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Carlos Fenollosa

Carlos Fenollosa

Engineer, developer, entrepreneur

Carlos Fenollosa — Blog

Thoughts on science and tips for researchers who use computers

My Apple Watch killed my iPhone

August 16, 2018 — Carlos Fenollosa

This is the incredibly weird chain of bugs and hardware issues that bricked my iPhone after the battery of my Apple Watch started to swell.

A couple of months ago the battery of my 1st gen Apple Watch started to swell and the screen popped out. I googled about this issue and read that it's covered by a warranty program, so I brought the watch to the Apple Store in Barcelona. The watch got serviced in a few days, excellent customer support as usual by Apple.

I got home and tried to link this new watch to my iPhone 5s. For some reason the watch refused to link unless I upgraded iOS 10 to iOS 11 on my phone.

My old watch had been working perfectly with iOS 10, but apparently this refurbished one had a new software version that required iOS 11 to work.

I had kept my phone at iOS 10 because my 5s is a bit slow nowadays, I don't need the new features, and in general prefer stability on my main devices. I think, it can't be that bad, and furthermore I had missed my watch so much these last days, so I decide to upgrade.

Terrible decision.

I tap on "Upgrade". The phone downloads the upgrade, starts installing it, progress bar, reboot, progress bar, reboot... one too many times. It's stuck on a reboot look around 80% of progress. Ok, two options, I think. Hardware issue or software issue. How could it be hardware? The phone was working well up to ten minutes ago. So I decide to install clean, wiping out all my data

It's now late afternoon and next day I have to work, and need the phone. You know that feeling, right? This won't end well. I do a clean install, set up Whatsapp and Google Maps, hoping to restore from an icloud backup next day while at work.

The clean install lets me reach the iOS 11 setup screen. Set up wifi, tap next, and reboot. Damn. Set up wifi again, reboot. This doesn't look like a software issue. I try something... I wait five minutes on the wifi setup screen without touching anything. Surprisingly, the phone does not reboot.

I set up wifi after these five minutes and the phone reboots instantly. Any electrical engineer (or probably most of you here that's read about batteries and iOS 11) knows what's happening by now. The battery is failing to supply enough voltage, and this is made apparent at peak power demand, that is, when antennas are working and CPU is at max. I resign myself to having no phone for the next day.

Then, I realize I have a spare iPhone 5s battery laying around, One that I bought to replace my mother's battery (she has also an iPhone 5s) but never ended up fixing. I've changed batteries maybe a dozen times before, and work with electronics regularly. I know best practices. I ground myself, pick up the screwdrivers and suction cup, open up the iPhone carefully, remove the battery glue strips, and install the new battery.

The phone boots.

With the new battery I finally manage to get past the wifi screen but unfortunately the phone keeps rebooting randomly when accessing networks. Damn. My phone clearly has an electrical problem and for whatever reason iOS 11 triggered it. Later, when discussing this issue when a Genius, they confirmed that this is a motherboard problem which required an expensive repair.

Back to the 5S. Since I couldn't use a phone that dies on me randomly, and it's late at night, I picked up my old 4S, popped in my SIM, quickly downloaded Whatsapp and Maps, set up my work email and a few more apps, hoping all icloud data syncs over night. Fortunately, it did.

The next day I started using the 4S as my daily driver. I managed to stick with it for a month, but in the end, it was too slow for everyday usage. It was nice as an experiment, but a pain in the neck to work with.

That's the end more or less. I have a new Apple Watch that killed my 5S, which ironically I couldn't use because my replacement 4S wasn't compatible with that Watch.

I still don't know why iOS 11 draws more power than iOS 10, or if it was a firmware change that really killed my phone. But my bet is on battery management. Doesn't matter now. It was a disaster.

As I was saying, I ended up buying an SE, which is two years old, at full retail price. Well, I got a 40€ discount by trading in the broken 5S.

The cheapest iPhone is not a great deal nowadays, but it still is the perfect phone for my usage/size/budget.

It is not my intention to blame Apple. I fully understand what happened, and it was a chain of unfortunate events. However, I have the feeling that if I could have downgraded the 5S to iOS 10, it may have come back from the dead.

Tags: apple

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