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iPhone 4S Phone Battery Failure (Chinese Replacement) and some Project Thoughts

I have always been a fan of fixing my own stuff. So when my iPhone battery died, I bought a cheap Chinese replacement and a screwdriver kit from eBay to replace it myself following an iFixit guide. The process was super easy, and I had everything working again in less than 10 minutes. However, this did not come without its consequences.

A few days ago (months now), while charging my iPhone 4S – yes, its old but it works – , I heard a ‘pop’ and felt the phone expand.
I took the case off as quickly as I could, and saw that the back of the phone had popped open because the li-ion battery had swelled up – never a good sign.
Surprisingly, the phone was still on at this point, so I shut it off and tried to get the back panel off. I took out the 2 screws, but before continuing to remove the battery, decided to turn it back on and get the pictures off of it.
I wasn’t sure if the battery was going to continue expanding when I plugged it in to my computer to take this pictures off, as this would also continue charging it. In the few minutes that it would take me to get the pictures off, it would not transfer too much energy to the battery, so I decided to take the chance.
I was able to successfully remove all the important data, then unplugged the phone and removed the battery without further problems.
Let me be clear that this battery was NOT the original iPhone battery. I had replaced it about a year and a half ago, with a cheap replacement battery from eBay. I wasn’t expecting the replacement battery to last a long time, but it managed over 500 charge cycles, which is not bad for a cheap chinese battery. It is definitely much better than those ‘UltraFire’ 18650 cells out there.

I have been buying Chinese parts for years, and have never had any problems with them, when treated correctly. Batteries are one thing that I will avoid buying from China in the future.

This also speaks to a project philosophy that I have been thinking about and working on recently – If its worth doing, then its worth doing well. Chinese batteries are one of those shortcuts to completing a project, but not doing it well. Sometimes, it is worth the money to just get the right components. All the Arduinos that I use are Chinese clones of the original open source Arduino boards. They are cheaper, but they function just the same. None of the 50+ that I have personally used have ever caused any problems or dangerous situations to arise, so until the day comes when one dramatically fails (more than magic smoke), I feel completely safe using them as long as I treat them well according to the manufacturer’s specifications.