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Broken iPhone Power Button? Here’s the problem

The issue with broken or stuck power buttons in the iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and 5S are well known. A lot of people have complained about them over the years. This issue has also been the subject of at least 2 lawsuits filed against Apple. Some good news is available if you’re using an iPhone 5. Apple offers a replacement program because of the power button. On 25 April 2014, the company confirmed that some iPhone 5 smartphones have defective power buttons and has offered a free replacement. However, do keep in mind that means being without a phone for a few days (read the fine print…).

“Apple has determined that the sleep/wake button mechanism on a small percentage of iPhone 5 models may stop working or work intermittently,” Apple said in an online support document.

If your iPhone is still under warranty, Apple may be able to repair the hardware for free. Check out your iPhone warranty to see what your rights are. You can make an appointment with Apple to find out if you’re covered. If it turns out you’re not covered, a Genius from the Apple Store will be able to tell you how much it’ll cost to get it repaired.

One of our engineers, Carlos, has an iPhone 5 with the broken power button. Surprise, surprise… To figure out exactly what was going on we decided to x-ray the heck out of it. Here’s an image of the broken power button:

In this same image you can see the small MEMS microphone (bottom) located near the iSight camera (right). You can also see the bright LED (center)  used for flash photography. The power button is located on top of the image. It is much easier to figure out the problem with this image if we have a good iPhone 5 to compare to. And we do, so here’s how a good power button should look like.

The issue here, as you can see, is that the membrane under the tactile switch – the part that makes electrical contact to power the iPhone – is bent upwards. The dislodging of this membrane does not allow the button to properly travel to close the contact. For that reason you get that “stuck” feeling that a lot of people reported on the issue.

For a better view of the problem, here are some detail images of the power button.

X-ray image of the broken iPhone 5 power button

X-ray image of the good iPhone 5 power button

If you are not planning to upgrade to another phone and prefer to fix it yourself, there are several guides online showing you how to repair this switch yourself. Keep in mind opening an iPhone is not trivial, and you can break it in the process. There are also software fixes to this problem. The idea is to route the function of the power button to the screen of your iPhone, so you can turn it off by clicking on an icon. You will need to connect it to the power USB to turn it back on. Best of luck, we hope this was useful!

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