Solved! Samsung Galaxy A11 swam, then repaired... now new issues... how do I tell if I was scammed?

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imstarhawk

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Fair warning, my sense of humor is highly defective (blame my father... he's the class clown sort, except he graduated in the early 70s and he's still at it, even though there's no class left -- in multiple ways!) and, unrestrained, I tend to be a bit like George Carlin without the slightest hint of a filter... those offended by seemingly everything (especially those who additionally are enraged to Hair On Fire Goku levels of Kyle/Karen by having it pointed out, or by the word "snowflake" being applied to them) tend to get a bit teased by that side of me in what is arguably a mild form of trolling.

Having said that, I'll try to keep a lid on the pot.

So... having owned a cell phone of my own since the prehistoric times (get off my lawn!) of the early 2000s when phones looked like the Snickers bar in "Caddyshack", except after a bit too long in the sun -- The Universe decided that late Saturday night a week or so ago, going into my 35th birthday, at about 5:30am as I was tottering off to sleep would be the absolute most perfect time in the world for me to learn what it was like, finally, to send a smartphone for a swim wearing the wrong color bikini... or something like that.

So down it went into the porcelain pooch refreshment center. (Note: I do not own a pet of any kind.) Fortunately, the water was cleaner than its surroundings, so the problems involved were limited simply to moisture issues, rather than... biological contamination, shall we say. As fast as I could (took my dazed dumb-butt about... ten seconds? Fifteen tops, but I think it was less than that.) I fished my phone out of the indoor birdbath, turned it off as fast as I could, and dried it off (also as fast as I could) with some handy dead-tree material nearby... the thin flimsy sort that comes on a roll and is hard to find in a commercial environment these days because apparently we've had a plague of stupidity and people think they can eat the stuff! (Ha.) At least it was convenient... and no, I'm not stupid enough to hoard that mess. Too many brain cells and insufficient funds.

Alas, my local smartphone service provider has been a good little telecom conglomerate, as they do, and used the doomsday outbreak as an excuse to cut back severely on call center hours and such -- it wasn't till Monday morning that I was able to confirm that, having failed to bother with their expensive (to me -- I'm a low-income individual) extra add-on protection plans, they weren't about to do squat. As the phone was a Samsung Galaxy A11, I contacted Samsung (which, to their credit, my provider recommended...) who were likewise useless in a facelessly cold and uncaring professionally hollow yet vaguely polite way.

I live in a small town in a fairly rural area here in the US... I mean it's not Utah or Iowa where it's 90min or more between toilets with a flush handle and heaven help you if the shack with the moon on the door doesn't have anything growing within several feet (or has a freaking rainforest for the first 20ft around it or so and then it's back to Kansas with ya, Dorothy!) -- LOL -- but it's 15mi or so from one town to the next so don't break down unless you can walk or you've got more that's pretty to ya than a thumb and you're willing to use it... (Sorry.) ...or you're REAL good at fixing lower-end / smaller industrial grade farm equipment. This is one of those places where the "Holiday Tours" buses don't stop on their way through, even if it's high noon on a Friday -- and mind you we're the only McDonald's within 30min in any direction -- but the odds are better than ten to one that they'll get stuck behind a tractor before they reach the next one, if it's not the dead of winter!

There is a local wireless repair shop here in my town, but I had a weird experience with them... let's just say I don't trust them and won't be back. This thread isn't about them, however. I had someone else recommend me a shop in the town that's 15mi away... that's who I went with. I deeply regret that, but what's done is done.

What I'm trying to do here, ultimately, is figure out just how badly I got bit. I'm reasonably sure that parts were swapped.

I have a background in computer and electronics work. Mostly I futz with what they call "retrotechnology" these days... Commodore 64s and Compaqs from probably before you were born. (I'm in the process, for example, of restoring a Compaq Portable III from +/- 1987.) I also muck around with weird computer-like terminals called "thin clients" that really just act as network-based KVM adapters using Microsoft's RDP protocol thingy (that's a technical term!) to fire a Windows session running in a virtual machine on a datacenter box somewhere, over a VPN to your little login machine somewhere. If it says "Wyse" or "Neoware" on the side, or between when you hit the power button and when you enter your login stuff you see the word "Citrix", you're using a thin client, or something at least set up as one... oh, and if you have a Wyse C-series (aka Wyse Cx0 series) client, and you've tried to get Ubuntu running on it and couldn't... go get Ubuntu 18.04 LTS... I personally filed the bug report that means you now have a working desktop. It's #91966 in the "openchrome" X[dot]org driver bugtracker... I'm rather proud of that one :)

All of that said, smartphones tend to have a habit of making me look a bit stupid... but enough abstract carp (sounds fishy! :p ) transfers over that I can usually figure out the tech stuff... I'm just a klutz.

