Archive for July, 2010

Blackberry bold 9000 sound fix

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

For those of you that have a Blackberry bold 9000, you are probably familiar with the problem of having intermittent ring sound or loudness.

For ages i have put up with the problem on mine, trying various fixes based on the contacts between the main board and the pads
on the underside of the speakers which appeared to solve the problem for a little while but it seems it was only incidental. It was
not until recently that i finally discovered the REAL reason for the fading sound.  The problem is caused by a conductive
elastomer that fails.  If you remember back years and years ago, the old Nokia 3/5/6/7/8110’s and others in the era suffered from a
failure of a similar item which caused the dreaded ‘screen fade’ problem where you could push below the screen and the display
would come back to life. What would happen is that over time, from being continuously compressed in pockets etc, the elastomer
would compress permanently causing it to lose connection between the two surfaces. Nokia learnt from it’s mistakes and promptly
moved to a sprung contact in it’s next generation of phones.

This is exactly what is happening in the Bold but for the connections to the speakers.  For some reason that is still not obvious to
me, they use electrical tracks on the underside of the grey cover that goes over the camera flash LED to conduct electricity to the
speakers from the flex circuit the LED is mounted to (via the conductive elastomer).  It seems idiotic to do it this way, there is
simply no need for it.  The design is simply flawed – as if it was an afterthought.

So, on to a FIX – Well, so far i have managed a ‘primary’ fix which involves removing the grey plate, stretching the elastomer out and
replacing the plate again with a bit more force than it had before.  This is all i have needed to do to get it back to ‘as new’ but time
will tell if it is a long term solution or not.  If it proves to fail further down the track, the next option would be to connect the
speakers with wire directly rather than relying on the elastomer.

Disclaimer: In doing this ‘fix’ you will be voiding your warranty. I accept no responsibility for damage to your phone in any way.  This information is provided ‘as is’ without any warranty or guarantee that it is accurate or will actually fix your phone.  These are the steps i undertook to repair my phone and it worked, it may not for you. Follow these steps at your own discretion and risk.

Tools required:
Sharp knife (hobby knife or box cutter type), Fine tipped soldering iron and a spoon (yes, I’m serious)

Step 1:
Remove the battery cover

Step 2:
Look at the grey plate.  As you can see, the plate is held on by 8 plastic pins that have been melted over (marked in red in the pic below). With a small sharp knife
(Be careful!) remove the melted tops of the pins so the grey plate can be removed.  Try not to push down on the grey bit when you cut the tops
of the pins off, you want to leave as much pin left as you can.

Step 3:
Remove the grey cover, being careful not to lose the led reflector from between it and the LED and put them aside.

Step 4:
Either flip the phone over and give it a tap on your hand or gently pry the elastomer out with something small – it’s the white bit
above the LED (marked in green below).

Step 5:
Grab your spoon and put the elastomer on it’s SIDE on a clean, hard, flat surface.  Now what we want to do is squash it a bit.  You
can use a bit of force but the idea is to get it to bulge back out from the way it was compressed in the phone.

Step 6:
Replace the elastomer in the phone, put the LED reflector back in the grey plate and put it back on the phone.  While holding them
together with a little bit of force, check the sound is all good by playing some music or something.

Step 7:
Once you are happy that it’s all going to work and the led reflector is definitely in place, grab your soldering iron and with a bit of force, hold the grey plate down to expose
some more of the black pins and just dab each one with the soldering iron.  It only takes a dab, no need to hold it on there.  Once all of them
are done, test again and with any luck you now have an ‘as new’ sound level.

Time will tell on this fix but if it fails again, i will simply solder some extra fine wire from the flex board on the bottom to the
contacts on the speakers.  The problem then is that it would likely be next to impossible to replace the grey plate for a ‘stock’ look
but probably nothing some hot glue and some slight modding would not fix :)  The other option is to just replace the rear frame with
a new one but that is not really fixing the problem – even RIM have told me replacing it will not fix it permanently meaning they have
not changed the design of the part so it is still flawed. If you prefer to go down that path offer great deals on phone
parts and are really efficient.  I don’t have any affiliation with them, I have just been a very happy customer of thiers in the past.

I do not believe this is a problem in the newer 9700 bold.

Hope this helps someone!