Wednesday, March 03, 2010

HTC Fuze - don't throw out a perfectly good phone

UPDATE #2! I'd posted an initial update that I had ironically broken my phone for good on the very day I wrote this post. Well, it's fixed again! So everything below still applies, and I'm adding in the info on the new problem I just fixed. One thing about the Fuze is that it is very sensitive. Do not taunt the HTC Fuze.


I've just had one of those "phew!" moments. See, I've only had my refurbished HTC Fuze for about 6 months and I can't upgrade for another 12. If anything happens to my out-of-warranty Fuze, I'm up the creek - if I want a phone even half as capable as this one, it's going to cost me about $400.

A week or so ago, I dropped my phone and it splayed itself all over the sidewalk. This is actually about the fourth time I've done this - these things are slippery, and heavy for their size. All four times, my screen has gone nuts afterwards, like the internal cable had come half-disconnected. Two of the four times, I've also lost audio completely, meaning I couldn't hear anybody on the other end of a call. My speakerphone and microphone worked, but not the internal speaker.

A lot of people would probably throw their phones out, thinking they'd broken the hardware. And I have to believe these are common problems. But no! There's something weird about the Fuze, it's like it's self-healing. Spooky! I'll bet there are a lot of Fuzes out there in landfills that are perfectly fine. Here's what I did to fix these problems:

Reset repeatedly. It may actually take a full day for things to get totally back to normal. But eventually, you'll start to notice things are getting better. For me, I always start to be able to see parts of the AT&T logo on the reset screen before anything else, and that's when I know things will eventually be ok. It's very strange, like tuning in an analog TV channel using rabbit ears. Keep going and you'll get it just right - just keep resetting.

If you're like me, when the screen goes you may also lose screen alignment. Sometimes it can seem like you're not able to get it back. This last time, I spent literally two days trying to re-align my screen, and I thought the phone's digitizer had died. I actually bought a new phone! (An iPhone, no less.) But I wasn't happy with the iPhone, so I kept trying with the Fuze, and I eventually stumbled on the (dumb) solution to this problem.

The alignment instructions say to "tap" the screen. This is incorrect. You need to press and hold until the cross moves. Getting alignment to work by tapping (as the phone tells you to do) is just blind luck - it's how I always did it before, but it usually took several tries. Getting it to work by pressing and holding works every time. It's how it's really supposed to be done.

This was a tougher nut to crack. The first time it happened, my speaker just spontaneously came back on its own, so you might be able to just wait a while. But this last time, I was without the ability to really make or receive calls for days. I was very close to buying a new phone, but I didn't want to waste the money - I love my Fuze, and it worked fine otherwise. So I googled and googled, and finally stumbled upon somebody who had this same problem and solved it by quickly and repeatedly tapping the speakerphone on and off during a call. (Try calling your voicemail if you don't want to bother a friend, who you won't be able to hear initially anyway.) I tried it, and it worked! It only took about four or five quick taps and I had sound again. Very easy.

The Fuze is more or less an obsolete phone now in terms of specs, but with the custom ROMs still being released by Energy and others, its functionality has been extended, its interface aesthetics and usefulness is up there with any current phone, and there's just no reason to throw one out unless you absolutely have to (or you get a really good deal on an upgrade). In fact, part of my debugging process for the sound problem was throwing a new ROM on my Fuze, and that's also part of what made me so loathe to let it go. I just love the interface (go to post #2), and it just keeps getting better. (I also love the high-density screen, which only the very top-of-the-line phones can match, even today... and no, that doesn't include the iPhone!)

I'll upgrade when my 18 month window is up, but I'm glad I wasn't forced to now, and if you've got these problems or others like them, they're usually deceptively easy to fix.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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