So what I want to do here, is describe my experience first with the repair shop, then with the phone afterwards... then get you folks' opinions on whether there's a reason to investigate further and if so, what tools I have available to me and how to use them. Generally speaking I'm better at hardware than software but as long as I don't have to code or compile anything I should be OK -- I can run "make" "make install" etc but "make"s error reporting may as well be in whatever chickenscratch the Voynich Manuscript is written in, for all the good it does me! and my coding skills are stuck at Commodore BASIC. 10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD" is about as far as I get! (Well, OK, I'm not that bad -- but I'm not much better, either!)

--------------------------------------------------

OK, so the contact info I was given for this place was a phone number only. Useless to me, I live alone and my now-sodden smartphone is my only means of calling people. A quick bit of Googling, however, found a fairly awful website with a prominent email address in type so large that even Stevie Wonder probably could read it. I chat back and forth with the guy that evening and the next day... ultimately he's willing to come pick up the phone for a bit extra... seems a bit high, but all his pricing is stupid high, so whatever. I beg a close family member for the dough (because my bank account is already flirting with the Red Ink Lady) and they groan but I get what I need. Guy says he'll be here 3pm the next day. Well... 3pm comes and goes. 3:30pm, I get an email, he's been held up. This continues in various ways until close to 5pm... he finally shows at around five. Sheesh.

I hand him the phone, and we talk. I'm the engineering type, and I'm curious. I should also mention at this point, I do a LOT of business on eBay and a LOT of business in used parts. This is a neighborhood with a lot of older folks, and I do a lot of VCR programming. (It's a cultural trope for a reason, folks!) People donate broken laptops and electronics to me. I have a reputation ;) I've also had several Samsung S-series phones in the past, and I've gone to the trouble of finding out, simply out of curiosity, how those come apart. (tl;dr mad heat gun skillz that I ain't got.)

But I know, for example, when someone brings me a laptop that won't play the latest "Despicable Me" DVD or read some game disc, that the first thing to do is pop the tray open, grab my bottle of 91% isopropyl from under the bathroom sink, and snag the "Equate" Q-Tips from the medicine cabinet up top, and see what I can do -- and to NEVER use the 70% stuff, it'll give you an acrylic blob instead of a lens and now you need a new drive. I also know that PCB stuff is usually layered fiberglass composite and it's far sterner stuff than any optical drive lens ever will be.

So when he starts up about how eBay parts are universally a bad idea and used parts are always unreliable and 99% alcohol this and expensive fancy-pants electronic microscope that (this isn't Luis Rossman mucking around with iPhones, folks, this is a country Android doctor) my inner Captain Picard starts screaming "Red Alert! Red Alert! Shields up! Battlestations everyone! Red Alert!" Yeah... I should've broken it off right then and there, especially since he'd already told me that my phone (again, Samsung Galaxy A11) came apart basically the same way my mother's ancient Blackberry 9300-series whatever pile of carp (sounds fishy!) did back in the day, and I put three Trackballers in that, no problem... and I've got Professor Farnsworth kinds of Coke-bottle glasses... it's a wonder I can't freaking see through time with these things!

I also make my situation clear to him, that I'm a low-income individual on Disability. I have a number of mental issues that make me book-smart and social-stupid, I'm good with tech but I'm bad enough with people that I can't handle a 9-to-5 -- if you met me in Walmart, I'd seem normal, but trust me, if we had to work together at a Dilbertville cubicle farm, by lunchtime rush on the third day we'd all be lining up on adjacent window ledges on 12 taking bets on who'd make the biggest splat first. I can't handle that mess and you wouldn't be able to handle my breakdown. I'm good enough, though, that I can tell that this guy just doesn't care. Either that, or he thinks I'm out-and-out lying to game him over. Either way... no empathy.

