Telcos

Cracking Open the classic Motorola StarTAC flip phone

47 comments
mreevery
mreevery

This article is a goldmine of information. Our StarTac has a damaged housing. I want to switch the RF board from one working StarTac ST7868W to another (spare) working ST7868W so I can continue to use the current Verizon service and number. I'm following your photos. I have the antenna off and the antenna end of the housing's back cover is free but the other end (where the photo shows you prying with a screwdriver) is not. In your photo caption you mention your discovering the two holes in the end of the housing and that you found them important to the cover's removal. I see the holes but I haven't discovered how to use them in releasing the back cover. I'm hoping you can clarify this and would appreciate any suggestions. (As an alternative, I could just remove the top halves of each phone containing the speaker and the battery by disassembling the hinge and try to thread the yellow ribbon cable through the hinge as you did. I could then swap the top halves then but I notice you ran into problems with this (ribbon cable broke). Any tips? What are my chances of doing this successfully?) 03-14-2009: I took the option of switching the flip tops and things worked out well.

insatiable.89
insatiable.89

I would like to buy Motorola Jaguar StarTAC with all it things so where ? how ? help me please

bscott
bscott

Perfect condition, extended battery, and oh yes a leather carrying case for the flashy types.

sableindian
sableindian

Body Armor: We just called these shields. I liked the sound of them when we opened a new box.

sableindian
sableindian

Under Mini Monolith, this is part of a frame that is used in the phone at the beginning of assembly. I believe it was to keep parts in place, or a map for the assembler to know where parts go. Most Motorola phones had these skeletons. I worked for Motorola froom 1992 to 2001. I started in Libertyville, IL. I am really enjoying this gallery

Timpraetor
Timpraetor

If the StarTAC were updated to modern system support, it would be the ultimate tank-phone replacement for those of us who just need a phone. No camera, no music, no videos, no texting - just a simple, reliable, keep-it- forever phone. But, that wouldn't allow for "replacement every two" plans since the phone would still work... Ah, the good old days.

inmyhouse
inmyhouse

Wish I could use a sim card in my old Motorola Nextel Clamshell phone - now THAT was a phone!

alex_maday
alex_maday

The block is called an RF filter and it does have a It isn't phenolic though. It is solid ceramic block, onto which a circuit is 'printed' using a silkscreening type process. It is an RF filter. The holes, if you look closely, have been gouged to varying amounts. By using a dremel tool, these filters were tuned to only allow signals matching a certain frequency to pass. I'm not an engineer, so I can't elaborate on what was done exactly in electrical terms, but I worked at Motorola back in Albuquerque, way back when. alex

dmuth
dmuth

An AJAX-based image viewer would be nice. Having to scroll down half a page after clicking on every new image is just silly. And a bad UI.

herm.harrison
herm.harrison

Hands down, the best phone I ever used. Only real problem with the design was the antenna. I lost count of how many times I replaced mine. But in terms of getting a signal and making clear calls, nothing else touches it. We had five at work and retired them only because we switched carriers. Made the jump from a StarTAC to an AT&T Tilt a few months ago. While the Tilt does many things the StarTAC couldn't, it's still not as good as a phone. I agree the 911 c**p was just a ploy to give the government a simpler way to track users and the phone companies a way to sell new phones. And the loss of the analog band for cell use has far more to do with money than with safety. Our one user who didn't want a "smart" phone went with a Razr2 V9. Sure it takes pictures (not very good ones) and plays music (not as well as a dedicated MP3 player), but otherwise it falls short of the StarTACs ability to pull in a signal and make a clear call. I doubt we'll ever see a cell phone as well made or ahead of its time as was the StarTAC. RIP old buddy.

informatica
informatica

I had the original star tack and it didn't had any lcd, just led digits, and not many, only 10, no messages and no vibration. The batery lasted 12 hours and needed 3 to recharge. I kept poking my belly with the anthena. It was a nice looking phone, though.

nabeel_co
nabeel_co

That thing is a magnet, and that "thermal switch" is actually called a reed switch which is activated by the magnet to turn the display and keys off.

