Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nexus 5 GPS repair howto & pictures

Some people are experiencing inaccurate GPS on their Nexus 5.  I and my friend were two such people.

Apparently the GPS antenna has a weak physical connection point within the phone.  After watching some youtube videos ( and (, I tried it repairing this myself.

While extremely helpful (thank you guys!) the videos left out some important factors and image quality could be better.  The photos here aren't exemplary, but the quality is high enough to remove ambiguity.

Items you will need:

- strong, thin plastic wedge.  I used a guitar pick
- card stock.  check your junkmail
- electrical tape
- very sharp knife or jeweler's flathead screwdriver

DISCLAIMER: I am not an authorized repair technician, and am not liable if your phone turns into an internet meme, supermodel, ball of flame, or other unintended result.  Proceed at your own risk!

On to the repair:

#1 Removing the back

Removing the back there are two things to know:

a.  Don't use a knife.  You want something plastic otherwise you'll damage your back case.  I used a heavy-weight guitar pick, worked like a charm.

Bottom adhesive
b.  Some devices have adhesive near the bottom, requiring extra force to pull out.  Mine took an uncomfortable amount of force which resulted in a slight permanent bend in the back.  Ultimately I "cut" the adhesive slowly with the guitar pick, had I done this earlier the bend would not have happened.  Use your own judgement here, it will be obvious if it's bending too much.

c. There's another issue with the adhesive, but we'll get to that later

#2 Lifting the contact

The offending contact is glued down and delicate, so be gentle.

a.  Use a very tiny flathead screwdriver from a jeweler's set, or a very sharp knife (not a butter knife) to carefully lift the antenna contact from the back.

b.  You don't need to lift it so much that it flaps like in the video, just enough to slip 1mm of cardboard underneath.

#3 Prep and place the cardstock

The cardstock provides a shim in which to push the contacts more forcefully from the phone into the GPS antenna.

This is the focal point of the repair.

Any thinnish cardstock will do.  We're only looking to raise the contacts about 1 mm.  I cut up some junkmail, worked like a charm.  You only need a tiny piece, well under 1 cm square, so put down that honkin' refrigerator box.

The pictures make it appear that the cardstock is folded in two, but it is not.  It is one small, flat piece.

Yeah, my tape is janky.  It works, dammit
#4 Taping it down

The cardstock has a bit of free play in there, so we need to secure it with some tape.  Not much is needed, just enough to keep it from moving about.
Don't use too much cardboard or tape, because the bulk will lift the rear and cause other contacts to lose connection, namely the wireless charging contact.

#5 Putting it back together

If your device had no adhesive, then you're good to go, snap it all back together - it's easy

If your device has adhesive at the bottom, you may want to remove it.  It can bunch up and cause a minor lift of the rear case, nullifying your work and also causing problems for other contacts.  My wireless charger stopped working until I scraped it off.  I suggest leaving it on and trying things out, and only remove it if you have to.

Scraped off adhesive

wireless charger contact


Afterwards, GPS appears to be improved slightly.  Locks seem to happen a bit faster and to more satellites.

Accuracy seems to be improved by about 5-10 ft.  Too soon to tell, but it seems like there's less drift and no more "compass freakout"

I'll need more time with the unit to say whether it made a sizable difference or not, but initial results are positive.