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Feb. 12th, 2022

iPhone misadventures: replacing a broken screen.

One iPhone destroyed, another in exactly the same condition it started in.


I'm mostly posting this because I think the story is really funny — maybe it'll give you some tips if you go about replacing your own iPhone screen at some point regarding what not to do. So my friend Dana who I met at my first research position at the MIT Edgerton Center, recently noticed her iPhone screen was not working (some areas had lost touch sensitivity). She reached out and asked if I had the tools or know-how to replace an iPhone screen, I had neither but we decided we could figure it out. 

She has (well really I should say had) two iPhone X's. The one she uses daily which is in working condition except for the screen, and one that didn't turn on (we're not sure what's wrong with it). So the idea was to take the working screen off of the broken one and replace it with the broken screen on the working one.

We borrowed my lab supervisor's iFIXIT toolkit and met up in Maseeh one day to try to work this out. We used the this video as inspiration. It's a pretty good video with the one exception that it doesn't actually show you how to put the iPhone back together which is weird. But I suppose you're meant to extrapolate.


So the long and short of it is (and if you watch the video it'll make a lot more sense). But we started by taking the good screen off the broken iPhone, the logic there was "well we can't break it more" if it's already broken. I still can't tell if this was the right decision because if we broke the iPhone in the process we would've been glad we started with the broken phone and the iPhone is much more expensive to replace.

But when we did this, we kind dug the pick in way too far (like the whole pick) and at the wrong angle (we went horizontal in the same plane as the plane of the phone screen itself). And we actually managed to remove the metal mounting rib and Face ID unit from the screen before it even left the phone. While doing so we cut one of the display connectors at the bottom with the pick on accident but we wouldn't figure this out until we tried to replace the screens. We only knew something was mechanically wrong when there were only two cables to disconnect instead of three like the video said (the camera stayed in the body of the iPhone).


Also note that the pictures in no way correlate to what I'm saying in the paragraphs like in other posts. But the iPhone is very pretty on the inside and I deeply appreciate the design so the pictures are included here for your enjoyment.

Anyways, we decided to be much more careful with the second screen and we were able to remove that properly. We tried to transfer all the Face ID and mounting and all from the "broken screen" to the "working screen" and then we put in all the connectors and turned on the iPhone with the swapped screen.

And what do you know, the right 1/5th of the screen was filled with lovely green lines which was a sad sad sight. That's when we realized we'd broken the display data cable going to the screen at the bottom.


Here's a picture of us having fun and a last photo of the iPhone insides itself. So to finish up the story we essentially took the screen, reversed all the changes, and restored Dana's daily iPhone back to its original state. Can't say we "fixed" it but we didn't break it more. 

The other iPhone, sadly, left our makeshift repair shop in worse condition than it started. But we learned the proper technique for opening up the iPhone and replacing the screen! We just needed a sacrificial (already broken phone) to play with first. 

So Dana ordered a new (non-genuine) phone screen and we'll replace that when it comes in. We may even try to just fix her old phone and see what was wrong with it, my suspicion is the battery connector was just loose because the "broken" phone did turn on for a hot second. But we'll see when we get to it.

#iphone #repairs #didnt-fix-it-yet

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