Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stuck iPhone Power Button

When my iPhone 4S was about 18 months old, the power button stopped working. I first noticed this when it was vibrating in my pocket and I was unable to silence it. Then I found that the power button no longer moved at all. I was unable to turn off the display and sleep the phone. Judging from Google searches and the Apple support forums, this is a longstanding and common problem. Like the antenna problems, it began with the iPhone 4, which Apple is still shipping. It seems to be due to a design or manufacturing flaw, as it affects many users such as myself whose phones were never dropped or physically damaged.

There are workarounds for a stuck power button. You can go into Settings ‣ General ‣ Accessibility ‣ AssistiveTouch to enable a special on-screen button. It appears as a white circle, which you can drag around the screen when it gets in the way. Tap the assistive button, and you can access a software power button, which can both sleep and power off the phone. You can wake an iPhone using the Home button. To power it on, you must plug it into a Mac or battery pack.

I quickly found the software power button frustrating. I also worried whether continuing to use the phone in this state would make it worse. Would it become inoperable at an inconvenient time? I’ve read accounts of power buttons stuck in, such that the red slider to power off the iPhone keeps popping up. All you can do is tap Cancel and have it pop up again.

You can replace the power button yourself—in theory. The process looks far more involved than changing a Mac’s RAM or hard drive.

If your phone is less than a year old, it’s under warranty. Apple is well aware of this problem and can replace the power switch or give you a refurbished iPhone. (Be sure to make a full backup and unregister any authenticator apps before wiping the phone.)

If your phone is 1–2 years old and you paid $99 for AppleCare+, you can also get it fixed for free.

If you didn’t buy AppleCare+ or your phone is more than 2 years old, Apple will fix it for $199. This will also give you a new 90-day warranty. Your carrier upgrade eligibility will be unaffected.

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I have a old iPod touch second generation that had the power button stuck too after a couple of weeks. Replaced under warranty. Fast-forward today, the replacement iPod now has the same problem. I can still press the button, but I have to put so much pressure on it that holding it for 5 seconds (to power off) is a real struggle.

So the iPhone 4 exhibit the same problem? Didn't they learn?

"unregister any authenticator apps before wiping the phone."

Do you mean like the google authenticator code generator?

The exact same thing happened to my iPhone 4S just over a month before my warranty was up, so at least I was able to get a free replacement. However, the replacement phone's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth stopped working 6 months later. The controls to the turn them on/off were grayed out. I was dismayed to find that I'm not alone in this; there seems to be a significant number of people whose iPhones (4, 4S, and 5 alike) have been having this "grayed out wifi" issue.

Apple's only relevant support article is, and if those steps don't work, it means you've got a hardware problem, and your options are the same as with the button issue: replace under warranty, AppleCare+, or cough up 200 bucks.

I know well-run assembly lines can still produce the odd wonky product, but the forum posts I've read imply something more widespread than that, so it's very frustrating. If these turn out to be design or manufacturing issues, then folks who have paid the $200 out-of-warranty replacement cost are getting a raw deal indeed.

[...] of us who don’t live near an Apple Store, but perhaps actual repairs will make addressing common hardware problems more [...]

[...] Dave's old iPhone 4 had this problem. [...]

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