Pazman
Pazman

I don't think that was a picture of a thermal fuse, but a magnetic reed switch, likely to indicate when you have the clamshell in the open position.

i2fun
i2fun

My all time favorite Cell Phone. I still have mine, and it still works. I put it on a charger few hours ago. But it did see too much use and abuse and one side hinge is cracked. Other than that? ...I have a bag of Cell Phones that either didn't last but a few months or just weren't that great. Moto Ruled with StarTAC!

impala_sc
impala_sc

After putting up with a POS Alltel Nokia I went back to Verzion and got a StarTAC when they were on clearance. I used it until last fall '07. For the last 6 months or so that ribbon was messed up and I couldn't open the flip completely or it would shut down. Still, it lasted twice as long as any other cell phone will. The only problem was the antenna breaking. I solved that by gluing a piece of hose around it.

dgurney
dgurney

We could still be using our StarTACs today if phone-makers and service providers hadn't bought off Congress to railroad "E-911" legislation through, forcing everyone to replace their phones with "GPS-capable" ones. This was supposedly to allow emergency services to find you. Well guess what? It's years later, and this service still isn't available in most places. Municipalities could never afford to install the necessary equipment. But who cares, now? The manufacturers sold handsets, and telcos got everybody to renew their contracts to get those handsets. Verizon even started early on reaming their customers, by refusing to activate StarTACs well in advance of the government cutoff date. TYPICAL SCREW JOB. And nobody is talking about it.

patwoman
patwoman

This is the best phone ever for mountainous & fringe areas. Dual band phones did not ignore analog signals in favor of digital in low signal strength digital areas. I still have my old StarTac and a bunch of accessories. Everything still works but cannot be activated anymore because 911 cannot locate the caller. Anyone interested in my stuff; hands-free speaker w/car charger, 4-batteries, desktop charger for 1-battery & cell phone and of course the phone itself. Pay for shipping and the stuff is yours. Contact me @ patwoman2@excite.com

Narg
Narg

I have my old StarTAC too. Got curious and pulled it out of it's box the other day. It's bigger than my new AT&T Tilt!!! Closed even. Open it and this phone is a monster. My first cell phone was actually a "bag phone" with a handset that resembled the old Ma-Bell telephones.

john3347
john3347

Still got my old StarTac, too. Recently tried to re-activate it and they told me I couldn't activate it because it was not 911 compliant or some such garbage. Second best phone I ever had. Best was an Audiovox CDM 8900.

pepoluan
pepoluan

I think it's a kind of micro-Centronics-style connector. Remember the Parallel ports on printers? However, I'm just making that term up as I go :D So beats me what its properly called ;)

Paul
Paul

I loved that phone, I had one for years and never had a problem with it. I dropped it and threw it and I believe it got ran over and still worked fine.

aickler
aickler

Interesting ... I still have mine (it was my 2nd cell)!

cathar.gnostic
cathar.gnostic

In the older style phones there is a lot of noise generated by the components. To isolate them tis way was a good idea but now only the CPU and Rf stages need it. It's a pity Motorola still solder the metal to the board. I not sure if Motorola are cheap skates but others do not. Hey Motorola, make them clip on, it annoys customers when for the sake of a clip on cover the contaminant cannot be removed and photo's and contacts are lost. Bad marketing move for micro cents in cost.

fonebank
fonebank

If you get anyone who is interested in purchasing your phone, then its ok otherwise you can go for recycling mobile phones or sell for charity which is good option. :)

tonyj_stirling
tonyj_stirling

As some-one who had a job for a short time constructing Motorola mobiles I can confirm that it IS a reed switch. When a magnet is nearby (possibly the unidentified part early in the series of pics on the top section) then the two parts of thin metal are attracted towards it and make a connection, thereby closing the circuit.

pmik
pmik

I finally scrapped mine after 5 or 6 yrs for the same reason...when I opened it, it often shut down. It happened inconsistently but about 75% of the time. I asked about having it repaired and everyone said it was going to be too expensive, waste of money, buy a new phone. So I bought a RaZr which I like but I almost wish I had spent the $$$ to have the StarTac repaired...but eventually something else would have gone wrong.

