Barbecue Sauce + iPhone 4 = “Can you hear me now??”

OK, quick background. I passed on the 3GS in hopes of something better the next year – Laura has always had a hand-me-down phone since she avoided getting a cell phone until about 3 years ago. When I finally upgraded to the iPhone 4, Laura got my old 3G. I knew it wasn’t going to last long. I couldn’t stand the thing for over a year (it’s slowness) and even though it was a big upgrade for her – it quickly became aggravating to use for her as well… and that’s saying something.

So in December we were able to take advantage of the Radio Shack deal for the iPhone trade-in and she got upgraded to an iPhone 4. She insisted it wasn’t worth the money… until she could actually boot an application in less than 30 seconds. 🙂

So, all was well and good until a few weeks ago. We had been promising to take the girls to the dollar theater to see Secretariat since they both like horses and dream of getting one on the farm someday. Church ran late and so the idea to having lunch at McDonald’s first turned into a drive-thru run. Surely, we thought, the theater wouldn’t be that packed and we could sit in the back and eat our chicken nuggets and cheese burgers. So Laura proceeded to stuff everything into her purse so that we could just whisk into the theater and hopefully only miss a few minutes. Aside from being a few minutes late, the plan was working perfectly.

I should have realized at this point not everything was going to work out so smoothly as appeared on the surface.

First off, we bought tickets, ran into the theater only to find that half of State College thought today was going to be a good day to see a horse movie. And all of them had been on time. Instead of sitting neatly in the back and eating our stowaway food, we about halfway back. I can only imagine what everyone else was thinking as we opened our fries and burgers – there’s just no way to hide the aroma of McDonald’s. It took us half the movie to slowly eat the food in hopes of not drawing more attention to us than needed. It took another quarter of the movie for me to stop thinking about how everyone was mad at us for bringing in outside food… and McDonald’s at that.  Regardless, we made it to the end and nobody seemed to give us a second glance as the lights came up at the end. (Did I mention that I’m generally a “rule guy” when it comes to public things??)

The second surprise came about a week later.  At some point that week as we were sitting around the dinner table Laura mentioned that she had a surprise in her purse earlier that day.  Turns out that in the midst of the mad rush to shove everything into her purse for the movie, a barbecue packet has been placed in a side packet and forgotten about.  Somehow, today, that packet had been squeezed open.  Unpleasant for sure.  Since I knew it wasn’t a bodily injury kind of incident, I didn’t feel too bad about asking, “So, how’s the iPhone?”  “Oh, it’s fine.  I’m pretty sure nothing got on it.”  Somehow, I missed that “pretty sure” comment.

Later that week, Laura called me while she was at the store trying to ask me a question.  At least three times in that conversation I said, “Honey, I just can’t understand you.  Are you sure there’s not something covering the mic at the bottom of the phone?”  I could tell she couldn’t quite understand what I was asking but again, she confirmed that nothing was on the bottom of the phone.  OK – no need to store a “to do” in my brain then.  I quickly forgot about it.

Then last Sunday came.  Laura’s phone had not been plugged in for a few days and was sitting in her purse dead.  Since we were going to church early so that I could practice music Laura was going to head to the store for a few items.  I made sure she plugged in the phone on the way to church.  Halfway down the road I realized that her phone was in fact, NOT charging.  Not having the time to look at it then I figured I’d get to it on the way home.  On the way home we tried again, plugging and unplugging the phone with no luck.  Finally at one stoplight I was able to get a better look at the bottom of the phone.  Much to my surprise the mic portal was covered with…

…you guessed it…

Barbecue sauce.  Gummy Barbecue sauce.

“I thought you said nothing got on the phone in your purse??”  “Oops…”

Needless to say I had one task on my mind when we got home.  I grabbed a toothpick and a Q-tip dampened with rubbing alcohol and did my best to carefully clean the screen covering the mic.

Unfortunately, as careful as I was trying to be NOT to get it actually wet so that nothing would get into the mic, my cleaning only seemed to make things worse.  By the next day, the mic stopped working totally.  Laura was now tied to either a bluetooth speaker or headphones if she wanted to use the phone.  I knew that was not going to work.

I read and searched for two evenings looking for solutions to the problem (yes, I’m slightly obsessive compulsive when I want to figure something out).  I knew this wouldn’t be covered by AppleCare and I wasn’t ready to fork over $150 to a third party to fix it… yet.  There are a number of sites that offer help – but I’ve always been a fan of iFixit.  And so, last night I embarked on the adventure to take the phone apart and see if there was any way to get a working microphone before I took more costly steps.

Long and short – I was successful.  The phone is amazingly well designed (no surprise) and very easy to work on as long as you have the right tools.  There was one slight casualty – the rubber microphone holder tor on me and – so Laura’s phone has some yellow craft foam carefully stuffed in next to the mic to make sure it’s won’t slip out of place.  But, other than that – I don’t think you’d know I had performed an operation.  And hopefully, no apple engineer will ever have to see our little addition.

So, once again, we’re a happy little iPhone family.

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