broken iphone screenMy iPhone suffered one too many drops recently and as a result the glass was shattered.  Although the iPhone glass is incredibly tough it is not indestructible.  It is glass after all!  Well, I did my research and I tried to fix it on the cheap.  This is my sad story.

Basically the iPhone screen is constructed of three layers, the famously smudgy glass screen sandwiched on top of a glass digitizer and finally the LCD.  The parts are all fused together and as such the iPhone was never designed to just have the glass screen repaired.  The screen, digitizer, and LCD come as one part, therefore, if the glass screen breaks you must replace the whole LCD part.  After reading early reports of how difficult or near impossible it is to repair just the broken screen I wanted to buy a replacement OEM part on-line and be done with it.  However, all the on-line dealers were out of stock and those who had stock were charging $200 plus shipping.

The second option was to have Apple repair or replace the phone.  However, because I am Canadian and the first generation iPhone was not sold in Canada, they would not support me.  I could drive to the States (which is precisely what I did to originally purchase the phone) and have an over the counter, out of warranty repair done for $199, but factoring in driving time, this was not a very attractive option.  Therefore, I had no other choice than to buy a $20 glass screen from eBay and follow my fellow broken glass and broken-hearted iPhone owners on the Mac Rumors thread in the quest to find a cheaper DIY solution.

One of the biggest challenges that people attempting the repair were encountering was separating the broken glass from the digitizer.  Therefore, I researched many options for removing epoxy glue as this was the best guess as to what was bonding the glass screen to the digitizer.  However, whether it was acetone, methylene chloride, NaOH, or denatured alcohol (also known as methyl hydrate* or fondue fuel) it either had the potential to harm the other components of the iPhone or harm me!  Therefore, if I encountered difficulty with the glue I was ready to apply heat with a hair dryer as a safe alternative.

I also researched the best glue to use once it came to bonding the new glass screen to the digitizer.  The following were all good suggestions:

  • Loctite  E-30CL optically clear epoxy
  • Loctite 349 Impruv (also 363 – both are optically clear)
  • Masterbond EP30HT
  • TRA-F113
  • E-6000

However, anything that was labeled optically clear was far too expensive and the cost was starting to approach the cost of taking it back to Apple.  Therefore, in the end I settled for a tube of E-6000 (about $8) because I could pick it up at the local Michael’s craft store.

At first, I attempted to remove the glass without taking apart the phone but I quickly changed course when I noticed a very tiny rubber gasket around the edge of the glass.  Not wanting to unnecessarily destroy any existing parts, I watched PDA Parts’ iPhone take apart video on youtube, bought a case opening tool ($3), and proceeded to take apart the phone.  This was a lot easier said than done.

When I was a teenager, I tied fly fishing flies for spare cash so I am pretty good with finicky little things.  I also consider myself quite handy with electronics, but getting into an iPhone is damned near impossible!  After destroying the case opening tool and making very little progress, I employed the combination of a razor blade and a tiny flat head screw driver to separate the back casing.

Basically, if you want your case to be unblemished head down to an Apple store and have them repair or replace your phone or go buy a new one.

In the end I did get the case open but not without a number of cosmetic blemishes.  I didn’t take the phone completely apart but rather opted to just remove the back covering and chrome metal rim.  The process of removing the broken glass actually turned out to be a lot easier than expected.  By sliding a razor blade between the broken glass and digitizer and lifting upwards, the glue separated from the digitizer quite cleanly.  I would suggest using safety glasses as most of the screen glass shatters when lifted and very tiny glass shards and dust go everywhere within a three foot radius.

Everything was going relatively well until I discovered that I had cracked a corner of the digitizer.  In the end, I had cracked two corners of the digitizer but I was hoping that this would be inconsequential.

Once I got all of the broken glass off, the underlying digitizer cleaned up very nicely just by scraping the excess glue off with a razor blade and then polishing it with my shirt.  There is absolutely no need for applying heat or using any chemicals to remove the glue.  The glue is very rubbery and behaves a lot like silicone.

I tested the naked digitizer and unfortunately, it looked like there was a consequence to cracking the digitizer.  Its behaviour was quite erratic.  Nonetheless, I was optimistic that this was related to not having a glass covering so I went ahead with gluing the new glass covering onto the digitizer.  The glue went on crystal clear but air bubbles between the two layers of glass were a problem, therefore, I applied pressure to more firmly squish the two parts together.  It was working quite wonderfully until I cracked the new piece of glass!  It would appear that the blacked-out ends where the button and ear piece rest were not flush with the digitizer.  This allowed some give in the centre of the glass and allowed it to snap with pressure.

Rather than throw my now rather useless iPhone against the wall, I decided to completely take it apart in the hopes of ordering the full OEM LCD part.  In recent days it appears Apple has released stock and you can now get them from many places on-line for $169.

My assessment of the iPhone thus far is that it is a disposable electronic device and unfortunately, not really meant to be repaired.  Having said that, I do think it is possible to do this repair but you will need not only a lot of skill and patience but also a good heaping of luck.

*UPDATE: I am now quite certain that by lifting the glass screen towards the outside edges of the digitizer caused the damage to the digitizer.  The more I think about it, the more I think it is possible to do this repair successfully.  As long as you are careful and move from the outer edges inward in removing the broken glass you can avoid putting pressure on the edges of the digitizer which appear to be quite fragile.  The other thing I would do differently is to completely remove the whole LCD part so you can avoid not having the glass screen flush against the digitizer when you glue the new glass in place.  Of course, then you would have to be very exact in the alignment of the new glass.  As I said, a little bit of luck is probably necessary!

