Thursday, May 28, 2009

iPhone won't charge, won't connect: saved by FireWire

The other day my iPhone ran into a catastrophe: it wouldn't charge, it wouldn't connect via USB, and the battery was dying. It's a first generation iPhone, and it looked like that was the end of my old iPhone.
I followed Basic iPhone troubleshooingread various threads about similar problems, and tried a few of my own tricks:
  • Tried different cable
  • Tried different plug
  • Tried different outlet
  • Verified that those all worked with our other iPhone
  • Blew gunk out of the iPhone connector area (there was actually a lot in there)
  • Rebooted iPhone several times
  • Tried to clean the tiny iPhone connector with rubbing alcohol
None of that worked. So I went to the Apple Store, and the Genius did the same things, and determined that it must be the battery. Actually, it was not the battery--the connection sound never happened, and the iPhone never recognized a connection. But the Apple Store genius was doing us a favor, because if the battery dies, we can buy an exact replacement (a first generation iPhone) for $85 dollars.
And by this time the battery in my iPhone was completely dead: I had failed to email my pictures off before the battery died. Another lesson learned...
I went home to consider my options, and try some other last resort actions, such as contact cleaner or disassembling the iPhone myself (or going to We Fix Macs). But I finally had an idea:
What if I tried to use a FireWire cable to charge?
It works!
I have an old JBL On Stage iPod speaker/dock that uses the FireWire pins instead of theUSB pins to provide power, and that worked. It still doesn't make the "beep beep" sound when you connect the iPhone (and neither does the perfectly working iPhone). That must be reserved for a USB connection. But the iPhone immediately recognizes that it's getting power, and it charges perfectly.
Note that this trick won't work with a 3G iPhone or a second generation iPod Touch: the FireWire connection inside those have been removed.
Also, I haven't yet tried to sync with a FireWire cable. I believe it just might work, but I still have to find a FireWire cable (not the speaker dock) and try.