#909 Fix Your Broken iPhone Yourself

28 Mar

Through various circumstances, I ended up with an iPhone last year. I would have been happy to continue with my basic, unlocked Nokia, but after a week with the iPhone my husband and I were loathe to admit it was an awesome, sleek looking piece of technology. Most of the point of an iPhone is that it looks cool. So when a relatively innocuous fall resulted in this:
broken iphone screen

Well, the whole sleek and smooth look that is the hallmark of the iPhone was gone. Not to mention that the iPhone was shedding shattered glass at a fast rate. Interestingly enough, the glass didn’t seem too harmful in terms of sharpness and cutting, but it had to be fixed. The iPhone glass kept disintegrating. After a little research, what seemed like a huge and expensive fix at first, started to shape up into not that big of a deal.

First a look at the prices:

  • Apple charges $149 (!) for an iPhone screen repair for the 3GS, which is what I have (not including shipping and tax). Total cost depending on the shipping and replacement option I chose would put it close to $200. Just a note that Apple is always overpriced, IMO.
  • Third party service repair runs about $100 for an iPhone screen repair (not including shipping), although I found one on sale for $30-$40 depending on my shipping option. But you have to ship it off in most cases.
  • DIY kits run the gamut of anywhere from $2.50 to $70. The kits include various tools.

O.K., so as a consummate DIYer, I should have gotten a kit and be done with it, right? But I was doubtful. I didn’t have the time. I didn’t want to mess around with it. On sale, paying $30 for someone else to take care of it didn’t seem so bad. I would have said no to $100, but maybe… Then my husband declared, “If anyone can fix it, you can!” Well, nothing like an ego boost to kick my lazy butt into gear to fix my own iPhone.

But then there were all the choices for iPhone screen replacements (or digitizers as they’re called). What was the difference between the cheap ones and the more expensive ones? What about the tools? I didn’t want to order something that wasn’t right and didn’t work. I then remembered technology is the Wild West in terms of prices and offerings. So really, there is no difference between a $5 kit and a $65 kit…except $60. So I ordered a $7.99 kit (including shipping!) from Amazon to fix my broken iPhone and got to it.

Disclaimer: This is not a DIY tutorial. There are loads of those online. I included a link for a video at the bottom of the post. This is my experience and what I learned from it.

First, I realized the kit I got only came with a suction cup, two pry tools, adhesive and the new screen. There were no screwdrivers, so I had to get my own. Luckily, I do have a tiny screwdriver from a repair sunglasses kit and a magnetic one for tiny tech jobs from past attempts to mess with my laptop. If you don’t have either of these, make sure you get a kit that comes with a screwdriver. Those screws are TINY! A regular screwdriver will not fit.
replacement iphone screen

Now that I was fully equipped:iphone and tools 2

I realize I also needed a sharp pen knife (and I already had the needed hairdryer on hand):
swiss army knife
I began. Eeek!:
open iphone


There was no going back…

iphone in two pieces

I got the screen off…but I still had to take the broken glass off the frame as I was only replacing the glass, not the frame…This was where the pen knife came into play…
broken iphone screen
iphone glass removal

The frame was finally free of all broken glass and old adhesive!
iphone frame

Now I put it back together…with some new adhesive from the kit and the new, replacement iPhone screen (digitizer)…and reconnected and screwed everything back in. Would it work? (Nervous moments while it rebooted…)
iphone with apple logo

The inexpensive digitizer replacement screen worked great. And the iPhone is now back to its original state!
iphone turned on


Lessons learned:

  • DIY is always cheaper and provides a huge ego boost. I can fix my iPhone!
  • Anyone can do this. It’s not hard, just time consuming. It took me about an hour and a half because the glass was really shattered, and I was documenting. I imagine one hour is average for the repair.
  • Do NOT touch the LCD screen. Fingerprints are hard to clean.
  • If your iPhone LCD is broken, it’s just more expensive for that part as well as the screen, but DIY for both is totally feasible. How to tell? If your iPhone screen is shattered, but you see everything behind it fine than your LCD is fine. If the screen is not showing things right or at all, then your LCD is compromised.
  • The only special parts you REALLY need are the tiny screwdriver, replacement adhesive and replacement iPhone screen. The other tools can be improvised or replaced with something else or things like a fingernail. You don’t need a heat gun. My not-very-good hairdryer was fine. And a sharp pen knife can do a good job in the place of a specific tool.
  • Go cheap on the replacement iPhone digitizer. They’ll all get the the job done – but some will save you more money than others. Get the one that saves money.
  • All model iPhones are different. iPhone 3G is NOT the same as iPhone 3GS. Make sure you get the right one.

There are lots of DIY tutorials for iPhone screen replacements on YouTube and elsewhere. The most thorough and helpful that I found was this one:

They have lots more videos on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch repairs.

So if you think you have to pay a lot for fixing your shattered iPhone screen – I only paid $7.99 and with a little bit of time.

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