If you've got an iPhone 4S that's out of warranty and the vibration function has stopped working or is very faint, odds are you need a new vibrator assembly. A DIY repair isn't too terribly difficult and will cost you far less than a new iPhone.
Follow along and we'll help you replace the vibrator assembly and keep your iPhone 4S going strong for even longer.
Disclaimer: As with any repair, iMore can not be held responsible for any damage you may do to your device. It’s also worth considering that opening up your device to perform any repair or modification can and will void your Apple warranty. If you don’t feel comfortable opening your device, don’t. Use extreme care and caution when performing a repair on any device.
If you are comfortable with repairing your own device, put your ninja pants on and keep reading!
What you'll need to DIY replace an iPhone 4S vibrator assembly
The Pod Drop recommends using only quality and genuine parts from a reputable supplier like eTech Parts. They have quality parts, tools, and much more for all your repair needs. You will find links to the specific parts you'll need for this repair in the list below.
While the video walkthrough is pretty detailed, we still recommend using it in correlation with the written steps below. The video above is a complete teardown and you don't need to complete all the steps in order to replace the vibrator assembly.
Power off your iPhone 4S
Before performing any repair you should always power off your device before opening it up.
Remove the back plate
Using your security screwdriver, remove the 2 screws on either side of the dock connector port.
Set them aside. They are both the exact same size and length so it does not matter if you mix them up. They are interchangeable.
Gently slide up the back plate by applying a bit of pressure along the bottom with your thumbs and sliding upwards.
Now lift off the back plate and set it aside.
Remove the battery and grounding clip
Using your #00 Phillips screwdriver, remove the two screws holding the battery in place.
These screws are different lengths so make sure you remember which one goes where. The one that is slightly larger is the bottom screw.
There is a tiny grounding clip underneath the battery clip where the first screw is located. Use your spudger tool or finger to remove it before prying the clip up. Many times it can go flying if you don't remove it first and then you'll have difficulty locating it so it's best to remove it first.
Now use your spudger tool and at the bottom of the battery clip, gently pry upwards so the clip pops up.
Move to the edge of the iPhone where the volume buttons are located and use your spudger tool to carefully pry up the battery. It is stuck down with a good amount of adhesive so be careful when prying upwards that you don't bend the battery. This is why I do not use the plastic tab that is provided. It typically rips or bends the battery. If one part is resistant move your pry tool a little further down and gently start prying it up in different places taking care not to come too close to the volume button cables towards the top.
Once you've gotten the battery pulled out of the iPhone 4S we can move on to inserting the replacement battery.
Remove the top logic board shields
Using your #00 Phillips screwdriver, remove the four screws that hold the top silver shield in place and the one screw that holds the small black shield in place.
Now use your spudger or pry tool to gently lift the silver shield out of the iPhone.
Use your spudger or pry tool to lift the black shield out of the iPhone.
Set both shields aside and make sure your screws are organized for reassembly later.
Unclip the top logic board cables & remove the rear-facing camera
Using your spudger or pry tool carefully disconnect all the cables at the top of the logic board. There are seven cables total. One of the cables lies underneath the bottom most cable so you'll need to disconnect the cable over it before folding it back and revealing the shorter cable underneath.
Once you unclip the seven cables, you can lift the rear-facing camera directly out of the iPhone. It was only connected by one cable.
Disconnect the dock connector
Using your #00 Phillips screwdriver remove the shield that is covering the dock connector cable towards the middle left of the iPhone. Remember which screw came from where as they are different sizes. Gently lift the shield out of the iPhone and set it aside.
Take your spudger tool and gently pry up the dock connector cable and peel it back as shown below. Perform this step with caution as there is adhesive on the underside of the cable. Take care not to rip the cable by pulling up to quickly.
Leave the cable in this position and move on to the next section.
Pry up the cellular antenna
Using your spudger toolcarefully pry up the round connection for the cellular antenna. It should come up easily so pry up gently.
You'll notice that it is wrapped around a metal clip. Gently unwrap it so it's sticking upwards and leave it in this position.
Remove the SIM card and tray
Using a SIM removal tool or a bent paper clip, eject the SIM tray and set it, and the SIM card aside.
Remove the logic board
Remove the three #00 Phillips screws at the top, middle, and bottom left of the logic board with your #00 Phillips screwdriver. The top screw has a piece of tape over it you'll need to peel back. After removing it you'll also notice a gold grounding clip underneath it. Make sure you don't lose it as you'll need it for reassembly.
There are two more screws holding the logic board in place and you'll need to remove them with your flat head screwdriver. They are located at the top right and bottom of the logic board.
Now you should be able to lift the logic board out of the iPhone. Use the area that the rear-facing camera was located and the bottom of the logic board to lift it straight out.
Replace the vibrator assembly
The vibrator assembly in the iPhone 4S is only held down with adhesive. Use your pry tool to gently pry it up from the mid-frame of the device. Just take care not to bend it.
Next, gently lift the old vibrator assembly out of the device.
Your replacement vibrator assembly should come equipped with adhesive on the bottom. Just peel off the backing and carefully replace the vibrator assembly. Be sure you line it up with the screw hold as well as straight along the bottom where the speaker housing will sit.
If your new vibrator assembly didn't come with adhesive, any type of thin two sided adhesive will work. You don't need much. Just enough to keep it in place.
Reassemble your iPhone 4S
To reassemble your iPhone 4S you can follow all these steps in reverse order or you can watch our reassembly video guide above. We recommend using both in conjunction with each other. The reassembly video is a complete teardown from the screen down so you won't need to watch the entire thing to complete reassembly of your iPhone 4S. You'll only need to watch from about 5:35 to the end.
Now that you've completely finished reassembling your iPhone 4S you can go ahead and press the power button to turn it back on. Once it completely boots up, test the vibrator function by flipping the vibrate switch. If all went well, you should now have vibrator functionality again. If for some reason it still isn't vibrating, check to make sure the vibrator assembly is lined up correctly.
We hope you don't, but if you do run into issues with this repair, you can check out our DIY and mod forums for answers to many questions or e-mail me directly with your questions.