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An eye for an eye. An iPhone for a cup of tea.

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Our car, like most cars, has a cup holder. It's just next to the gear stick. I don't use it all that often, but when I do bring something with me to drink in the car, it's a life saver. When I don't have a beverage with me, I usually place my iPhone in the cup holder instead.

The other night, like most nights, I drove to my wife's office to pick her up from work. I had a few minutes to spare, so I bought a cup of 'Chinese café' tea 茶餐廳奶茶. When my wife came out of the office, I placed the tea into the cup holder and we began our drive home.

Clouds in my iPhone

After 'repairing' my iPhone, the LCD unfortunately looked like this. The anomalies do however appear to be fading away. With any luck, the screen will be nearly as good as new in a few days time.

Almost home, I handed my iPhone to my wife to show her something. When she handed it back to me, I absentmindedly placed the iPhone back into the cup holder. It was almost a full minute later before I realised that I had in fact placed the iPhone into half a cup of tea. I quickly pulled it out and my wife wiped it off, but...

Back home, I wiped the phone again and sprayed it with vinegar (what was I thinking!!!) hoping to drain the tea out of the iPhone. It didn't work, and later that night, the iPhone began showing the first signs of infection. It repeatedly thought that an unrecognised accessory was connected to the dock connector, and it was no longer possible to synchronise the iPhone with my Mac. The Home button also failed to respond to my repeated presses.

The next day, I took the iPhone in to the local Three repair centre. They noted that the connector had changed colour indicating that water was involved, and took the iPhone to their technician to quote the repair. The quote? HK$5,400!!! Why? Because Three are not authorised to repair the iPhones, only to replace them under warranty. If you damage your iPhone (here in Hong Kong at least), you have little choice but to buy a new one.

In my case, I found it extremely unreasonable that I would have to buy a new iPhone because the old one had sustained a little water (tea) damage, and I cannot afford to buy another one at $5,400. So I went online and searched for other similar stories. What I found were a couple of instruction videos on YouTube showing how to disassemble the iPhone. Since Three were not going to fix my iPhone, my only choice was to attempt the repair myself, hoping that it was a case of shorting wet contacts within the iPhone.

A few hours later, after 3 or 4 attempts, I had finally cleaned and wiped the inside of the iPhone, and found the source of the connector problem; tea had gathered around the the ribbon connection for the connector assembly. Using an electric toothbrush, I carefully cleaned both sides of the connection (twice because the first try wasn't successful) and put everything back together. My iPhone is now working.

Unfortunately, because I'm not a professional, I made mistakes while 'repairing' the iPhone. My biggest mistake was introducing alcohol (95%) to the LCD screen while cleaning the Home button. The LCD now has a permanent background resembling a cumulus nimbus cloud formation. Nothing I can do about it at this point. At least the iPhone works, and is almost perfect again. The next time I visit the States, I might send the iPhone in to one of the online third-party repair centres to have the LCD replaced; a cost of approx USD$50 to $80, much much less than the cost of a new iPhone!

The lesson to be learned from this story? Be very very careful with your iPhone. If you damage it in any way, no matter how minor, you might find yourself paying full price to 'fix' it.