For 4 years, JCD Repair has been fixing broken iPhone Screens. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to do this repair the right way. From the suppliers to buy parts from, to the exact tools and supplies to use, to small tips & tricks that make the repair go smoothly and turn out perfect. Recently, I filmed one of our top technicians doing an iPhone 4 screen replacement and we’ve decided to use this video for training our future employees. We thought maybe the rest of the world could benefit from this video, too, so we’re sharing it on this blog.
The repair is simple – once you’ve done it about 10-12 times. The video below was done by a technician that has fixed over 1000 iPhones. That is not an exaggeration. If you’re going the Do-It-Yourself route, it will not go this smoothly. Expect it to take at least a couple of hours and know that you might permanently wreck your iPhone.
Consider yourself warned.
Buying the Replacement Screen
A successful screen repair starts with a quality replacement screen. It’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to reliably obtain an actual OEM screen. Apple makes a lot of money refurbishing broken iPhones so they keep a tight lid on the original screens. But there plenty of third party options. These range from high quality copies that are indistinguishable from the originals to cheap and poor quality screens that don’t fit right, break easily, or have discolored displays. We’ve spent years finding a supplier that can consistently provide us with high-quality parts. Of course, we buy about 1000 screens a month so we have a little leverage when it comes to getting the top level parts.
Here’s some advice if you’re fixing your own iPhone and only plan to buy a single screen:
- Only buy the full assembly with the digitizer and LCD. The LCD on the iPhone 4 or 4S is fused to the digitizer and glass. They’re basically impossible to separate. A number of unscrupulous sellers out there will sell you just the glass. It’s cheap – like $10. But you’re throwing that $10 away. Buy the entire assembly.
- Make sure to buy the right part. The AT&T version of the iPhone 4 (GSM) and the Verizon/Sprint version (CDMA) use different parts. The iPhone 4S uses a third type of part. They are not compatible. Make sure you know which iPhone 4 or 4S you have.
- We highly recommend buying it from Amazon instead of eBay. Amazon rates the actual part whereas eBay rates the seller. It’s fairly easy for an eBay seller to game their rating. (The reason is because eBay counts any user’s purchases towards their rating. Someone that buys 500 things on eBay may have a great rating without ever having sold a thing.)
- Make sure you only buy from a US seller because, if you have problems, it’s much easier (and cheaper if the item must be returned) to deal with someone in the United States.
- Do not believe any seller that tells you they are selling OEM parts. A supplier once confided in us that they advertise OEM parts because they could charge more money and people were more likely to buy from them. They didn’t actually have OEM parts. We no longer use this supplier but I assure you they were not alone in these types of immoral practices.
- Only purchase a new part. When it arrives, take a look at the silver back of the LCD. If it’s all scratched up, they didn’t sell you a new part. It’s highly likely you were sold a recycled part. The quality of these is suspect at best. Send it back and tell the seller you want a refund.
One last piece of advice I’ll give to the do-it-yourselfer. Think twice. This is not a simple repair to do. That’s not to say it can’t be done. But as this blog and the included video show, it’s not something for the for the faint of heart. There’s a lot to know and a lot of things that can go wrong.
Getting Started – Tools, Supplies, and Setup
You can’t just grab a screen and a screwdriver and start fixing an iPhone. You need the proper tools, supplies, and setup. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A JIS #00 screwdriver. The iPhone uses JIS screws. This is similar to a Phillips head and a #00 Phillips will work in a pinch – just not as well as the JIS version.
- You’ll probably need a Pentalobe screwdriver. All but the first batch of iPhone 4 devices use these screws to hold the battery cover on.
- 2mm slotted screwdriver. We like the Wera Kraftform Comfort 1335 driver.
- 1 1/2″ wide putty knife.
- Scissors. We love the Tim Holtz micro-serrated crafting scissors. They cut really well and adhesive doesn’t stick to them. Best scissors ever!
- Anti-static precision tweezers. We prefer the ones with the rounded tips.
- 2mm wide, black, double sided tape.
- Pre-cut iPhone 4/4S adhesive strips.
- Bottle of canned air. You’ll want this to make sure any glass fragments are cleaned out of the iPhone. It can also be used to clean the speaker mesh.
Once you’ve got the tools and supplies, you want to get your work station setup. You’ll want plenty of empty, well lit desk space and a 18″ x 12″, white, rubber matting. Something like this solid grip liner from Menards. The reason you want this spongy, white matting is two fold:
- The rubbery surface keeps the tiny screws and other components from sliding away on you.
- The white color makes it easy to see the small screws.
(You will note that in our video we are actually using a Cuissential baking mat. We use this because we also do a lot of iPad repairs that require the use of a heat gun and the white, rubber matting mentioned above will melt. But if you’re just doing iPhone repairs, which doesn’t require a heat gun, this matting is way cheaper and works great.)
In addition to everything above, we also have a sonic cleaner we use for doing water damage repairs. This cleaner makes a short appearance in the video when it’s used to clean the speaker mesh from the old, broken iPhone screen. These cleaners cost more than $100 so if you’re just doing a single repair, you can skip this step. It just means your iPhone’s earpiece speaker will sound exactly like it did before you broke it. Using this cleaner makes it sound like it did the day you bought it.
Once you have your replacement iPhone screen, tools, supplies, and your work area all setup, you’re ready to go.
Some Tips & Tricks
In the video, we try to explain each step we go through to make your iPhone look and work as close to new as possible. Many of these are small things, but when you’re in the business of fixing iPhones, you quickly discover it’s the small things that make a repair consistently successful.
