Disconnecting the Main Flex Cable: A DIY Adventure in Phone Repair
The Thrilling Mission: Fixing a Samsung Handset
When the time comes, disconnect the main flex cable. Besides being a short guy named Tom, I never felt I had any sort of Mission: Impossible credentials until I donned safety goggles and got handed a screwdriver and plastic scalpel at what’s thought to be the UK’s biggest phone recycling factory. Fixing the screen on a Samsung handset isn’t quite cutting wires on a nuclear bomb, admittedly, but for someone whose DIY experience doesn’t go far beyond putting toppled Lego back together, it was quite the thrill.
The Complex Interior Components and the Magic of Flex Cables
Having already used a screwdriver no fewer than 18 times to get into the device’s complex interior components, the next step was removing that aforementioned flex cable. These are what connect up some of the phone’s most important features, like the touchscreen, to the motherboard – and this phone needed a new one. It was a relatively basic task, though not one I was trusted with enough to perform on a real customer’s device.
A Purpose Built Facility for Industrializing Tech Device Processing
The Ingram Micro Lifecycle hub in Norwich, a 34-year-old facility with a floor big enough to hold 20 tennis courts, has around 800 employees. Many are highly-trained technicians, deployed at stations with dedicated equipment for everything from realigning a phone’s broken camera system to replacing those all-important flex cables.
Phones from Virgin Media O2’s Recycle Scheme
Virgin Media O2’s recycle scheme allows people, regardless of network, to submit their phone for repair or recycling. Phones end up with Ingram’s workers, and last year, the scheme paid out £36m to people who sold their phones. Many phones that go through the facility come out looking good as new or have useful parts that can be reused.
The Need to Stop Phones from Going to Landfill
Five billion phones are estimated to have been thrown away worldwide last year, but less than 20% of e-waste is recycled. Ingram’s workers are committed to preventing valuable parts like metals or batteries from going to landfill, advocating for a circular economy.
Training and the Intricacies of Phone Repair
The Norwich facility has a classroom-like training center where new recruits are taught how to disassemble and put phones back together. These technicians have to constantly adapt and learn as new handsets are released. The repair process can involve everything from using hot wires to separate glass from the display to freezing screens in low temperature ovens.
Data Wiping and Ensuring Privacy
Data wiping is an essential part of the job, ensuring that no personal information remains on the device. The technicians not only do repairs but also handle the necessary documentation. The facility is approved by major manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, giving them access to the tools needed for data wiping and repairs.
The Future of Phone Repair
The Ingram Micro Lifecycle hub is constantly busy, with thousands of phones processed each day. As new releases come out, the facility can expect even more phones to repair and recycle. Consumers are increasingly holding onto their phones for longer, but manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are recognizing this trend and offering self-repair kits for confident users. So, if you fancy a new phone, remember that the old one doesn’t have to go to waste.