I’ve just solved a rather curious problem with my iPhone 3G S and since previous posts on this site with troubleshooting information have gotten some hits and seem to be of periodic use to people, I though I’d post my solution for posterity.
I used this method on an iPhone 3G S, but I’m confident it also applies to the iPhone 3G, and perhaps even the original iPhone. The problem was that the earbuds that came with my phone stopped working as they should: I could still hear everything through them—calls, music, games, etc., but the inline microphone and clickable controls (volume, play/pause, next/prev track) stopped responding. No one could hear me on calls through the buds, and I could no longer control music or get the phone to answer calls.
At first I wondered whether the earbuds had gone bad. It’s certainly conceivable that the inline module could fail without taking the headphones with it. I also tried resetting the iPhone in various ways to no avail. By far the most curious feature of this issue, though, is that when pairing the iPhone with a Bluetooth stereo headset (Jabra HALO), the play/pause button on the headset wouldn’t work either.
What tipped me off to the problem was that the 3.5mm stereo connector for the earbuds no longer seated properly in its jack on the top of the iPhone: there was about half a mm gap between the connecter base and the tallest extent of the iPhone case. When seated properly it should be flush. Now, seeing the bottom of the jack is no easy thing, even with some bright lights overhead, but when I looked I was pretty sure that there was some lint crammed into the bottom of the jack. That’s right, pocket lint was the culprit. How pocket lint could stop a Bluetooth headset from operating correctly is interesting, and probably says interesting things about the design of the iPhone: high-level functions like play/pause being tied to their low-level inputs (headset jack, Bluetooth radio) in some non-trivial way, but I digress. Removing the lint not only fixed the plug-in earbuds, but also fixed the Bluetooth headset.
Now, a word of caution: sticking things inside electronic connectors is generally not a good idea, and could void your warranty. But, if you’re like me and the idea of relying on your own fine motor control and senses sounds better than taking a walk (or drive or subway journey) to your nearest Apple Store, then read on. You need something small and rigid enough to get inside pick out the lint. My feeling is that those little interdental brushes would be ideal, but I’m a floss man myself and a paperclip was what I had on hand. It will take a bit of doing, since it’s been compacted against the bottom of the jack by your earbud connector. A little scraping and blowing out with compressed air and I was in business again.
Now, if only Apple would allow Bluetooth headsets to do next/prev track functions by implementing the full AVRCP profile.