General Repair Advice
- These are fragile electronics. If something isn’t easily going where it’s supposed to, DON’T push or pull harder. That, as a solution, will result in problems. If you’re meeting resistance, stop and look around. You’ll often discover you forgot a screw, a connector, or a piece of glass found it’s way under something.
- Magnetize your screwdrivers. There are more than 20 really tiny screws in an iPhone 4 or 4S. You will not only lose them if your screwdriver isn’t magnetized, you will go crazy. You can buy a magnetizer at any hardware store for about $10 if your screwdrivers didn’t come magnetized.
- Understand that every component is there for a reason. They’re not for show. Be EXTREMELY careful when releasing/re-attaching connectors or removing screws. A simple slip of the fingernail or screwdriver and you may find yourself with an expensive paperweight.
- Have a system for remembering where every component and every screw goes. Not only does the iPhone 4 have a lot of screws, but many of them are different in size and shape. Our system is to set components down in exactly the order we pull them out. Any screws used to hold a component in place are set right next to the area on the component the screw goes. This technique let’s you just go in reverse when it’s time to reassemble.
- Keep your forearms on the table. This helps stabilize your hands and greatly reduces the probability of a screwdriver slipping and causing damage.
- Always use two hands. Like #5, this greatly helps in stabilizing things and significantly reduces the chances of something going wrong.
- Take your time and be careful.
- One of the most common problems to encounter after an iPhone screen repair is the proximity sensor not working right. The proximity sensor is what shuts the phone’s screen off when you hold the phone to your ear. We always put a tiny strip of the 2mm tape in between the sender and receiver at the top of the phone (circled in red on the picture). You’ll want to put the tape in there and bend it over with your precision tweezers so the tape doesn’t bleed over the sender or receiver. This trick will prevent any light from “leaking” in between the sender and receiver and interfering with the prox sensors functionality.
- Always clean the home button after you removed the screen. Use a small cloth and your fingernail to wipe the debris out of the home button. This debris is not only unsightly, but it can cause the home button to stick or not function properly.
- You may find, after removing the old screen, that there are tiny shards of glass embedded in the adhesive at the top and bottom of the iPhone. The best thing to do in this case is pull the adhesive off and replace it with the pre-cut iPhone 4/4S adhesives. If you don’t do this, there’s a good chance a salt sized piece of glass embedded in the adhesive will scratch the new glass or, worse, force the new glass to crack. If you pull this adhesive off, you need to replace it or you’ll have problems with your home button and/or proximity sensor.
- Use the 1 1/2″ putty knife to remove the battery (as shown in the video). Pulling on the plastic tab often doesn’t work because the adhesive holding the battery down is too strong. The plastic tab can rip. Another common mistake is to remove the battery with a small flat bladed screwdriver. The problem with this approach is that you can puncture the battery and then you will have to replace that, too.
- There are 6 screws with washers that hold the screen in place. Do not remove these screws. Just loosen them about 3/4 of a turn. They’re extremely annoying to put back in if you pull them all the way out.
- People frequently do not put the battery back in properly. You want to make sure you fully connect the battery first and then place the battery back into the iPhone. This makes the battery ribbon cable accordion in between the battery and the connector. If you put the battery in the iPhone and then try to connect it, the ribbon cable will stick up too high and can get ripped when putting the back cover on. In addition, doing it this way makes it more difficult to connect the battery. If you don’t get the connector fully put down, you can see all kinds of strange issues with your phone – like not charging or not booting up properly.
- The little round connector for the antenna (at the bottom of the iPhone) is tricky to put back into place. It definitely take some practice and feel. It’s not uncommon for someone doing the repair for the first time to think they have it in place, but when they power up the phone they don’t get a signal. Another common mistake is to use a screwdriver or some other tool to try and push it down. This is a huge mistake. It’s easy for that screwdriver to slip and tear the antenna cable or, worse yet, chip some component on the motherboard. Only use your finger to try to reconnect the antenna.
- Forgetting to move the speaker mesh over from the old screen. The speaker mesh keeps debris from clogging the speaker. It’s also important to secure the mesh down with a small piece of 2mm adhesive on each side of the speaker hole (indicated by the green dots in the picture above). Failure to do this can result in the speaker mesh sliding out of place in a day or two.
- Forgetting to move the camera bracket over from the old screen. It’s needed to ensure the front camera focuses properly. Be careful when taking this off of the old screen because it can pop off and fly several feet. It’s small and clear plastic and, if it goes flying, you’ll have a hard time finding it.
- It’s easy when sliding the new screen into place to let one of the two connectors accordion. If that happens, it won’t reach the connector. We have seen more than a few people try to fix this issue by pulling harder on that cable. This violates General Repair Rule #1 and often results in a torn ribbon cable and a useless screen. You’ll have to get another one.
- Letting a little bit of glass fall onto the LCD tray. This glass will push on the LCD and you’ll see a little rainbow effect with even the gentlest touch of the new screen. Use your canned air to blow this area out and run a thumb over it to make sure it’s glass/debris free.
And that’s about it. There’s a few other little things here and there but reading all of this one more time and then watching the video should give you a good understanding of the JCD Repair way of replacing a broken iPhone 4 screen.
Does this look like a little too much work? Then give us a shout. We’re happy to fix it for you. Our rates are reasonable and you can usually have it fixed while you wait at one of our local repair stores.