My brother sent me his Samsung Galaxy S III, a 16GB GT-I9300 android phone – it wasn’t booting. Based on his report of the symptoms, I did some research on the internet and concluded that it was most likely a eMMC failure.
When I got the phone, the first thing I did was to plug in my charger. As expected a battery symbol comes up – not expected is that it doesn’t change, normally it will show a battery level going up as it indicates that it is charging.
I tried turning it on, the Samsung screen comes up, then stays there – doesn’t go away.
Ok, that isn’t good. Next I try to go to the Recovery Settings – press and hold volume up, menu and power. The screen will eventually go off, then the Samsung screen comes up then let go.
Now this seems to indicate that the phone is unable to access partitions in its memory.
/efs, /system, /cache, /data are separate partitions in its memory which is laid out as disk storage – if these are not accessible, the phone cannot boot and is essentially now just a brick. Further research on the internet shows up a lot of information that is contradictory in both nature and content. The only promising thing about the research is that I learnt more about this android smartphone environment. There were a few references to try to correct this by erasing the Nand flash memory, however doing so will require access to a pit file, a partition information table which is similar to a MBR in disk terms.
Even finding a pit file was difficult. I was able to find a zip file on the internet that contained not one, but three pit files. Trawling through more forums, I was able to find out some critical information – the pit files are for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB phone versions, so now I was able to identify the correct one to use, the 16GB one – of course.
Another forum page suggested that we try Nand erase then Re-partition, others say never do this. Other pages suggested that it was possible to fix it by doing this and then installing the stock firmware. In preparation, I downloaded both the android 4.1.2 and 4.3 stock firmwares for this phone which was from HK. I also downloaded Odin 3.07 and 3.09 – some sites say to use 3.07, others to use the later one – I also got 3.10 just in case.
Ok, now to put the phone into downloading mode.
Now we press and hold volume down, menu and power.
Then connect the phone to the computer after making sure that the Samsung USB drivers had been installed.
Now run Odin 3.07, load the pit file, select Re-Partition and Nand Erase All, load the PDA firmware which is the phone firmware for 4.1.2
Now the time to click Start… and… Fail – ok, not unexpected.
What it means is that the Nand flash memory is basically not accessible, cannot be erased, or written which means that my original conclusion was valid – the eMMC is dead. The only way to fix this is to replace the memory chip.
I also did try with different Odin versions, as other forum pages suggest, but the result was still the same. One possibility is that the memory chip being a bga chip might have suffered a fate similar to graphics chips in laptops – perhaps one thing that I could do is to heat it up with my smd rework station, the same way that I did on the Dell laptop – maybe that might fix it if the memory chip hasn’t actually failed, so something to try…