Archive for July 17th, 2011

Curious Samsung smartphone micro-USB charger issue

In the past I had a Samsung Moment that had an infuriating issue with charging — after a while, it would get very picky about which chargers it wanted to accept. The phone would either charge or not, or intermittently cut out from the charger.

I replaced the phone at least once that I can recall and had the issue start up about a month after getting the new phone. Frustrated, I replaced it with a Blackberry.

Now I have a Samsung Epic 4G and without a second thought I plugged it in to my USB cable and charged it right after I got it.

When I went to plug it in to the charger on my nightstand, it wouldn’t charge. I put a 120v-to-USB adapter on the USB cable and charged it like that for the time. I blamed it on chargers not outputting enough voltage, and told myself I’d look into it another day.

Today I finally got around to testing it with various chargers, and the results were interesting:

  • NONE of my Samsung-branded wall chargers worked.
  • My Samsung-branded USB cable didn’t work.
  • My Blackberry-branded USB cable worked.
  • A Belkin-branded USB cable worked.

Interesting, no? I took a closer look at the male micro-USB connectors.

Click for larger image with mark-up

The photo above — being the best I could do with my camera — shows the Samsung-branded cable on top and the Blackberry-branded cable on the bottom. Notice (if you’re able) that the Samsung-branded cable is shorter — about 0.5mm shorter, actually. The Samsung cable is about 5.5mm and the Blackberry (and the Belkin) is about 6mm.

My opinion is that the female micro-USB on the phone, when new and snug, accepts the 5.5mm plug. As the receptacle starts to wear, the shielding and insulation shift ever-so-slightly and the 5.5mm plug no longer fits correctly. The phone charges fine with a 6mm plug. I’ve heard from plenty of people with Samsung devices that have charger issues that the phone gets “picky” about which chargers it accepts. I suspect this is the reason.

What happens over time with a 6mm plug? Well, since I’m coming back to update this post I’ll tell you that with the 6mm microUSB the port eventually failed (again?). I took the phone to Sprint and they said the port failed and agreed to replace the phone. And now… the 5.5mm Samsung plugs are snug and the 6mm generics almost seem too tight. Is it that the 6mm plugs lead to premature failure of the port? I honestly don’t know… but — Samsung devices seem to be the only devices with this issue that I’m aware of.

If you have anything to share about the above, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!


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How to buy a used cell phone

The ESN (Electronic Serial Number) on a cell phone (IMEI for GSM phones) is unique to each phone and is what’s used to tie the phone to the user’s carrier account. Not only that, but lost/stolen devices have their ESNs “blacklisted” at the carrier and therefore cannot be activated again.

For this reason you have to make sure that any used cell phone you plan to purchase has a “clean” or clear ESN. This means that it’s no longer tied to a persons account and hasn’t been blacklisted by the carrier. If the ESN is still tied to a subscribers account, or is blacklisted, it cannot be activated.

So what are the best steps to do this?

1) Make sure the seller makes an assertion that the ESN is “good”, “clean”, “ready to activate” or similar. If this is listed in the ad, you have a recourse in the event that you buy the phone and the carrier will not activate it based on the ESN. If the seller doesn’t state this, contact them via email or other (preferably written) manner and ask them. Any honest seller is more than willing to make an assertion about an ESN.

2) If you have the ESN itself, contact the carrier and ask them to make sure the device can be activated. Carriers have no problem checking an ESN for a customer. If the carrier gives you anything other than and all-clear, don’t make the purchase.

The other thing to be careful about is physical damage. If you’re buying a used phone, a certain amount of physical damage is expected. Cosmetic issues such as worn paint, light-to-medium scratches, and minor chips, or dents to non-functional parts are expected.

Make sure to carefully read the ad for any mention of functional issues or missing parts. Issues such as non-working or missing keyboard keys, cracks to anything other than the battery cover, non-working or cracked display, non-functioning digitizer (touchscreen), non-functioning or improperly-functioning speaker or microphone, and a leaking/bulging/damaged/otherwise non-functioning battery are considered functional damage and are serious enough to give the buyer recourse against the seller if they are not disclosed.

A non-functional charger could be considered functional, but standardized chargers are inexpensive enough that a buyer may want to consider purchasing a replacement charger themselves, rather than taking issue with the seller. If the phone requires a non-standard charger, contact the seller and see if they would be willing to either provide a replacement charger or provide you a refund for the amount of a reasonably-priced replacement charger.

Test all of the phones functions as soon as possible. If you wait to test the phone and find out later that something doesn’t work, you may be out of luck.

Lastly, if you are activating your newly-purchased phone, you may want to consider adding a carrier-provided insurance or protection plan to your device. If your device fails down the road, the carriers plan will be able to provide inexpensive repair or replacement, regardless of the fact that you acquired it second-hand. Check with your carrier for information on their policies.

If you have any thoughts to share on the above, please feel free to post them in the comments below. Thank you!


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