As the local techy-about-town, my time is often occupied resolving mobile phone and PC issues for friends and family.
One such recent project has been to replace the damaged glass display on my father in law’s HTC Touch 2, an old Windows Mobile device that he needs by his side 24/7 due to the nature of his work. The operating system isn’t an issue with this phone – he works in construction – but a fully working device is always required.
To my annoyance, this is actually the second time he’s damaged the display. Fortunately replacing it has proved to be a relatively cheap and simple process, thanks to it being an old phone.
Weighing Up The Costs
If you have damaged the screen of your mobile phone – perhaps you dropped it or sat down while the device was in your pocket – you’ve immediately given yourself a headache. Can the phone be repaired, and if so, what are the costs? There are many services available online that will repair your mobile phone, but if you have access to the parts and they’re inexpensive, why not perform the procedure yourself?
Meanwhile, you should also consider the non-monetary costs – time spent without a phone, data that needs removing from the device. Can data be removed at all? Is there a desktop utility that can check the phone’s contents?
If a new phone is going to cost under $100 but a replacement screen costs somewhere in the same ball-park, then spending time and effort fitting a new display is going to be pointless. However, if replacing the mobile phone screen is closer to $10, then you’re onto something.
Finding The Replacement Screen
But where can you find a replacement screen?
The most obvious location is eBay. Simply searching for the mobile phone model and the word display will turn up the required parts. In my case, “htc touch 2 display” returned a wealth of accurate (and, sadly, slightly inaccurate) results. It is vital that you take the time to check that the components listed are genuinely for your device and not displayed due to a poorly written listing.
Amazon is also a resource for replacement screens, but you should also consider a general Google search as this will turn up specialist suppliers who might be able to provide a lower price.
The Tools You Will Need
You might find that your chosen screen ships with tools. Opening up a mobile phone is a tricky job, one that requires screwdrivers, Torx drivers, a pair of tweezers (preferably plastic or carbon) a couple of small levels with narrow, sharp edges… and a guitar plectrum!
Each of these tools is used in different ways. Typically a mobile phone will have Torx screws under the battery cover that will need removing before the case can be gently prised apart.
Note that spending money on these tools isn’t totally necessary. Sanding off the ends of a couple of plastic bicycle wheel levers will produce usable alternatives. Otherwise, they can be sourced relatively cheaply.
The Principles Of Replacing a Mobile Display
There are so many different mobile phone models on the market (either new or used) that providing a standardised guide is next to impossible. Additionally, some models cannot be repaired without sending them back to the manufacturer.
The first thing you should do to check how your phone’s display can be replaced is to head to YouTube, where you will hopefully find a detailed guide on the procedure. What you will generally find is that the mobile phone is essentially made up of several layers (as pictured), each of which will need to be carefully detached in order for the glass display to be replaced.
These guides typically follow this procedure:
Opening The Phone
To begin you will need to remove (where possible) the rear cover, battery and identify where the Torx (or standard) screws might be hidden. They could be under labels or beside USB ports, for instance, as seen in the Nokia Lumia 800 image above.
Pulling the phone apart is usually achieved using the levers and the plectrum, while additional screws are likely to be found; these will typically need removing in order for you to progress.
Watch out for ribbon cables, which require careful unlatching from their connectors (see above) and often are threaded through the different layers of hardware within the phone. These are delicate; easily broken, you will need to take care as damage to these could change the dynamic of the repair considerably.
Removing The Display
Persuading your phone’s display to part with the digitizer isn’t usually difficult – the digitizer will typically slot out once its ribbon cable is removed. Note however that many modern phones have a combined display/digitizer.
By now you should have the front of the phone in your hand, empty, with the glass display ready to remove. This should be done using a hairdryer or heat gun to soften the adhesive (as this was my second repair of the device pictured, new adhesive was required after softening).
Replacing The Adhesive & Adding The New Display
Replacement adhesive can be purchased in extremely narrow rolls. The adhesive is basically double-sided sticky tape, so if you have any of this to hand it can also be used if cut into very narrow (1 mm) strips or slivers.
The adhesive should be applied initially to the phone’s frame, rather than the glass.
Once the adhesive is in place and the new glass display is prepared, remove the protective strips on the adhesive and push the glass into place.
Ensuring Correct Cable Connection
You will then be ready to connect the relevant cables back into their slots, locking them down and putting the phone back together, layer by layer. With the components ready to push back into the case, carefully place them into position, check that there are no cables or screws left over and fix them into place, testing the phone once you’re done to check that all functionality is retained.
You should be able to switch the phone on without securing the final screws in order to check functionality.
If using a video guide, it is advisable to view before you start in order to become familiar with the steps.
Confident? Replacing a mobile phone screen isn’t simple, but it is something that you should certainly consider if the price is right.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules – devices differ from manufacturer to manufacturer – the general steps provided above and the photos should provide a good illustration of just what is entailed in replacing the most vital component of your mobile should it become damaged.
Most of all, don’t walk into such a repair blind; do your device-specific research, get hold of the right tools and surprise yourself!
Here’s another tech problem you can solve yourself with a bit of time and effort: phone display flickering.
Explore more about: Smartphone Repair.