  22 Responses to “Fixing A Broken iPhone”

  1. [...] limited success, however, the lessons learned should help others attempting to do a DIY repair. rootsmith Inc. Fixing A Broken iPhone Good [...]

  2. [...] ee99ee wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy iPhone suffered one too many drops recently and I shattered the glass. Although the iPhone glass is incredibly tough it is not indestructable – it is glass after all! Well, I did my research and I tried to fix it on the cheap. … [...]

  3. [...] nick1226 wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy iPhone suffered one too many drops recently and I shattered the glass. Although the iPhone glass is incredibly tough it is not indestructable – it is glass after all! Well, I did my research and I tried to fix it on the cheap. … [...]

  4. [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy iPhone suffered one too many drops recently and I shattered the glass. Although the iPhone glass is incredibly tough it is not indestructable – it is glass after all! Well, I did my research and I tried to fix it on the cheap. … [...]

  5. [...] Richard wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy iPhone suffered one too many drops recently and I shattered the glass. Although the iPhone glass is incredibly tough it is not indestructable – it is glass after all! Well, I did my research and I tried to fix it on the cheap. … [...]

  6. I managed to get everything off without using any solvent. I posted a reply on macrumors. I was covered in miniscule glass shards but the screen looks great.

  7. I like your story about the iphone digitizer glass repair, unfortunately it is a very hard job and never buy a inpatient person.
    I have also been researching the glue and 3M makes a glue specially made for touch screens and is optically clear it comes in sheets and is applied by peeling one side sticking it and peeling the other side. Very touchy product. I have also been thinking about what would be the bests way to separate the glass from the digitizer and my best solution so far has been a guitar string or super thin piece of wire to be held on either side of the digitizer and use a sawing motion to move the wire down the face of the digitizer between the glass and digitizer. Possibly using heat applied by and second person. Think it will work?
    I have a couple of broken ones and I am going to give it a go and see if the wire idea will work. If it does i will post the results. Good Luck Steve iPodSlinger.com

  8. Excellent write up, great info, I am a bit worried about replacing the glass panel only as the iPhone I have has both cracked glass and LCD. I will probably fork out some more money for the LCD and Digitizer in 1 to save time and issues. Thanks for the heads up. Great info.

  9. I read your guide on how to replace just the screen. it was actually quite helpful. but i have one small question. When at the end you were talking about removing the whole LCD part so you could avoid not having the glass screen flush against the digitizer, and also when you talked about instead of lifting the glass screen towards the outside edges of the digitizer ou said to move from the outer edges inward in removing the broken glass. Could you explain what you meant by that.

    Thanks in advance. =]

  10. just give it a try removng the glas right….you can always buy a replacemnet screen if it does not work right??

  11. I have successfully removed the glass from 6 iPhone 2Gs… of course to the demise of 4 others… so 6/10 isn’t bad… And, out of the 4, I’ve only lost 1 screen, if only I could get a digitizer! One of them, I got the entire glass face off, and guess what… I somehow yanked out the ribbon cable out of the digitizer! ARG! I didn’t even notice until i saw it was loose plugging it into the mainboard…

    Good writeup, I’ve developed some good techniques to removing the glass, one of which is to take one of the damaged frames, attach the screen/digitizer/glass, then REATTACH A BEZEL METAL FRAME! That way you use it (not the screen) for leverage! I’ve got some other techniques that I’m finding, heat works to a degree, but I have damaged a screen out of it. Basically, I recommend planning on 4 dedicated hours (esp if this is your first time), lots of patience, and maybe some soothing instrumental hiphop…

  12. hi! sorry, but for me the hardest part isn’t to take apart the glass, but to glue the new screen. what i mean is: have i to glue the whole screen (also where i “touch”) or onlt the black parts on the top and bottom?? my worry is that if i glue the whole screen, maybe can create halo in the touch.. what do you suggest?
    thanks all
    -Gabriel

  13. Can you comment on the earpeice speaker? Is it located between the glued LCD and digitizer? I can’t seem to figure out how to get at it. The replacement part is cheap on eBay, but I don’t know if the repair is straightforward.

    -M

    • Sorry, Mathew, it has been so long since I tore the iPhone apart I can’t recall the exact placement of the speaker. However, I do remember having all the parts sitting free on my desk which suggest you can definitely get at it as long as you take everything apart.

  14. I must have a natural talent with electronics. I watched a utube video. Ordered the glass screen and the repaired my iPhone myself successfully in 45 minutes!

  15. Also to anyone trying to fix the glass screen or LCD, there is really a simple way to get the display up quickly. On the bottom (end with the speakers) there are two screws, remove those and place aside. Using a suction cup, place the suction cup directly above the “Home” button and pull upward gently. You will eventually pull the glass up and gain access to the iPhone without a case opener tool. Using a case opener around the metal frame will ruin your phone and never be the same again. Just a little FYI.

  16. kid_aquarius, that is a good suggestion for the 3G models, however, the 2G model does not have the screws.

  17. I tried to fix my iPhone 3GS and failed when I followed the wrong YouTube video. I learned my lesson and called up http://www.repairmyiphonescreen.com few days later my phone was returned like new!

  18. irepex can replace the Cracked Screen on your iPhone for only $45.00 in 20 min! They also offer 30 days warranty on repairs. I would recommend you visit their website http://www.irepex.com , they can save you at least 100 Dollar.
    They also Blackberry on spot with reasonable price.

  19. What kind of glue do I need when trying to glue the bezel onto a new replacement back?
    Please respond via email to dancwinters@yahoo.com

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