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pichlo's Avatar
Community Council | Posts: 4,664 | Thanked: 13,632 times | Joined on Sep 2012 @ UK
#1
As promised, I have decided to write a full review of a replacement white housing I recently purchased on eBay (link) so that people know what to expect. I decided to go white just to be different and, IMHO, it looks better. However, I've had a few issues worth mentioning.

But first things first. Here is the complete, assembled unit:

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As you can see, it does not look too bad, perhaps with the exception of the last picture, taken in the dark to show how the keyboard light permeates through the faceplate around the keyboard. Not perfect but nothing I couldn't live with.

Unfortunately, I found very early on that a few things were not quite right. I mentioned in my first summary that the battery cover is not quite flush with the rest, although I compared it with the original and found that that is exactly the same, so complaints there. However, the whole case creaks a bit on squeeze, which the original does not, and the power button, albeit working, don't travel as far and click like the original.

But those are just minor aesthetic issues. Worse was to come, and I will describe it here one by one in the follow-up post, since I have apparently already reached the maximum upload limit of 5 attachments

Last edited by pichlo; 2013-11-24 at 03:12. Reason: Change title
 

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pichlo's Avatar
Community Council | Posts: 4,664 | Thanked: 13,632 times | Joined on Sep 2012 @ UK
#2
1. No magnets

The N900 case contains two magnets. One in the battery cover, under the kick stand. This fulfills two functions. One, it holds the kick stand closed but most importantly two, it activates a sensor that mounts the SD card when the battery cover is closed and automatically unmouts it when the cover is removed.

This magnet was missing, which mean my phone was no longer detecting the SD card.

The solution was simple: cut a small piece from the flexible magnetic sheet recovered from an old fridge magnet and gue it in the recess under the kick stand as per the next picture (please excuse the quality).

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As you can see, I have glued two magnets, one in the kick stand itself, to stick to the magnet under the kick stand to keep it in place when closed (the original housing has a small piece of metal there for the same reason). This had a negligible effect: the magnets are too weak for that purpose, although strong enough to activate the sensor.

The original housing contains another magnet, under the screen. This one activates another sensor that detects that the screen is open (also sometimes referred to as keyboard open). Needless to say, this magnet was missing too, meaning my phone was not registering opening the keyboard. If turning the keyboard lights were the only effect, then I could live with it, but Nokia in their infinite wisdom decided that the on-screen keyboard to enter special characters works only if this sensor is activated. So I could type, only not special characters. So I had to fix that.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the fix, and disassembling the screen to take it later was too much hassle, so I can only sho you the approximate position of this second magnet:

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Sadly, using another piece of a flexible fridge magnet was not good enough. It was strong enough to activate the sensor but, for some reason, the sensor is actually about 1mm over the edge of the screen, which means the screen flickered on while opening and then back off when fully open. Pushing the screen about 1mm back activated the switch again but this was clearly not practical. So I had to reuse the magnet from the original housing which is much stronger and works at a greater distance.
 

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Community Council | Posts: 4,664 | Thanked: 13,632 times | Joined on Sep 2012 @ UK
#3
2. No radio

Of course, that was not all. As it turns out, the two strange, detachable, bits of plastic in the back cover (under the battery cover, i.e. hidden from normal view) with the mounting screws going through them are actually the GSM and WiFi/Bluetooth antennae, respectively. That is to say, they have some circuitry inside them. My new had those bits, except they were just plain bits of plastic of exactly the same shape, with the result that the phone did not work unless I used those bits from the original housing.

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The above picture shows the antenna bits from the replacement and original housing. The next picture shows the antennae contacts when mounted. You can see them as gold pads, 2 on the left, 4 along the top, and 3 on the right. I will get to the coloured arrows in a minute.

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So, without the bits from the original housing, GSM, GPS and Bluetooth did not work. But I soon found that the FM transmitter did not work either. The reason for this is shown with the blue arrow. The metal bar that goes along the length of the bottom of the phone is the FM transmitter antenna and the bit indicated with the blue arrow is the spring that connects it to the PCB. This spring was a bit misaligned. A slight adjustment did the trick.

Let me just briefly mention the green arrow before we move on to the next fault. This shows the position of the power button. The button is actually a bit to the left, the arrow points to how it is attached to the case. As you can see, the tape barely holds, which was the primary cause of the button not clicking as good as the original.

