We get a fair amount of questions from readers about how to solve perplexing problems with electronic gear: HDTV set-up issues, Netflix error messages, cable and configuration problems, you name it, we've seen it. But this time our question came from an unlikely source: my eight-year-old daughter:
"Daddy, why won't the new tablet you bought me for Christmas turn on?" Uh, oh!
The tablet in question was a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, 7-inch version. Overall, it's a great tablet: responsive, quick, nice image quality, full access to the Google Play Store (unlike Kindles), Bluetooth keyboard *and* Bluetooth mouse support and expandable storage via the microSD slot. This last bit is important if you want to keep local copies of music or movies (e.g., not rely on the Cloud) for mobile media entertainment.
Also, the inclusion of an IR (InfraRed) port on the Galaxy Tab 3, and the remote app allows you to turn your tablet into a full-fledged touch screen home theater controller at no additional cost. For a gadget freak, this is pretty cool. Overall, the fast processor, expandable storage, relatively low price, and wide breadth of application support make the Tab 3 an excellent choice for a 7-inch tablet. But try telling that to an eight-year-old who can't get her shiny new tablet to power up after only a day of use, and a full night on the charger.
Although this manifests in different ways for different people, the symptom we saw was that the Galaxy Tab 3 just stayed dark: black screen, no LED lights, nothing. Attempting to charge it from the wall charger or from the PC USB cable had no effect at all. Pressing the power button or home button also had no effect.
After verifying the problem, I used the mighty Google to find all kinds of helpful suggestions, all of which I dutifully tried:
Also, several users have reported that aftermarket OEM USB cables and chargers do not always work with the Samsung tablets. We'd recommend always using the original Samsung factory charger and cable, particularly if you are having charging problems.
Feel free to try any or all of the above as they are completely non-invasive and they might work for you. You can see these suggestions and the more detailed fix in our YouTube video: "Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Won't Turn On? Here's a Fix".
None of these button pushes worked for me so I gave up, sent the unit back to Samsung and (about two weeks later), received a replacement, this one the yellow kids' version of the Tab 3. All was well in the world. My daughter had her tablet back, with "Dragon City," "Plants vs. Zombies 2," "Minecraft" and all that other "educational" fare. Until... about a week later... it happened again. "Daddy, I can't turn my tablet on again." Doh!
I tried the above solutions again, and again, no luck. Would I have to send this one back to Samsung again, or just ditch it and go with an iPad mini? Maybe I should dig a little deeper...
HOW TO REALLY FIX THE POWER UP PROBLEM
What did work for me, I found deep in one of the Android user discussion forums and it's consistent with how I solve the problem of the occasional runaway application on my Samsung Galaxy phone. Apparently if you disconnect and reconnect the battery, then plug the unit back into its factory wall charger, you'll convince the tablet to wake up and try charging the battery again. Less than a minute after doing this and reconnecting the charger, I saw the battery icon appear on the screen, and the unit began charging normally. Success! The only bad news about this is that it's not as simple as removing the back of a Galaxy phone. In fact, it's possible that attempting this will void your warranty, so proceed with caution!
Getting the back off the Galaxy Tab 3 requires gently prying the edges away from the screen in the little crack between the screen and the case all around the perimeter of the screen. Doing this properly requires a thin plastic pry tool and some patience. I used a small jack knife, but would not recommend it as the metal can scratch the case or even potentially cause a short inside the unit if you're not careful. We have had readers write in to say guitar picks and old credit cards also can be used. By all means, be careful and DON'T FORCE IT! Work the pry tool around the edges until the screen separates from the back casing by itself without any force.
Once you've removed the back, gently separate the battery connector from its port by prying it toward you, then push it back down into place. Since originally writing this article, I've had to do this trick a few more times, and in some cases, I've had to leave the battery disconnected for over a minute in order for this to work. If a quick disconnect/reconnect of the battery does not work, then try leaving the battery disconnected for a full two minutes before reconnecting it. Replace the cover by gently placing the tablet back down into its shell and pushing along the perimeter, snapping all the pressure tabs back into place.
We've created a quick video on YouTube showing how to do this. It's a little rough but it should give you an idea how to get the case apart and disconnect and reconnect the battery.
Once you've put it all back together, plug the tablet into the factory wall charger and USB cable. Within about a minute you should see the battery icon appear and normal charging should begin. Be sure to use the original Samsung charging cable and wall charger. We've heard many reports of aftermarket USB cables and chargers not working as well, particularly in the case of charging problems like this.
Hopefully Samsung will figure out what's causing this as I've seen many discussions from people having this exact same problem and I'm sure it has led to a significant number of irate customers and returned products. Depleting a battery all the way down to where it shuts down the device is never a good idea, but it shouldn't effectively "brick" the unit and require minor surgery to get yourself (or your 8-year-old daughter) back in business.
UPDATE (June, 2015): Since writing this, and with feedback from readers, we have a few additional tips for those who don't get back up and running after the disconnection and reconnection of the battery cable:
I've been asked what tool I used for this. It's a standard plastic pry tool. You can get a 10-pack of the plastic pry tools on Amazon for under $2 shipped. People also report decent results using an old credit card or a guitar pick.
Other Issues that Can Cause Similar Symptoms:
There are a couple of other things that could be at play if you can't get your tablet to charge: A dirty or damaged microUSB port can have the same symptom. Examine the port to see if there is any sign of loose or damaged components and blow the port out with compressed air to remove any dust/dirt. You can also try cleaning the port with a Q tip and denatured alcohol. Also, a defective battery will have the same symptom. You should be able to find a replacement battery online for under $20 and replacing it isn't that difficult once you have the back off. I would only do this as a last resort if none of the more detailed tips here work for you and only if you have not seen any damage to the charging port. The port itself can also be replaced if it is visibly damaged but I would recommend getting a pro to that job.
If this helps you get your Galaxy Tab 3 back up and running (or doesn't!), please let us know in the comments.