A swollen battery was no match for this engineer's aspiration to keep a decade-old ebook reader going.
When it comes to ebook readers, I’m definitely “old school.” My primary device is a third-generation Kindle Keyboard (as it’s anecdotally referred to: its formal name is the Kindle 3), which is both Wi-Fi- and 3G-based and retailed for $139 with the “Special Offers” discount when introduced in July 2011:
Mine’s a refurb, purchased from A4C for $49.95 in May 2014 and still going strong nearly decade after the third-generation family’s initial unveiling in August 2010. Its dimensions are 7.5×4.8×0.3 inches (190×123×8.5 mm) and it weighs 8.7 ounces (247 grams). Alongside it in the above photo is the obligatory 0.75″ (19.1 mm) diameter U.S. penny for size comparison purposes.
Back in December 2011, however, I’d also bought a different (and much large) Kindle product, this one a refurbished second-generation “Graphite” Kindle DX for $199.99 from Woot:
It’s referred to as the “Graphite” model because it only comes in one color, versus its white-or-graphite-case-option predecessor. It also makes improvements to the first-generation model’s E-ink screen contrast ratio. Connectivity is 3G-only (plus USB for manual content transfers from a tethered computer), its dimensions are 10.4 x 7.2 x 0.38 inches (264 × 183 × 10 mm) and it weighs 18.9 ounces (536 grams).
The two products are siblings of a sort; quoting from Wikipedia:
The DXG is a mix of third-generation hardware and second-generation software. The CPU has the same speed as Kindle Keyboard’s CPU, but the DXG has only half the system memory, 128MB. Due to these differences, the DXG runs the same firmware as Kindle 2. Therefore, DXG cannot display international fonts, like Cyrillic, Chinese, or any other non-Latin font, and PDF support and the web browser are limited to matching the Kindle 2’s features.
But they certainly had differing price tags; the Kindle DX “Graphite” originally cost $379 when released in 2010. And perhaps obviously, the Kindle DX’s larger screen is tailored for reading digital newspapers, magazines and the like, although it also works just fine with the ebooks that the Kindle Keyboard is targeted for.
When I pulled it out of storage after a lengthy period of non-use a few months ago, its empty-battery status (as reported in the above photo) wasn’t a surprise. But even though it still reported it could be fully charged and worked fine (sort of; more on that in a bit) when tethered to a charger it’d inevitably revert to “empty” in a matter of seconds after I disconnected the charging cable. I suspected a bad battery, and pursued this mini-teardown in attempting to rectify the situation.
Before proceeding, however, here are a few more overview shots of our patient, beginning with its underside:
Next, here’s a closeup of the model number (D00801), FCC certification ID (XDZ-1013, with the manufacturer curiously listed as “Daron LLC” in the relevant FCC database entries, although the applicant was the expected “Amazon.com Services LLC”), and other relevant marking details:
Here’s the top edge, exposing the headphone jack and power switch and here’s a wider-angle shot of the bottom edge (this time with the Kindle DX still charging, thereby the amber-vs-green status of the LED next to the micro USB connector) showcasing the “stereo” speaker pair:
Now about that replacement battery. Mine cost $10.35 (plus tax) on Ebay, and came with a set of tools:
Only one thing was missing, however. Can you guess what it was?
That’s right, instructions! Fortunately, YouTube came through:
Is it just me, or do you also find it a bit odd that the video’s creator chose Maurice Ravel’s Boléro as the accompanying soundtrack (I realize my age is showing, but I always think of the 1979 movie 10 when I hear it)? Nevertheless, it did the trick!
Time to dive in. Whenever I see a back panel containing a mix of metal and plastic pieces, I always assume the wireless connectivity antenna is behind the latter:
The power switch assembly remains attached:
And here’s what’s exposed:
The 3G antenna is on the right in this image orientation:
Sliding away the remainder of the back panel caused the volume toggle switch on the side to fall away, but it was easily put back in place during subsequent reassembly:
And here’s what’s now exposed:
Here’s a closeup of the 3G transceiver module and companion SIM (which I’ll discuss in more detail in a bit):
And here’s the subject of primary attention, the presumed-failed battery (along with the two speakers at bottom and, above them, their curiously exposed connectors):
You might already be able to tell that it’s unnaturally swollen (which I find curious, given that I thought such things generally happened when the device containing them was constantly charging, not after the battery had drained after extended non-use, your thoughts?), and taking it out makes the deformity even more obvious:
Replace it with the new battery:
Reverse the prior disassembly steps, and to quote another memorable movie (1974’s Young Frankenstein):
Alive…it’s alive…it’s alive!
Now for the “rest of the story.” Although I’d previously done the “emergency update” widely reported back in early 2016 as necessary to retain Kindle Store and account access, and although I was subsequently still able to access the Kindle Store just fine, my Kindle DX refused to sync with my account, and I also couldn’t download new content to it:
The Kindle DX leverages an Amazon wireless service called Whispernet, provided in partnership with AT&T (i.e. GSM UMTS, not CDMA EV-DO). I’d assumed the quirk I was encountering might be because I was accessing 3G data via a residential femtocell (the successor to this expired one), versus directly from an AT&T tower, but confirming or denying this theory was difficult to determine when my untethered operating life was measured in seconds!
After replacing the battery yesterday, I still wasn’t able to sync and download new content. But this morning, I powered the Kindle Reader up again and sync worked fine! I guess Amazon is serious when they say, “If the problem persists, please restart your Kindle from the Menu in Settings and try again.”
With 4G LTE services now pervasive and 5G ramping up quickly, 3G’s days are alas numbered. And as I mentioned earlier, the Kindle DX doesn’t alternatively support Wi-Fi (as my Kindle Keyboard does). Fortunately, since this Kindle DX is already registered with Amazon, I can continue to use it by selecting it as the end device when I obtain new content from the Kindle Store and then transferring the downloaded file from my computer to the Kindle DX over USB. I tested this just yesterday, when I feared I’d never be able to go online again. 😉
Perhaps obviously, in closing, I’m highly motivated to keep this oldie-but-goodie running for as long as possible, which is why this is only a mini-teardown; I intentionally didn’t tackle a complete dissection. For that, I’ll refer you to a piece published at Tech Republic (other research options are also available). And with that, I’ll turn the microphone over to you for your comments!
This article was originally published on EDN.
—Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Edge AI and Vision Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company’s online newsletter.