A phone repair story in 3 acts - Xiaomi Redmi Note 4XPublished Wed 15 April 2020 tags: hardware
I have been looking for a new phone for a while because I needed to have a dual
sim device for
$WORK. Long story short I ended up getting the phone for…
First of all, the elephant in the room - Xiaomi, srsly? Yep, I know.
For starters here's the list of things I dislike about this particular device:
- the LTE doesn't work as intended - the only way to receive calls is to switch to 2G mode making the connection to the Internet via a mobile network so fast I do not want to browse Web on phone anymore (a sorta plus then?)
- the MIUI is a Chinese spyware/crapware (not to mention the ads served as part of the standard tools like file manager)
- the device only lets you add storage if you don't use the second SIM slot for the SIM card.
Yup, that's a lot to complain about in terms of hardware. Yet for me, the especially bad part is the software.
Thankfully, there's an alternative for this phone - LineageOS, which is a fork of CyanogenMod Android distribution, so the problem with the OS on the device can be partially mitigated (yay, for de-Googled Android as well!)
The hardware issue with the LTE can be a plus, so why bother really. This isn't a deal breaker as I can always connect to the home/work WiFi and browse on the phone if I want to.
Act 1 - the screen repair
Yeah, so before I could find a decent screen protector the phone has been dropped and the screen broke. Fortunately, the replacement screen isn't that expensive (~20 bucks with shipping). I've decided to buy the whole screen even though the original still works because I have no idea how to take off only the broken glass in a way that doesn't damage the rest. Also, I hear it is easier to replace that way.
There are numerous videos on how to disassemble the phone, plus there is a guide from iFixit (the screen repair part seems unfinished, though). The rough steps are as follows:
- pry open the back cover (starting from the USB port)
- unscrew every screw you see
- get the modules out (charging module, the fingerprint sensor)
- lift the battery…
and here is the most important lesson - be very careful! I have managed to pierce the battery pack which is a big no-no to put again inside the chassis.
(There are videos of batteries that have blown up. Look it up.)
So I needed to get a new battery after that… another ~15$ out of my pocket.
As it turns out a free phone might actually get pretty expensive.
Act 2 - LineageOS installation
Removing the MIUI Android is quite simple, albeit it requires to install some software from Xiaomi on a Windows machine in order to unlock the bootloader. Fun fact, you need to wait (in my case 72h) in order to successfully unlock the phone. But it seems that it has been worse in the past (you needed to ask for the permission on some Chinese forums).
Then you just need to follow the guide from LineageOS for Redmi Note 4. It is surprisingly easy to do. I highly encourage you to check out the device list for some of the hardware you may have laying around. There's a chance you can breathe a new life into it.
As I thought I could finish writing the story as a success something unexpected happened. The new screen with a glass protector decided to break anyway. After some pondering, I believe that the metal back cover of the phone which bent slightly during the fall must've caused the screen to be constantly pressed. At some point, with my normal handling of the phone, it decided to rupture creating a nice cobweb-like pattern. So I don't have the best viewing experience but the phone works.
Sometimes you do something to succeed and learn along the way. However, this was purely a learning exercise for me. I still am quite happy to say that the phone works as well as before I took it apart. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to fix it beyond installing a better OS.