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Programming, tinkering – Lionel LemariĆ©

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Project: Change Housing on Z610i

Posted by slemarie on March 2, 2008

phone(Posted by Sarah)

So, after inadvertently stealing Lionel’s thunder when he bluetoothed his headphones and the world gave me all the credit, I thought I better get a project on here to prove that I can totally do stuff too. And also because Lionel wrote on my (retired) blog one time, and I need to get revenge return the favour.

So here’s the first thing I did. Inspired by my husband’s penchant for doing so, I took something apart. But then in a ground breaking revelation, I put it back together again! And now with my super helpful flickr set to follow, you can too.

My unwitting victim was a Sony Ericsson Z610i. They are cellphones of the supershiny clamshell variety, google for ‘z610i’ and you will most likely hit 1001 forums with dudes talking about how they just bought one for their wife. Please understand that usually, I lust after a phone with some pointless great new feature that I will never use, but it will destroy my battery life (cf. wifi on my N80, which I have successfully used outside my own home approximately 0 times. But I still changed my cell phone number, just to get this phone). Anyhow this time around, I just wanted a straight up clamshell, that would not cost the earth, and maybe even look nice.

So I bought the most badly abused phone you have ever seen on eBay. If Bride of Chucky had a cellphone, this is what it would look like. It was cheap, OK?

I blame eBay for most of my failings in life, and this time was no different. If there weren’t a vast array of very accessible alternative phone housings on eBay, I’d never have found myself musing one day how fascinating it would be to take my cell phone to pieces, check out the guts, and then while I’m at it rebuild it back into a shiny new case. What fun! Two weeks and one package from Hong Kong later, my vision was realised and with no thought for the possible consequences whatsoever I set about taking my phone apart.

I learned several things while doing this project.

1. Don’t just look for screws. Look for screw covers. Under screw covers, ye will find more screws.
2. It’s really hard to take phones apart until all the screws are out.
3. Screws 1, plastic wedge tool 0.

If you’re patient enough to try this at home, check out the flickr set photo descriptions for some running commentary and obvious statements such as “take this out of the old housing and put it in the new housing, in the same place”.

Most steps are fairly straightforward. I began by removing the casing on the base half first to minimise the amount of time that I was waving around the naked LCD displays. This seemed to work as an approach. When you begin, prize apart the new casing your ordered first (WHY do they piece it together!?) and take your time. Prizing casings apart works best if you run slowly and gently around the entire casing seam in slow gentle movements. Thin cheap plastic bends if you so much as sigh in frustration near it, so take your time and never tug something too far in any one direction unless you’re totally confident about the consequences.

It’s hard to tell from the final finished photos, but I actually broke my new casing in two places while opening/fitting it. The upper half of the keypad housing is particularly vulnerable at each side, as you only have two thin struts of plastic there while you’re levering off the ends of the casing. One snapped almost instantly in the first 30 seconds of my phone destruction newbie-ism, one gave up during my base-half reopening session as I attempted to reunite the keypad with its underlay. Fortunately both breaks were clean and reseated into each other well once held in place by the rest of the housing.

On the second snap, that half of the casing was suddenly freed by both breaks and allowed me to sit the Franken-phone down with case components sticking out in all directions rather casually.

“I’m nearly done. Honest. Just a few bits to finish.”

All in all I spent about four hours messing with it, involving far too long believing I had removed all the screws, and far too long rebuilding the base without first putting in the keypad underlay. You really want the keypad underlay, it’s what makes your keys work, as it turns out.

Would I do it again? Actually, yes. Paying a small amount for a new housing of decent quality and then cleaning your phone out definitely beats carrying your phone around in some second skin housing that will never look as great as your phone does on its own. For the last 18 months I’ve carried an N80 in a crystal case covering, and while it has preserved the phone excellently, it’s been even bigger and fatter than all its phone peers for the duration. Naff.

Did it go totally smoothly? No. I snapped the casing – recoverable in my case, fortunately – and now the camera isn’t working. All other features work as advertised, but the camera does nothing. There’s a fairly large connector near the hinge that you can disconnect, and I did – I highly suspect this is the source of my problem. Sometime when I decide a camera on a cell phone beats a Nikon D40, I’ll get around to looking at that.

The Z610i is a strange beast. Its features are utterly average and yet for some reason I have an irrational love of it as a phone. And now that it’s a shiny as it was always meant to be, I am complete!

Tune in next week for ‘Changing the housing on your husband’s macbook’. Am I kidding? Am I?

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