But he's doing that social engineering thing where it seems like it'd just be too awkward not to do the deal, so he gets the phone and the dough for diagnostics (yeah, he charges for that... I can name at least one local tech shop that doesn't, and it's rapidly becoming an industry standard... but here he is moaning about how much all his pretty boy premium everything costs... sonny I just want a phone that doesn't drip when I shake it...) and off he goes. He's pretty clear, although by implication, not explicit wording, that I'll get a quote before anything is done.

Next thing I know, I get an email from him that they've cleaned the phone and I owe him. I am extremely upset at this point and, justifiably, I'm loud about it. His response is... blatant BS. There's no sugarcoating it and I won't try. One, he claims that he didn't want to wait for a quote to be approved because the longer the phone sits the worse it gets -- except after a day-and-a-half of emails he knows he'd get a response in 5min flat. Two, he's once again hyping up his 99% isopropyl (which he doesn't need at all, 91% is more than fine and we all know it) and his fancy pants microscope (which he doesn't need for this job -- heck, I could do what he does with that microscope using an old digital camera and a big-screen TV... or, for really high end work, a cheap Logitech webcam, a low-power computer, and a big monitor... by "big" I mean 19in+, BTW). Three, he moans about how he's got a "highly trained technician" he's got to pay... first of all, this comes apart like an Obama-era Blackberry, and second of all, if his profits are that bad, that kinda says it all, doesn't it? ;)

I take him to task and explain quite bluntly that I will once again have to beg a relative for the money, since I'm not in a financial position to let him just keep the phone -- which he knows, given prior discussion -- and his only offer is to discuss "a sliding scale payment" over Zoom call. I politely decline after getting the money, informing him of the relative's -- and my -- opinion of the whole thing in the process. He rather curtly says he'll bring the phone back the next day at 3pm.

To his credit he's on time, but it's extremely obvious that he doesn't want to be there and he's holding himself back from out-and-out cussing me out in person. He hands me the phone in a way that says "be glad I'm not throwing it at you" and immediately turns around and leaves before I can say anything.

--------------------------------------------------

I'll be honest, I went in behind him and checked it. About 3-1/2min of a 7min YouTube told me everything I needed to know... and an $8 Hyper Tough smartphone kit has nearly everything you need to get inside. Pop the thumbprint reader out with your thumb (I never use it anyways) and it's fine... I had got a fancy iFixit spudger for another repair and never used it (well... PayPal screwed up and then iFixit wouldn't talk to me about it, so I got two of them for the price of one... I'll gladly cover the second if they want to talk -- but they never returned phone, email, or Twitter and they seem to have blocked/Muted me, so I'll wait for them, screw it -- I wasn't even rude! But that's not for this thread.) so I used this as an excuse to finally try it out. Good stuff TBH, but I can't support them if they cut me off like that. ahem The screws on the inside aren't even Torx, they're Phillips, it's easy.

Everything inside looked clean... suspiciously so. Like, factory brand new clean.

For the record, my carrier is Spectrum Mobile, which uses Verizon's network... I don't know if it matters, but the mainboard this came back with had two IPEX antenna connectors on it. I don't know what it had when it left.

I've also noticed some ahem interesting behavior quirks...
  • I had a custom theme put together for myself... I used part of a pay-for theme, a separate pay-for iconset, a separate wallpaper, a font I installed myself, and a custom color on the lock-screen clock... the clock is no longer the theme style, it's a default Android style, and the color is gone, and the font is gone as well.
  • The keyboard now vibrator-buzzes when I type, which I'd turned off approximately forever ago... ditto the camera shutter.
  • The camera app now saves to a new "Camera" folder, separate from the last one... which means that something in the filesystem has been reset with respect to that.
  • I can also tell by the way it behaves that the autocorrect thing for the keyboard has been reset... it's the default keyboard and the default autocorrect, but I've noticed that it learns as you type, over long periods of time. Except that this one seems to have downloaded and run a copy of amnesia.apk...
  • Earlier tonight I had the bejeezus startled out of me by an "Emergency Alert" klaxon. To keep the number of times the local hospital has to charge me exorbitant amounts for waking up to a bunch of people wearing masks and yelling "CLEAR" while holding expensive medical equipment ;) I keep those all turned off, and I do that when I set up my phone for the first time... yet here they are turned on again...
  • (This one might be me, I'm not sure I plugged the right thingy into the right thingy, putting it all back together...) It just absolutely will not hold a WiFi connection now. But as I said, I might've got the streams leads to the IPEX connectors crossed in a bad way.
I'd like to think I'm not the victim of a board swap... or any hardware swap. Especially since, if I was, I'm pretty sure that's something at least for my state Attorney General's office to chew on, if not my local police department... although I'm neither lawyer nor cop so I'm not 100%, and I don't want to accuse anyone of anything in a formal manner until I know for sure. I'd really like to think that this was just a simple cash-grab operation... but some of that stuff gets real hard to explain that way...