JohnBeaman
JohnBeaman

StarTac was the best phone I ever had. Best reception, and in places most all other phones would wimp out. Had to buy replacement twice. Seems I sat on it too hard. Then they refused to service it anymore. Bummer, cause I still have my old one, and mis it's great look and feel. It did have one very serious design flaw though. No volume control. Never broke my antenna either. I miss it. Too bad they make all cell phones obsolete after about two years. Now I have a Samsung that is as sleek as a razor. Great performance except battery lasts less than 12 hours. I miss my StarTac, such a kool phone.

rmcguire
rmcguire

Occasionally, a product is designed and manufactured that is truly functional, has few negative features, and is built to last a long time. If sold at a reasonable price point, this product actually loses the company bundles of money. So in this case, the only way to get around the superior functionality of the StarTAC was to legislate it into obsolescence.

jimf128
jimf128

Still have a couple of them in a drawer somewhere. Couldn't kill 'em with a stick! The later models got rid of the pull-up antenna so no more breakage. The item you called a "fuse" is really a magnetic reed switch, which along with the magnetic bar in the lid, told the phone when it was open, to answer, etc.

dgurney
dgurney

A "monster"? This phone is still remarkably small. Try comparing it to some of Motorola's offerings of the last couple of years. It's no bigger than an E815, and might even be thinner. Bigger than a Tilt? Not based on the pictures in the CNet review.

AJNorth02
AJNorth02

My trusty, and much-loved, StarTac 7868 suffered damage recently when it was accidentally knocked out of my pocket - and promptly run over by a car. Astoundingly, the only damage sustained was a dead display (and a minor crack in the battery case). I was exceedingly fortunate to have come across a superb mobile phone repair outfit in Salem, OR, on a cross-country trip a few months ago. When contacted, they said that they could indeed repair it, and sure enough, today I received a totally reconditioned instrument which looks just as it did out-of-the-box six and a half years ago (and performs flawlessly). Should anyone have a phone that needs attention (of whatever make) I cannot recommend them too highly: 3G Mobile Inc. 2416 13th ST, SE Salem, OR 97302-2546 503-370-9708 3GMobile@comcast.net Even today, one truly can get what they paid for!

blah
blah

I believe it is properly called a Mezzanine connector.

lisa.rosenbaum
lisa.rosenbaum

My husband had one of the first ones out - he then passed the phone to our son - who used it until two (maybe three?) years ago - he's on his second phone since then - great little phone - although he did go through quite a few antenae - he purchased them in bulk :)

pmik
pmik

I just scrapped my ANALOG StarTAC after 8? yrs. It had better reception than the newer digital model (a friend and I did some tests). I finally scrapped it for a RAZR when Bell said it would be almost impossible (and very expensive)to have it repaired. Somehow the flip lid connections to the dial pad portion of the phone was losing its connection (probably a bad tiny wire had worn. So, alas, I had to scrap it. I'll bet my new RAZR couldn't be dropped in water and survive. I've been told they shouldn't get even slightly wet in the rain or they are toast.

kferraro
kferraro

I am still using my StarTac, it is my only cell phone, I love it, it does everything I need a phone to do (yes it does text!) and sometimes in areas with poor coverage (northern Wisconsin) the analog has saved me. I am hoping I will still be able to get a battery the next time it is due for replacement. Thanks for the crack open.

james.koepfler
james.koepfler

Thanks for the nostalgia tour. That phone was my first cell phone (I resisted the urge to get one for years) It spend about an hour once trapped in a bucket of water. It took five days to dry out but it continued to function for quite some time. I eventually moved on to another phone but I still have this one in my desk drawer

sachin99
sachin99

When discarded cell phones are not recycled, most eventually end up in municipal solid waste facilities. Although there are cell phone collection and recycling programs, mobile phone recycling

bshodges3
bshodges3

One heck of a good cell phone. I used one for years. I was told that in the developmental efforts, it was boiled in a pot of water, driven over by a truck and treated really shabbily. I went through three antennas, one under warranty and then bought five on Ebay for a $1 a piece. I was really upset when I moved from VA to SC and was told that they WOULD NOT connect me in the local service.

