Technical tips and expertise, industry insights, discoveries, and random musings.
If you own a recent model of the iPhone, then you expect a top-of-the-line, “Apple quality” product. After all, you’ve paid a pretty penny for them (more-so for the bigger, higher gigabyte models)! So, once your device experiences issues related to it getting hot, not charging properly, or even not powering on at all it may become worrisome – especially if the device is not even a few months old.
Sometimes the device itself isn’t the problem, but rather the smaller, auxiliary parts are. A few common issues related to charging that you as a mobile user could check would be:
Lightning ‘charging port’
The dock, or ‘charging port’, is an extension of wire from the opening on the outside of the device to the connection on the logic board – the nerve center of your device. If you notice that your cable is not making a proper connection when attempting to plug-in and charge your device (i.e. – resistance felt, battery indicator does not display ‘lightning bolt’ as charging, etc.), then it may be physically damaged or have debris stuck inside that obstructs the cable from seating correctly. Due to the low chance of the wire itself failing, it is best to observe the opening of the port, and pins inside, to see if there are any signs of damage, as well as dirt, lint, or anything else that might get stuck against the back wall of the port and prevent the device from charging.
After ruling out the ‘charging port’, many people would then assume the battery is the issue. It would make sense, after all, with the battery being directly responsible for how much ‘charge’ is left on the device. While batteries themselves might fail more than the wire connecting the logic board to the dock, they tend to do so over time. Typically, the older the device and battery, the more chance at degeneration. Once your device starts showing symptoms, such as it will only turn on when plugged in to a charger or the device itself starts feeling hot and bloated, then it might be time to replace the battery.
While not related to charging directly, if the power button is broken it may appear as though your device is not able to power on. Albeit fixable, there is an alternative through the Accessibility settings on your iPhone called ‘AssistiveTouch’ that will display a menu on-screen that allows you to put your device ‘to sleep’ as you would with the power button. It also allows for you to ‘wake the device up’ using the Home button, but keep in mind that a charger and power source is required to turn on the device should it be completely powered off.
Look for the logo – your cable may be the culprit!
If you’ve been having charging issues with your device and can effectively rule out the battery and charging port as not being the problem, it is safe to assume that there could be an issue with your device’s “Tristar” IC chip (originally known as ‘U2 chip’, as it serves the same function but is not in the same location on the logic board in newer iPhones).
The “Tristar” chip controls USB functionality and determines ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a variety of questions your device might have, such as “is the USB cable connected?” Working in tandem with the “Tristar”, you also have the “Tigris” chip, who is the charging controller and communicates with the ‘Power Management’ IC – which provides power to all other Integrated Chips on the logic board. This is a very important task, as the “Tigris” will decide how many ‘amps’ (electrical current flow) are needed to charge the device.
Symptoms of failure may include:
Mistaken for battery, charging port, or even charging cable issues, it would require a professional evaluation of the device to confirm that the Tristar/Tigris ICs have failed or burned out.
This ‘failure’ first started with the addition of devices that utilize the ‘lightning port’ (iPhone 5 or newer), but it is not a design flaw. These models require a carefully regulated signal from charging devices, so the burnout occurs from voltage spikes (i.e. – turning on your car with your device connected to the charger) and noisy electrical signals caused by using non-approved wall adapters, car chargers, and low quality cables. If you use something other than the Apple charger that the device came with, it needs to be certified by Apple as meeting specifications (or MFi). Otherwise, you run the risk of Tristar/Tigris failure and would need your device evaluated by a technician.
As far as the repair goes, a surface-mount package known as the BGA (“Ball Grid Array”) needs replaced. This is what connects the IC chip to the logic board, and needs tremendous precision to execute. This is generally accomplished with an automated procedure involving expensive pick-and-place machines and reflow ovens to achieve proper time and temperature profiling when being soldered to a logic board, but it is possible to do successfully free-hand by experienced micro-soldering technicians.
Although the issue can be fixed, something to keep in mind with any repair involving Integrated Chips, or the logic board, is reliability. While the repair may work, you cannot guarantee for how long. Apple themselves does not offer BGA ‘reworking’, but recommends buying a new device or replacing through Apple Care/network provider’s insurance instead. The number one recommended way to “fix” this, or any charging issue, is to avoid them completely by practicing good charging habits.
You can almost guarantee that any cables or adapters (wall and car) found in gas stations or drug stores are cheap knock-offs of Apple’s products or the products of after-market manufacturers licensed by Apple through their MFi program (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad). The MFi logo is Apple’s “stamp of approval” for 3rd party manufacturers of charging cables and adapter after they meet or exceed Apple’s standards for quality.
You don’t need to buy Apple-branded cables, just make sure they are MFi Program certified – which you can do so at the following URL: https://mfi.apple.com/MFiWeb/getAPS
While prevention is the best way to keep charging issues in iPhones (or really any device) at bay, it is best to let a professional look at your device should you start to experience any of the issues outlined above. By spending a little bit more on a high-quality charger, you could be saving yourself hundreds of dollars in deductibles or the purchase of a brand-new device. Just remember: look for the logo!