iPhone goes up in a flash of light
A friend, the lucky recipient of my old iPhone 5S (which I followed with the 6 Plus and now the 7 Plus) brought the phone for my attention. This is one of the perils of selling or (in this case giving) to a friend. You rapidly become the service centre of choice. My friend had been out running with the device secure in an armband case. At the end of the exercise the phone — which had been working perfectly previously — was dead and unresponsive. But he noticed that the flashlight was shining brightly. He was unable to power off the device and restart.
Who better to investigate than old Macfilos, the guy who used to write so much about Apple products (which gave their name to this blog) before he got bitten with the photo bug.
In this instance old Macfilos had met his match. Nothing I could do would resurrect the smartphone. I left the battery to run down, at which point the flashlight obligingly extinguished itself. But when I attempted a recharge the light started to shine insantly. Quite clearly, in my estimation, the flash was eating power as fast as it was being pumped in. On a couple of occasions I briefly saw the battery icon, showing the final red bar of death, before it disappeared.
Next step was a bit of research on the forums and blogs. It seems that a stuck flashlight has been a frequent source of complaint going right back to the iPhone 4. Most times it can be cured by clearing and restoring the phone, although it is well documented that often even this drastic measure often fails to quell the light.
In the case of my friend’s iPhone 5S, though, all this was academic because I couldn’t get enough power into the device to enable it to be reset and restored.
Hmmm…. Nothing for it but a chat with an obliging Apple service guy by the name of Ian. We went back and forth for 63 minutes, trying a number of things, including attempting to restore the software via iTunes. At first he had been absolutely confident of success. At the end of the hour even he had given in and booked me an appointment at a local Apple Store Genius Bar.
Last Thursday I showed up at a very crowded Regent Street Genius Bar and spent another hour with an expert going over much of the ground covered the previous evening. Nothing worked and, eventually, he pronounced the death of the logic board.
Obviously the old 5S is out of warranty — by at least three years — but Apple offered a replacement 5S, new, for £280. In the end we settled for a new 5SE which has the same body and screen as the 5S but with the performance of the newer iPhone 6. My friend decided he preferred the small size to the larger iPhone 6. The SE is fast and gives almost everything the 6 offers except that extra row of home-screen icons.
There are two takeaway thoughts from this encounter. First, a totally dead iPhone is a rare occurrence. It's the first time anything like this has happened to me in nearly ten years, and I've owned every iPhone variant other than the original 2G model.
Second, Apple has a good after-sales service. I was able to spend an hour chatting with a guy who was desperately willing to help and gave up after trying everything he could. And this is without warranty and certainly without charge. Even though he couldn't help, he arranged for me to jump the queue at Apple Regent Street where I got another helpful expert to go through all the options. Rather than this incident proving frustrating, it is enlightening and gives me confidence to stick with Apple in the face of increasing competition.