Russian/foreign cell phones
March 12, 2006 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally spilled some water on my girlfriend's cell phone (a Motorola Razr), and it stopped working. I'd like to get her a new one to replace it, but there's a wrinkle:

She (and more importantly for our purposes, the cell phone) are both from Russia. She visits Russia fairly regularly, and has friends there that she likes to communicate with via SMS. This means that I'd feel remiss if the replacement I got for her didn't have this capability.

So my questions are:
  1. Am I correct in assuming that if I were to buy an American cell phone, it wouldn't be able to send SMS messages in Cyrillic? Would there be any simple way of making an American phone able to do so? (My GF implied that the Cyrillic capability is part of the internal software on the phone, not the SIMM — is this correct?)
  2. Is there any simple way to obtain a cell phone manufactured for sale in a foreign country? Ideally, I'd like to get her a replacement that had the Cyrillic letters on the keypad as well as the Roman letters, as her current (broken) one does, but I somehow doubt that's going to be very easy to find around here.
  3. Any other suggestions on ways to replace this device? Ideally, I'd like to get an exact replacement, of course, but I have a feeling that a "cool" phone with Cyrillic SMS capability would be acceptable as well, even if it's not a Razr.
Finally, please be gentle with the jargon: I don't own a cell phone myself, so I'm going in to this somewhat blind.
posted by Johnny Assay to Technology (13 answers total)
If the water you spilled on the phone was pure, that is: non-sugary, you might be able to salvage it.
Try opening the phone - unscrew whatever screws you can locate and gently pry it open.
Then dry it in an oven (not microwave) at approximately 50 degree celsius for several hours with the oven door ajar.
This usually does the trick.
Good luck!
posted by Thug at 10:31 AM on March 12, 2006

First: remove the battery and give the phone a while to dry out. I've heard putting it in a bag with a bowl of rice will help draw the moisture out. It may not be dead.

If it actually is dead, and you need to buy a new phone, make sure it is unlocked. If you buy a Razr from, say, Cingular, it will most likely be locked and only Cingular SIM cards will only work in it. You can use an online service like GSM Liberty to unlock your phone.

If you get an unlocked Razr in the US, you can flash it with a language pack that includes Russian. MotoX is one of the main sites for information on Razr flashing.

Both the unlocking and flashing processes require a USB data cable. I have done both the unlocking and flashing on my Razr, and while it was kind of nerve-wracking, it went without a hitch.
posted by zsazsa at 10:38 AM on March 12, 2006

Yup, most electronics can survive fresh water with no lasting harm. It might be wise to take the battery out until everything is dry. If the water you spilled on it was not plain water, you could try washing the phone with clean (ideally distilled and deionized) water and then thoroughly drying it as Thug suggests before re-applying power. If this doesn't work, you haven't lost anything.
posted by hattifattener at 10:46 AM on March 12, 2006

Hah, big problem. Cingular and T-Mobile have pulled the RAZR off the shelves. link
posted by drstein at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2006

Can't most mobile phones operate in a ton of different languages anyway? Surely if you could get another Razr, it'd just be a matter of setting the language to Russian in the preferences? I don't know much about Motorolas, but Nokias work like that.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:42 AM on March 12, 2006

"oven door ajar"

Carbon monoxide poisoning. (Scroll down to "Why can't the oven door be opened to heat the kitchen?")
posted by abcde at 11:48 AM on March 12, 2006

My wife's British-bought L6 (the RAZR is L7) only has English, French, German and Italian language settings.
posted by teleskiving at 12:09 PM on March 12, 2006

Russian ebay?
posted by fshgrl at 12:16 PM on March 12, 2006

abcde: I'd hope our friend is smart enough not to leave a gas oven door open, but just in case, that's helpful. I hadn't really thought about that point myself, as every oven I've owned has been electric.

As for resurrecting the phone, a very key point no one is asking is "Was the phone on?" I've done this very thing with two cell phones (one was in the washer with a pair of pants, and the other with an unintentional dip in a pool). The former breathed again, the other was completely DOA - and the deciding factor (both the same model of cell phones) was the power status.

I'd say, unfortunately, if it was on, you're kinda screwed and shouldn't try to dry it out - it's more than likely a waste of your time. But if luck was on your side, you should have no problems drying it out and turning it back on.
posted by plaidrabbit at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2006

Yeah, I shouldn't have used such a stark wording when chances are his is electric. Sorry about that.
posted by abcde at 1:23 PM on March 12, 2006

If you do need to replace the phone, you should be able to swap the keypad with your girlfriends to get the Cyrillic letters on the keys. I believe you will need a Torx T6 screwdriver to do this.
posted by Yorrick at 2:25 PM on March 12, 2006

Yikes. Not to derail, but in an apartment I had that was chronically underheated (and fairly small) I used to use the gas oven open-door heating method quite frequently.

And I do consider myself smart. Glad I'm not dead.
posted by TonyRobots at 3:21 PM on March 12, 2006

plaidrabbit: the deciding factor was almost certainly chlorine and salt in the pool.

As to the thread; getting a generic Razr, flashing it and swapping keypads ought to work fine. But before you do that, I'd take the battery out and give it a bath in isopropanol (cheaply obtained at an electronics store), which will flush the water out and evaporate leaving no residue. There's a good chance it can be resurrected if the water in it is clean, hasn't been in there long and the battery was taken out relatively quickly.
posted by polyglot at 4:46 AM on March 14, 2006

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