How to replace a cracked iPhone screen

Having done this myself twice over the New Year 2009/10, I am now the world’s expert on the best way to do it.

Like many others have, I dropped my iPhone on Christmas Eve and the glass crazed. Apple quoted £114 to replace, so I looked elsewhere. A plea on Facebook yielded advice from a someone we had met in the Australian rainforest, who said a teenager could do it in five minutes. I quickly found the parts, and video instructions on YouTube, so went for it. BUT it was not quite as straightforward as I had thought, since most sources don’t give you all the information you need. What follows relates to the iPhone 3G and 3GS but not the earlier iPhones, which are more complicated.

You need to know that the iPhone screen comes in four parts: the glass; a plastic sheet attached to the glass called the digitiser which detects touch; a plastic frame glued to the glass screen [really important this one] which attaches it to the fourth part; the LCD screen. You can buy all these things separately, but whatever you do, do not buy a separate glass screen and digitiser—it really is a professional job to glue these together.

If you look at a typical video like this it tells you how to take the screen off, separate the glass/frame/digitiser section from the LCD. What it does not tell you is that this is only half the job (probably because they want you to buy their part from them) since you also need to separate the glass/digitiser from the plastic frame. You need to be really careful removing the LCD. If you bend it at all, the liquid crystal will leak and spoil the display; I know. So be sure to pull the frame open to release the LCD and not lever it out.

This other video explores (in 5 long parts) whether the previous video really works, and apart from learning to be careful with the LCD, they find the most difficult section is separating the glass screen from the plastic frame it is glued onto. Of course, to replace your screen, you not only need to remove the broken glass from the frame, but glue the new glass back onto the frame. My experience was that this was a long and fiddly process, and it never really looked like new.

So route 1 to replacing your screen is to:

  1. spend around £20 on eBay on a new glass screen with digitiser
  2. remove the whole screen assembly from your iPhone
  3. separate the LCD from the glass/digitiser/frame
  4. separate the glass/digitiser from the frame (about an hour’s fiddling)
  5. glue the new glass/digitiser back on the frame
  6. reattach the LCD to the glass/digitiser/frame
  7. pop the screen back in the iPhone

and Robert’s your father’s brother. Cost: £20. Time: a good 2 hours. State of mind: fraught.

The alternative is:

  1. spend £55 on eBay buying a complete glass/digitiser/frame/LCD unit. Mine came from Canada courtesy of my brother-in-law’s eBay account.
  2. remove the whole screen assembly from your iPhone
  3. pop the whole new screen assembly back in your iPhone

Cost: £55. Time: five minutes. State of mind: very peaceful, and slightly smug at having saved £59 compared with going to Apple. So there you have it. Save yourself the hassle!

You can also find unofficial iPhone maintenance companies who will do this for you, but I have not tried them.

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