass and the invisible look and feel of PET based protectors. Still, it offers better impact protection than your PET protectors. It is flexible enough to go edge-to-edge on any phone. It also has limited “self-healing” ability for small scratches. Brands like IQ Shield and Zagg’s InvisibleShield film are the better choices in this category.
  3. Tempered Glass – this is the top of the lineup for screen protectors. They are not self-healing like the TPU protectors, but they are tougher in terms of scratch- and drop-protection.  Zagg’s offers a few screen protectors in this category with added anti-glare and privacy features. Spigen has some nice offerings that include an “auto-alignment kit” a shell around the screen protector molded to the shape of your model phone for the easiest installation.

Whatever you do, do not try a repair you are not familiar or comfortable with. It is possible to make a problem worse (like coating a wet phone in rice “dust”). If the problem seems outside your comfort zone, get a second opinion.