What diagnostic tools are available to me that might help me work out exactly what happened to my phone at that shop? and what are your opinions, folks, as fellow smartphone users and devs, as to what may have happened and what steps I should take next...?

Thank you in advance :)
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Try to narrow down the post to exactly what the issues are, going through a page of extra info does not help. If the phone had a new system board installed to fix it all of your custom settings are gone and reset to new. If it needed a reset done, also all will be wiped to defaults. Emergency Alerts are normal and setup for things like weather warning, all the "quirks" you list are normal for a new board. Not sure what you mean by being a "victim" of a board swap, if that is what was needed to fix it, that is what was done. Hard to tell what was done from all the extra stuff in the post. It's better to just keep things to the details and not try to write a prize winning novel. Where you live, what you had for lunch last week, what your favorite color is, does not matter to what is wrong with the phone.

From what you list is wrong, none of it is actually wrong, just some settings were reset. Is the phone working? If yes, good, set things up how you had it and you are good to go.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Try to narrow down the post to exactly what the issues are, going through a page of extra info does not help. If the phone had a new system board installed to fix it all of your custom settings are gone and reset to new. If it needed a reset done, also all will be wiped to defaults. Emergency Alerts are normal and setup for things like weather warning, all the "quirks" you list are normal for a new board. Not sure what you mean by being a "victim" of a board swap, if that is what was needed to fix it, that is what was done. Hard to tell what was done from all the extra stuff in the post. It's better to just keep things to the details and not try to write a prize winning novel. Where you live, what you had for lunch last week, what your favorite color is, does not matter to what is wrong with the phone.

From what you list is wrong, none of it is actually wrong, just some settings were reset. Is the phone working? If yes, good, set things up how you had it and you are good to go.
 

imstarhawk

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One, I've written a novel. This is not that, I assure you... I highly doubt your forum's software would permit 40k standardized words in a single post anyways. IIRC the cutoff is generally around 5k.

I wanted to document what happened exactly so that the people reading this could understand exactly what happened as I experienced it. Forgive me for a bit of lip here, but having grown up in a family where reading books was encouraged, the modern attitude of "scrolling on my phone to read all these words is too haaard" just ticks me off. This isn't Twitter, and the lip is well-earned. I read six out of the seven "Harry Potter" books on a sofa in three hours flat, lying on my back -- cover to cover, one shot -- and I have Asperger's and ADD*. I focus like a squirrel on the last day of summer. If I can do it, you can do it, and if you whine to me about it, I'm sorry, but you're going to get "over 9000" level snark. It's how I was raised, and considering that, in an era when many four-year students were the first in their families ever to have achieved that, I would have been the first in uncountable generations to have NOT accomplished that if I'd managed any less, I think they did dang good.

Two... as would have been clear if you had actually read my account of what happened, work was done without my approval, and without ANY discussion beforehand of what would be done/etc. There was no quote-for-approval process, that was skipped entirely and I was given a complete load of BS when I complained. Certain things have been reset, others have not. I'm not sure what was or wasn't done, but I know I don't trust the guy to tell me himself. I love foxes -- that's my autism obsession -- but I'm not about to ask one how well (s)he guarded the henhouse last night!