Greystoke
Greystoke

I hate to tell you but i fully submerged a RAZR. Pulled it out and then apart. Let it dry for 2 days and it worked like a champ. My friend called me a lucky SOB LOL.

fabioq
fabioq

Funny thing I was going through some boxes this past weekend and found it in a box. I plugged it in and it still works. I even have the additional screen that had the calendaring and other features and yes, I remember replacing that antenna. I even had the antenna replaced once with flashing colored LEDs. The LEDs flashed when the phone rang and while it was being used. It was my 3nd phone. The first one was a Nokia (still have it as well) and the 2nd was the first generation Startac, which had just the basic LEDs screen not the LCD - I don't remember what happened with that one. The one shown here is the 2nd generation. I'm now on 7th or 8th phone. My current one is a RAZR and it gives me the same feeling the Startac used to give me. I have gotten it it wet several times and so far it's still working. My wife had the RAZR as well but I think she dunk it one too many times (once in a rain puddle once in a sink full of water and twice in the toilet). The last time did not survive - actually it was able to receive calls only. Mine has been totally hacked it and it's my perfect phone. Over all I'd say I've had good experience with Motorola phones, aside from a few lapses most of my cell phones have been Motorola. Keep up the good work Motorola! -Fabio

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

My star tac was an upgrade from my old "bag phone". http://antennaguy.com/Images-BagPhone/BagPhone-137.jpg I had my star tac in the dry well on my jet ski when i managed to take a rather nasty spill. The dry well came open and my star tac came out. The water was about 12-15 feet deep and beleive it or not i managed to dive for it and find it! I left the power off and battery disconnected yet electrical taped to the phone just in case something like that happened...we used to take jet ski's on a large lake to an island in the center and camp out, so showing off my new star tac was essential lol. Well I left it ontop of the pier shelter on some tin drying out for a few hours and it worked flawlessly for several years. The next time i did take the battery out and tape like before. This time I attached a piece of foam so it wouldn't end up on the lake bottom like so many pairs of my Oakleys. Yeah, they were marketed as buoyant just like my walmart croakies they were attached too as they were sinking.

drew.mcbee
drew.mcbee

Funny about the water comment. I dunked the same phone twice (in a period of 2 months ) in the lake (Erie), and both times it came back to life after drying out.

fabioq
fabioq

My wife's Razr was dunked several times. I think the trick to being able to save it is to get it out of the water right away and theN REMOVE the battery. Everytime it happened to her I was around and did that very thing. The last time I wasn't around so she just got it out of the water and dried as much as she could from the outside and "saved" it for me to clean out (as I had done before). But she didn't think of removing the battery. So it sat there several hours WITH the battery. When I got to it, I did the usual taking it apart and cleaning all the excess water and drying the battery, but the battery never worked right. I tried charging it with my Razr but it never worked. Only when I tried my own battery on her Razr that I was able to get it to power up, but it was only able to receive calls - so I believe if you're going to have a chance to save your cell phone (probably any cell phone - not just the Razr) when it gets dunked, it's best to remove the battery right away, otherwise you're risking all sorts of shorts all over the place and will probably never work.

Timpraetor
Timpraetor

My original StarTAC was dropped in the ocean in Daytona, thrown (while still attached to my belt) into a pool in Vegas, and even run through the washer. Each time, it continued to work after being dried out. Only after the washing machine episode did I even start having glitches - and THOSE turned out to be the battery.