Nokia Lumia 920 Proximity Sensor Problem

Like some other early 920 adopters, I have hit the proximity sensor problem. I’m referring to the issue where proximity sensor area takes dust and the phone refuses to bring the screen on while in a call, preventing to touch even the End Call button. Very annoying and show-stopper class problem. People, including me, have temporarily fixed the issue by blowing compressed air into the front facing camera area – but it comes back as more dust gets in over just a few more days…

Anyway.. The reason for this post is to actually show you bunch of microscope pictures to show why it happens and whether your 920 could also be susceptible to the problem – if you know where to look, maybe you can tell without a microscope. So before I replaced my phone, I took some pictures. Here we go:

First one is a close-up front-facing-camera that shows how dust have gone inside. I know it’s inside because as you can see around the camera, it’s quite clean, unscratched blackness after a good wipe. Keep reading…


Next up is the first look at the “rift”… Below, to help you with frame of reference, I left one lint on the upper right and kept the front facing camera on the lower left. What you will later see in greater detail here is that the section where yellow ends and black begins, there is a rift going deep, perhaps a millimeter or more. I will do my best to capture this. Keep reading..


Below, is a clarification on something. When you look with naked eye, you might think that the rift is only in the area where the yellow case shape is different (i.e. see the corner in the middle of the picture where the left-side of the rift appears wider?).. Well.. Turns out the rift goes on the entire upper section of the phone. The wider area is about 10-12mm in length and is probably contributing to the dust accumulation problem – but rift is open from the left edge of the phone to the right. Keep reading…


This next picture is more telling. Microscopes have very limited depth of field, so where you focus makes big difference. I attempted to focus to the floor of the rift where there are pile of dusts. Camera is slightly angled, looking from near-center of the phone towards upper area of the phone to catch the wall of the rift going deep. Shadowed yellow casing wall going deep to the floor is visible below. Once you see this you understand it’s no surprise dust is getting there. The top touchable surface of the phone is out of focus because I am focusing on the deeper floor of the rift.


Here, a bit closer look at the floor of the dusty rift…


So that’s it. Unfortunately this problem is impacting my phone and I’ll be returning it for a replacement one.

Now.. To compare other edges, I have below a photo of the bottom edge of the phone where there is absolutely no rift. Black edging sits on top of yellow case. This is how upper side should have been.


While I had the phone under microscope, here’s a bonus picture of rear-facing camera that remained pretty clean so far. Dust is not getting inside. Those few small dots you see are on the outer surface, as are the tiny scratches.


That’s it. When I get my replacement phone I’ll take more shots to see if the new phone is different. Stay tuned.

7 replies »

    • You should go to the store where you bought it, or if purchased online, contact them. You’ll need to go through warranty replacement process. Typically if within 30 days they’ll replace no questions asked, beyond that you may need to deal with Nokia support. Hope this helps.

      As for mine, well; despite my constant reproduction of the problem at the time of blog post, as luck would have it, phone started to “behave”. Without a solid repro in front of a store person, I didn’t want to waste any time. It’s working fine for the moment but I expect it to come back. If it does and if I do get a replacement, I’ll post pictures of the replacement.

  1. If someone gets a new 920, do you think this problem could be avoided by covering up the rift then? Maybe with a phone case….maybe a slight application of rubber cement? I always thought the dust was getting in through the speaker and moving sideways across the face, but I can see how this might be the real culprit. Unfortunately for me, I ran into this problem already (hence I found your article).

    • So as of Feb 27, phone started to act up again but intermittently. I think its getting close to solid repro. When it does I will get the replacement and then will report back on differences if any. I don’t know the following:
      – whether there is a better designed hardware revision
      – whether that hardware has a user readable revision number to check while purchasing.

      so perhaps taking with you a magnifying glass could help? Let me know if any of you know of a hw difference.

  2. Thanks very much for this. I am on my second 920 from phones4u and I am having the same problem. I returned the first one for this fault after about four weeks and now the replacement is playing up after three weeks. I called their technical helpline and they were unaware of this issue, which surprised me. I did notice however that their phone menu asked for you to press 1 for reporting a fault with a nokia! I wonder if its a particular batch or a manufacturing fault that is now fixed? Thanks for this information, its been really useful in understanding the problem.

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