Yeah, I know this is off topic… This is not about trailer hitches, towing, or bike racks, but it is a resource sorely needed and what better place to put it than here.
My iPhone dropped out of my pocket onto some rocks the other day. It only fell about 2 feet, but it smashed the screen to smithereens. The screen still worked and I put packing tape over it to protect my face while I considered my options for fixing it. There were some vague tutorials out there on this subject, and I was a little apprehensive, but decided to give it a go. Apple wants almost $300 to fix the screen, which seems steep for a $400 phone. I ordered a replacement glass face off of eBay for about $25 and it arrived in about 10 days.
This morning I did a run to the local hardware store and Radio Shack to pick up the required tools. I bought an X-Acto knife with a flat, stub-nosed blade for prying the glass off the LCD, some Goo-Gone for helping to loosen the glue holding the glass to the LCD, some cotton swabs for applying the Goo-Gone, some Windex for cleaning the LCD, and some Elmer’s rubber cement for glueing the glass on.
In the image above you can see how I’m using the blade to gently lift the glass shards while using the q-tip to apply Goo-Gone to loosen the adhesive. It takes a long time… Set aside 2-3 hours if you want to do it right. I recommend applying the Goo-Gone liberally before lifting the glass so that any air pockets created will be filled with the solvent. Be very slow and deliberate and let the glass lift itself as much as possible. If your screen is not shattered as badly as mine, it will be more difficult or nearly impossible, as the larger chunks are very hard to remove. I thought about trying a hair dryer to soften the glue, but didn’t have one handy.
Once the glass has been largely removed, I used the same blade to scrape off the adhesive. I think I went a little overboard with the Goo-Gone. More on that later… You can also see some O-ring sticking out of the sides of the phone. That o-ring was damaged pretty badly getting this apart since it was glued into the adhesive in places. I’m not sure how important it is, but I’m not going to worry about it.
Above you can see the pile of debris I’ve created and the tools I was using. The replacement glass is shown, too. The LCD is now ready to be cleaned with Windex.
I applied a little rubber cement to each of the four corners under the black portion of the glass and stuck the face on. I decided not to try putting glue between the LCD and the glass, as it would be almost impossible to do without bubbles. I cannot tell the difference between a phone with glue and a phone without glue, so other than sealing it up, there is no visible need for it.
Pressing the button and watching the phone come on was a great relief. However, when I tried the touch panel, it didn’t work at first. OMG, I destroyed my phone!!! Fortunately after waiting a few more minutes it was working just fine. It must have been the windex evaporating off. The touchscreen now works just like new. However, there is some strange shadowing on the screen that is new. I think I must have applied a little too much goo-gone and had it go behind the LCD. It doesn’t affect the performance, but you can definitely see a slight shadow. That said, it is 50X better now than it was before and I saved $250, so I can live with the shadow. Maybe it will go away, too over time.
This was a difficult and time consuming process, but I’m happy with the result. If I had destroyed the phone in the process, I was planning to buy an LCD/Glass unit for $165 as my backup plan. Fortunately plan A did the trick.
**** UPDATE 06/23 ****
The shadowing that appeared on the screen seems to be slowly healing itself. I think the adhesive remover is slowly evaporating out from between the backlight and the LCD. The pattern has changed substantially and is getting lighter and lighter. Hopefully it will disappear all together. I’m thinking about leaving it in the sun for a while to see if it speeds the evaporation.
Also, the lack of the o-ring is noticeable. Some lint has already made it behind the screen. At some point, I’ll remove the glass again and do a better job of sealing it. I think a large gauge syringe could be used to squirt a small bead of rubber cement all the way around the screen to take the place of the original o-ring without getting it under the visible part of the screen.
**** UPDATE 07/12 ****
The dark spots on the screen continue to disappear, albeit slowly. I still have not sealed the glass up, thinking that the goo gone needs a way for the vapors to escape. Compare the picture below to the original image. You’ll see it is much, much better. Maybe a few more weeks and it will be clear… Be careful not to use too much solvent so this doesn’t happen to you.
**** UPDATE 09/25 ****
Well, the display stopped healing itself about where the last image shows. Overall I’d say the project was a success. Some weird things that resulted from this project… The screen worked great with two exceptions. First, the display calibration seems to wander more than before. When you play a game, or use an application for an extended period of time (~>5 min), the screen sometimes stops recognizing your finger. To fix, you simply lock the phone and unlock it again. This seems to reset the calibration. The second thing is that the auto-dim feature when you hold the phone to your face is sporadic. That means you sometimes will mute the phone with your face.
The first problem is probably due to the lack of adhesive between the LCD and the glass. It means there is more variation in the capacitance between the touch panel and the user’s finger. Finding a way to glue it would probably solve this problem.
I’m stumped about the second problem. I’ve since verified that my light sensor works, so it must be related to the new glass somehow.
Tinkering is a hobby of mine, so I decided to buy and install a new LCD/touchpanel/glass assembly to see what that process is like as well. Found one on ebay for ~$175 delivered. Being an electrical engineer by training and having pretty good motor skills, I have to say it was much more difficult than I expected… At one point, I thought the phone was dead for good.
My notes from the job:
1) Getting the antenna cover off was a big challenge. Both “disassembly tools” that came with the LCD broke before I got the antenna cover off. I ended up using a chisel to pry the cover off and that seems to have worked pretty well.
2) Getting the aluminum backing off made the antenna cover look easy! With both disassembly tools already broken, I used a small jeweler’s screw driver to pry and pry until I finally got it to come loose. In the process I scraped and bent the case pretty badly. I was able to bend it back into shape, but it’s definitely a little dog-eared. All the videos on youtube made it look easy and it was anything but easy for me. Maybe my phone was unique…
3) Getting the rest of the phone apart is not very difficult, but putting it back together is. There is a ribbon cable with no connector that slides into a connector on the motherboard. It is very difficult to reseat properly. Don’t forget to reconnect it when you reassemble. There are a total of 5 connectors that need to be seated with great precision in a very tight space. It took me about five attempts before all the connectors were finally seated properly.
The phone works like new now, but it was a big job. Having done both repairs, it’s a tough call which way I’d go in the future. Both have pros and cons. The prospect of paying $175 for a new screen and still risking that the phone won’t work when you’re done is a tough one…