iPhone 3G cracked screen repair / replacement – fixed for $12

Dropping your iPhone 3G on a concrete floor is a sure way to crack the glass screen and just past two years of ownership this was the fate that betook my little white Jesus phone. If you run down to your local Apple store you’ll find out that Steve charges the pricly sum of $190 to fix the little bugger; hardly worth it given the second hand value of the device is around the same amount!!

But being a child of Al Gore’s inter webs I found sites selling the part for around $12 and upon further investigation via the YouTubes I decided to spring for the part and attempt to replace the broke glass myself and here are my notes on my experience.

First, let’s cover a little theory. The iPhone 3G and 3GS has a screen that basically consists of three pieces; an LCD over which fits a piece of glass which is caused a digitizer which in turn is glued into a plastic frame. Normally a dropped phone will result in a cracked digitizer which can be had for around $12 online. Ok, sounds simple so far BUT as noted in my description, you’ll notice the word ‘glue’ and this is single fact that separates the men from the boys and the biggest reason that you should avoid this method. So summarizing your repair options in three easy steps:

1) replace LCD, glass and plastic frame – one unit -easiest to do but most expensive
2) replace just glass and plastic frame as on unit- still easy and much cheaper
3) replace just glass – most difficult and risk of messing up home button and plastic frame but for $12 it a bloody bargain!!

Being a cheap bastard I choose the cheapest option. Don’t worry if it all ends in tears, step 3 requires the use of a heat gun and this can mess things up in a big way, you can always throw away the messed up frame and buy a new on, LCD too!

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here and list the intricate steps, there are numerous articles you can find online but I’ll share you some of what I discovered over the period of 2 hours while replacing my screen. Some of the tips below I didn’t see anywhere else.

Before you do anything go and watch some YouTube videos of the process. It’ll really help you in the end and you have a god idea of what the he’ll you’re doing.

Now you’ve watched some video you’ll need a place to buy the parts. I got my screen here, they were the cheapest and had some tools too, all for $12. Not OEM but the screen looks fine but the tools were crap quality with the most important tool, the mini philips screwdriver being very poorly built and not able to undo the screws.

  • Several people have pointed out that the $12 screens on Amazon are the similar to more expensive screens you get at place like iFixIT. Not sure about this but I didn’t find ANYONE selling genuine OEM Apple parts, all places were selling knock offs from China.
  • Make sure you order the correct screen, the 3G and 3GS are different
  • WIth the cheapest method where you have to pry the glass from the plastic frame after applying heat, I found that a hairdryer was useless and i pulled out the heat gun – much easier BUT BEWARE I buggered up my home button, warped it a little so you’ve been warned.
  • There is a thin gasket that actually is stuck, glued to the side of the frame. This stops gunk, dust etc from entering the phone; not terrible but it can cause you to get big noticeable specks of dust / line between the LCS and glass screen. NO ONE online really talks about this and if you do the el cheapo method you won’t be replacing this gasket. In my case it was in bad shape in place. After applying the heat and popping the screen in and out of the phone a few times a big chunk was hanging off. In true cheapo style I cut it off, not very noticeable but not good if you take your phone everywhere – I expect to see dust under my LCD in a couple of months but who cares, I’m a pro at take the bloody thing apart not – in summary just be away of the gasket and if yours is damaged then you may want to opt for the more expensive method 2 listed above.
  • There is protective film on both sides of the glass that you’ll get and this needs to be removed, especially the film on the LCD side of the glass. I spent a ton of time trying to remove this piece, there were actually two pieces, god knows why, and it looked like you had to remove just the smaller piece that sat on top of the bigger piece.
  • Instructions that shipped with the part were in jumbled poorly translated English as to be expected
  • Compressed air is your pal but don’t be a tool, like me, and tilt the can so the liquid freon comes out. It’ll stain the screen you’re trying to clean and you’ll have to clean it with a alcohol rag!!
  • Remember you really can’t do any wrong here, once you have the LCD and frame part out. Worse case senario you bugger them all up – no problem get an entire until shipped to you, LCD and all – probably around $100.
  • You go a good chance of cooking the home button – you’ll basically warp the poor little thing and it wont be all nice and clicky and tactile like before – you need to mash it into the phone to get it to work. No problem, this is another project in it’s self – add some tin foil between the contact on the plastic frame and removable button and you’ll bring the poor little button back to life somewhat although I fear my click will never be the same on my phone. (big problem with the home button is that once you’ve glued the glass it’s hard to get to and fix – they are only about $3 to buy so you might get one just incase you’ll get a little too with the heat gun.
  • You’ll be gluing the glass / digitizer to the plastic frame but when you take it off you’ll notice that it was glued all the way around BUT you’ll only be supplied with glue / adhesive strips for the top and bottom of the glass. I don’t know any company that supplies extra glue for the sides but you could make some of your own I guess. (I just read this on a company that does mail-in repairs for $79 + shipping and they use glue on the sides as they mentioned that if you don’t do this you can get dust between the LCD and digitizer – makes sense I guess)


That’s all I can remember for now and remember have fun and if you bugger the thing up it’ll be a great excuse for you to get a nice Verizon iPhone come Feb 2011!!
I’ll keep you posted on the longevity of my repair too, I have noticed some dust under the LCD but i did take it to MOAB / desert last weekend and my gasket is knackered too!!

Be sure to leave comments below.