I dropped my iPhone and broke its glass screen. It didn’t take much; just a 40cm drop onto asphalt and my lovely iPhone 3G was transformed into a cobweb of sadness.

Apple doesn’t repair this, at least not in Norway where I live. So I fixed it myself by replacing the glass front panel.

Project Steps

Remove the SIM tray and screws

Find a paper clip and stick it into the tiny hole at the top of the iPhone to pop out the SIM card tray.

Unscrew the two screws located at the bottom of the iPhone, close to where you insert the charger.

Congratulations, you have just voided your warranty!

Gently pry the frame loose.

Place the knife blade (the thinner the better) in the crack between the black rubber seal and the silver plastic frame, then pry away the frame. You might have to use a little force, but don’t overdo it.

I had two iPhones, one to practice with and one to actually fix, but you probably only have one chance at this. So be careful not to damage the black rubber seal or the frame itself. On one of my iPhones, the screen came loose pretty easily, but on the other I had to try several times to get the blade far enough down to produce the leverage I needed. This caused a little damage to the rubber edges of the frame.

When you get the crack wide enough using the knife, you can wedge in with a guitar pick or another knife to gently widen the gap. The screen and frame should lift up fairly easy.

Disconnect three cables

Use the knife to disconnect the three cables, conveniently labeled 1, 2 and 3, that are located towards the top of the phone. Be very careful and don’t use too much force.

Cable connectors 1 and 2 lift straight up, but 3 is a bit different. On my iPhone there is a tiny black flap that holds the cable in place, but on some iPhones it is white. Gently lift this flap up and the last cable should slide out easily.

You have now completely separated the touchscreen assembly from the body of the iPhone. Sweet! Now put it all back together again before continuing, so that you know how it should feel when you do it for real later. No, really, I mean it!

Separate the LCD from the frame.

There are three tiny screws on one side, and two on the other side, hidden underneath a piece of black tape. Unscrew all five.

There is one more screw to remove, and I promise it’s the last one. It is located towards the top. This screw and the five screws from the sides are all the same size, so you don’t have to worry about mixing them up.

Put your knife, or similar thin instrument, underneath the LCD. Gently lift the LCD away from the frame, being careful not to break it. You should be able to slide the LCD gently towards you until it is completely separated from the frame.

Use a heat gun to remove the broken glass from the frame

The glass is fastened to the frame with clear double-sided tape at the top and bottom and some kind of silicone or rubber cement around the edges. You want to heat the glass and underlying adhesives just enough so to let you pry or tweeze off the glass, but not so much that you melt the plastic or rubber. Depending on how broken your screen is, you might be able to remove the entire panel in one fell swoop. More likely, you will have to remove it in pieces.

Put the frame and glass on newspaper, glass side up, and use a heat gun or hair dryer, experimenting with distance and time for loosening the tape. I found that heating the glass in short bursts let me use my knife (and later a pair of tweezers) to remove all the glass fragments one by one. It took a little under half an hour.

My glass had already loosened on the sides, so I started there. I removed the middle part quite easily, even without a heat gun. But the glass at the top and bottom of the panel was really stuck.

Try not to melt the plastic or rubber, or warp the frame with the heat. I warped my frame a little bit, but was able to fix it by heating it a little and bending it back into shape.

Clean the frame

Use a knife or flat head screwdriver to scrape away as much as you can of the remaining adhesive around the edges. Get the surface as clean as possible, and at least remove anything loose.

I used a cotton swab and some electronics cleaner spray, but you might also try acetone or nail polish remover.

Cut the tape strips

The strips of adhesive film at the top and bottom are shaped to fit around the speaker, sensors, and other electronics. If you don’t use pre-cut adhesive strips, you can cut clear, double-sided tape to fit. You basically want to cover as wide an area as possible.

My replacement front panel was protected with a thin piece of translucent plastic that matches the shape of the iPhone perfecly. To hold the sticky tape during cutting, I temporarily stuck it down onto this translucent plastic, with the backing side up.

The top section has the most intricate shapes to cut out. For this, I put a plastic bag over top of the frame and used a permanent marker to color the pieces I had to cut out. Then I taped the plastic on top of a piece of double-sided tape, and went bananas with the scissors.

Put in the new front panel

Put the tape in place on the frame and press down hard for a while. Then peel away the backing.

Wash your hands or wear gloves to avoid staining the new glass panel, especially on the inside side. Remove any protective plastic covering the glass on the inside, but leave the plastic on the front side.

Place the lower part of the panel in the frame, aligning it perfectly with the lower edge of the frame. Carefully lower it down. Make sure the cables connected to the panel don’t get stuck on the tape, and use your fingers to make them go under the frame.

The tape is sticky, but you will be able to move the glass back and forth a bit to adjust its position in the frame. When you are happy with its placement, press it down hard. Then add pressure on one corner at a time, for about 20-30 seconds, allowing the glass to fasten. You want the glass as deep into the frame as possible. I felt a little lazy and didn’t do this step properly, so my new glass is raised slightly higher than the original.

Voila, the hard part is done! Now it’s time to reassemble the iPhone.

iPhone 3G, good as new!

Just follow the disassembly steps in reverse. First fasten the LCD with the six screws, then attach the three cables. Be careful when reattaching the cables; if you apply too much pressure and break these, you are basically screwed!

One cable runs in a loop, which you need to curve down pointing towards the home button. Otherwise this cable will get in the way of the SIM tray.

When the three cables are properly connected, turn on the iPhone and test it to see if everything works, before you press the glass and frame completely back in place. Otherwise, if you do you need to use the knife again to lift off the frame, you may cause more damage to the frame.

Now, go forth and brag to all you friends, and feel pride in a job well done and money and environment saved!