How to Fix the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con Sync Issue
The Nintendo Switch launch weekend was marked by The Legend of Zelda's return to glory, long lines at places like Gamestop, and, unfortunately, rampant syncing issues between the console's left "Joy-con" controller and the system itself.
An electronics tinkerer on YouTube seems to have already discovered why the left Joy-Con has been plagued with intermittent connectivity issues when the Switch is being played on a TV. According to the folks over at the Spawn Wave media YouTube channel, while the right Joy-Con has a separate bluetooth antenna, the antenna on the left Joy-Con is smaller and is embedded into the controller's circuit board. It's also seated next to a metal shield that houses the Joy-Con's joystick, which is naturally where a player's hand goes, thus creating two additional barriers between the antenna and the Switch.
Spawn Wave connected a small wire between the left Joy-con's antenna and the bottom of the controller, which helps improve reception because it's been moved away from the shield and the player's hand. Problem solved.
The internal intricacies of the Joy-con are not particularly interesting. What's exciting about this fix, though, is that within a few hours of discovering that there was a problem with the Switch, the DIY community had found a solution. Meanwhile, Nintendo's current fix is to recommend that you don't play the Switch near aquariums or around wireless devices.
Situations like this are exactly why it's important to remember who owns your electronics. In recent years, manufacturers have tried to use End User License Agreements, software locks, copyright law, proprietary screws, and illegal warranty-void-if-removed stickers to keep consumers from tinkering and repairing their gadgets. Such anti-repair measures are why a group of independent repair companies have started to push for "right to repair" legislation in eight states, which would prevent companies from making artificial blocks to prevent repair.
To Nintendo's credit, the Switch appears to be quite repairable, earning an 8/10 score from iFixit. But the Entertainment Software Association—a trade group that includes Nintendo—is lobbying against legislation that would make it easier for independent repair shops and consumers to fix their devices.
Nintendo might release an over-the-air software fix for the Switch's Joy-Con issues, but anyone who feels confident with a screwdriver and a soldering iron can fix this problem for themselves. If this ends up being an engineering flaw that requires a hardware fix, Nintendo would save itself a lot of headaches by empowering third party repair shops to repair these.