*It's WAY more severe than most, and it's also worth knowing that, as the timing worked out, I wound up being one of the kids my teachers learned how to deal with that stuff on. When I was in Elementary School, almost nobody had heard of Asperger's or ADD and the word "autism" invoked the movie "Rain Man" if anything at all. I did not grow up with the skills at handling life, or really much of anything, that later kids got -- I was at the beginning of learning how to deal with that, and I kinda got screwed as a result. It's nobody's fault but Father Time, but it's still something I have to deal with on a daily basis.
 

imstarhawk

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Sorry, another issue I have is that my head sometimes works a little slowly, and I realize something important a few minutes (or hours, days, etc) later that I initially missed. This is one of those moments...

The larger issue here is that I have NO trustworthy accounting of any kind as to what was actually done. All the guy said was that he did some "cleaning" -- nothing more or less. "We cleaned the phone" is almost an exact quote... if it actually matters I'll dig back through my email and find it, as unpleasant as it will be to do so. (The whole thing has left a distinctly bitter taste in me.) Clearly, things have been reset, settings have been changed -- more was done than simple "cleaning".

That's what I'm trying to figure out, is what was actually done... that's why what I'm asking is, what tools are out there, if any, that can tell me what changed? If there are logfiles that Android keeps, I want to be able to read them. If it can detect hardware changes I want to be able to look at that as well. If the phone does an "ET phone home" thing to Samsung (or to Spectrum Mobile, my carrier, or Verizon, the network they use -- heck, if it does it to all three, IDK this stuff!) when that stuff changes or with periodic log-dumps and that's something I can access, I'd like to know about that.

Right now all I know is, things were done without my authorization, and I have evidence that some things were done that I wasn't told about. I don't have a trustworthy source of what was done, and I have to find that out for myself. What I want to know from you guys is, what tools are available to me that can help me establish that?
 

COLGeek

Cybernaut
Moderator
It sounds like your phone was factory reset (as mentioned earlier) and that removed all previous settings and applications. Unless you had backed up and then restored, you now have to reinstall/re-configure as previously set.
 

imstarhawk

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/sigh

Actually, except as described, everything was exactly the same. Example: with regards to the custom theme, the wallpaper, iconset, and color theme / font from the pay-for theme remain, just my custom font was removed and the change to the lock-screen clock seems to have been reset to an Android default.

It feels to me -- remember, as I specified in the original post that you basically didn't read, I'm a PC/electronics guy, I came to computers by way of electronics (it's more complicated than that but you apparently don't 'do' complicated so I won't bother) -- a lot like if someone put a computer into Hibernate (save real-time state to disk, shut down), copied that save-state to another disk along with the other contents of the disk, and then tried to restore it, but the save-state restored incompletely. Or like a backup/restore after a drive crash (dead hard disk, etc) but the restore died at a bit over 99%.

Like it's trying but there's parts missing.

Go buy a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, take out ten pieces at random and set them aside, work the rest of the puzzle. When you're done you'll know how I feel.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Two... as would have been clear if you had actually read my account of what happened, work was done without my approval, and without ANY discussion beforehand of what would be done/etc. There was no quote-for-approval process, that was skipped entirely and I was given a complete load of BS when I complained. Certain things have been reset, others have not. I'm not sure what was or wasn't done, but I know I don't trust the guy to tell me himself. I love foxes -- that's my autism obsession -- but I'm not about to ask one how well (s)he guarded the henhouse last night!
I tried to read what happened but it was just about impossible to sort out with all the extra text, and your additional posts did not help, again with a bunch of extra into not related to the issue. What the place did to your phone they should not have without first letting you know. It's pretty much standard procedure to first look at the issue then let the customer know what may need to be done and the cost, unless you agreed to have them just do the work, maybe by the paperwork you filled out when you dropped the phone off. However after it was actually done, aside from complaining to them about it there is nothing you can do at this point. We have no idea what exactly was done, if it was reset, just setup it up again the way you like it. If you want to find out what they did, ask them.

Remember this is a fully volunteer forum, no one is obliged to read things or answer things, especially if it's formatted in a hard to sort out way. By making it hard to read to find the issue having people wade through a bunch of extra fluff, you are just making it harder on yourself to get an answer. That wall of text can be summarized in two sentences. You went to a shop to have your phone looked at, they did the work before you approved it. The differences were X Y Z, what do you think they did? That is the only relevant info once everything else is taken away.
 
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