I had just got to being really comfortable with my pre-production Nokia N900, odd little UI quirks and all. But thanks to a bit of carelessness, I lost use of it and found a potential problem for every user.
I am in the habit of using USB-to-microUSB cables to charge devices with this capability. While working on some project at my home workstation, I had the N900 happily sucking up electricity on top of the PC tower to my left. Unknown to me, the usb cable had looped near the floor and was waiting for some object to hook it.
That object turned out to be my chair.
By scooting back a bit, I inadvertantly launched the N900 off the tower and a few feet through the air to the wooden floor below. It was not a big fall, and not as violent as I make it sound, but I was irritated nonetheless. Still, it seemed to check out okay… but to be on the safe side I relocated the device to a remote table out of the way, and plugged it into a regular charger there. I returned to my work certain all was well.
Yet I received a surprise when I retrieved it later. As soon as I removed the charger connector, the female microUSB connector inside the device came out with it.
In case you are wondering, it looks like this now:
I was surprised and disappointed to see that this was a surface mount connector, the kind you can buy from a supplier like TLC Electronics. Here’s what they look like new, below:
As a former product designer and later quality assurance engineer, I have big, big problems with this part selection– especially now that another N900 user has reported that they also lost their connector, only by simple plugging-unplugging. No trauma to his device like mine suffered.
The choice of a surface mount component with no real security, combined with two breaking incidents early into the usage of the N900s in question, leads me to suspect we will see more of these cases.
So Nokia, it’s time to retool. I understand the attraction of surface mount electronics, but in this use you’re going to have to go with a through-hole mounted connector. Yes, it will drive cost up (a very tiny amount per device) but you simply can’t depend on surface mount pads to hold out very long here.
And lest anyone think I’m coming from left field…
The printed circuit card on top was my improvement on the design below, back years ago when I was doing that sort of thing for a living. Got rid of some nasty jumpers, solved a wire pass-through problem and improved component insertion with that little project. 😉
Hopefully Nokia gets a fix in quickly on this one. I’ll make sure to forward the discovery.
UPDATE: Nokia reports that the problem was fixed for production devices. I do not know details.
UPDATE 2: to clarify– it is known now that not all production devices have any sort of true fix, meaning Nokia’s statement only applies to those manufactured after an as-yet unspecified date.
UPDATE 3: my replacement device also failed after a few months’ use: https://tabulacrypticum.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/post-mortem-nokia-n900-micro-usb-detachment/