3. No IR

The orange arrow above shows the position of the IR LED window. This is supposed to be an IR filter - looks black to a human eye but is trasparent to the infrared light. In theory. In practice, I found that Pierogi did not work. At frst I thought that I just put the case together improperly, but a few experiments proved that the problem was the IR LED windows itself. Instead of an IR filter, it was made out of plain, black, opaque plastic. So, yet another bit reused from the original case. The swap was a bit of a hassle since it is molded in place, but a sharp knife and superglue did the job.

4. Lens cover, part 1

Next thing I noticed was that the phone behaved as if the camera lens cover were permanently open. The flashlight widget was permanently shown and opening and closing the cover had no effect on starting or closing the camera app.

To cut it short, the problem was actually two-fold. One, the hole for the photo sensor that detects whether the lens cover is open or not was made from a shiny metal, not black like the original. Yet again, I forgot to take the picture before the fix, but you can see I fixed it with a dollop of black enamel paint as shown with the red arrow in the pictures above and below (the latter also showing the black antennae from the original housing).

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But that was not enough. The original lens cover contains a small reflective target for the photo sensor. This was also missing, so I put a piece of sticky label painted partly black in its place:

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5. Lens cover, part 2

That fixed the lens cover detection, but the cover itself felt a bit weird. It was not 100% straight, did not click when opened and closed and there was apiece of spring sticking out. You see, the lens cover is made out of several layers, with a spring between them. The following picture attempts to show this in a closed and open position. Yet again, please excuse the quality:

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One end of the spring loops around a small nipple in the moving part while the other one fixes through the hole in the stationary part. There is a double-sided sticky tape around the assembly, with a thin veneer with the CarlZeiss printed on it going on the top.

The spring was out of the hole. Fixing it was a bit fiddly (I lost it at least twice ), but not impossible.

Last edited by pichlo; 2013-11-24 at 03:13. Reason: Punctuation
 

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Community Council | Posts: 4,664 | Thanked: 13,632 times | Joined on Sep 2012 @ UK
#4
Well, that pretty much concluded it. One of my three N900s now boasts a cool white housing. I currently use it as my primary phone. With all the above fixes, it works just like the original.

With one small niggle still outstanding. Pictures made with the flash appear a bit hazy, like in this thread. I am sure it has something to do with the flash light coming to the lens through the white plastic. The last picture in the first post shows quite clearly how translucent the plastic is. I cannot see a quick and easy fix for that other than replacing the entire camera cover assembly. From the third picture in the second post, it looks like that should be doable, although a closer look shows that it is not straightforward.

In conclusion, would I have done it again had I known beforehand what I had to go through? Probably not. The tipping point are the hazy pictures taken with the flash. But, who knows, maybe I'll manage to fix that too and when I do, the result would definitely be worth it!

Either way, I would hava been much happier had I known all of this beforehand.
 

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#5
let me check the stores
 

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#6
Originally Posted by pichlo View Post
Either way, I would hava been much happier had I known all of this beforehand.
That is easy to imagine Still, I have deeply enjoyed reading your set of posts and seeing how you persevered in solving the issues that kept popping up. Well done!

-- Paolo
 

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#7
Thanks for sharing. Looking at pics I assume this "white" is the same as N97 white is, a bit sparkling? Orange would be my color of choice if available
 
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#8
Thank you for this report very informative.

IMO with aftermarket cases the proof is in the next six months, as to how good the replacement is.

From past experience very often the plastic will be cheaper or the paint will wear away leaving your new purchase tatty looking.
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#9
Thanks for sharing. I have considered doing this for years. You have very effectively saved me some grief. I will never attempt this now.
 
pichlo's Avatar
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#10
Originally Posted by paolo_3_1415926 View Post
I have deeply enjoyed reading your set of posts and seeing how you persevered in solving the issues that kept popping up.
Thanks. I do posses this quality. My wife calls it "stubborness"

Originally Posted by sponka View Post
Looking at pics I assume this "white" is the same as N97 white is, a bit sparkling?
I wouldn't call it sparkling, although it does make that effect in certain light (such as the camera flash). This is because the back has a certain texture - same as the original only white - and the light reflects in the tiny pits.

Originally Posted by sixwheeledbeast View Post
From past experience very often the plastic will be cheaper or the paint will wear away leaving your new purchase tatty looking.
Fortunately there is no paint to peel off but the plastic does feel cheap. But then, it was cheap Anyway, I am prepared to move it back to the original housing if I need to.

One thing I forgot to mention. It came with a Chinese keyboard. I wanted to keep it as it looked cool but only the white letters let the light through, not the blue symbols. So I used a different spare keyboard I happened to have lying around. The original was too worn out.
 
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