A few months ago I laid my iPhone4 on the hood of a car in the garage, where it slid off and hit the concrete floor, face down, hard. I felt a wave of adrenalin and regret when I picked it up and found the glass screen shattered. The damage was mostly on the top of the screen where much of the glass was fractured into many tiny shards, but all the pieces remained in place. To my surprise, I was relieved to find out that the LCD touch screen still worked perfectly.

To the surprise of many friends, I still used the phone regularly for months, and I began to not even notice the fractures in the middle of the screen anymore. Eventually, however, the iPhone began to look a lot like The Terminator in the scene where he's looking in the mirror and pulls off part of his eye socket and face. Slowly, pieces of glass had come out, the front camera became exposed as a rugged bump with no glass over it, and the phone weakened until the backside glass started to crack too. As much as I enjoyed referring to this as "my anti-theft" device, it was time to do something about it.

Rip Off
Since I didn't have Apple Care on the product, I looked to the Apple Store to see what options were available to replace it. The website took me to a screen where it asked, "Are you a new or existing AT&T wireless customer?". I selected Existing and checked the button for "Replace a phone on my account with a new iPhone". The price for a 16GB iPhone4 was shown on the page as $199, and the next screen asked me for my account info. It detected that I am in the middle of an AT&T contract, and it jacked up the price for the same model to $399 to buy a replacement now, or if wait another year until my contract is up, I could buy one at the regular price.

Apple Doubles Price For Replacement iPhone
iPhone 4 replacement cost. Posted using Mobypicture.com

I decided to replace my LCD screen with a replacement screen from iPhone4Parts.com for about $50. I watched the 2 videos shown at the bottom of this post to prepare for the replacement procedure. I've always wanted to be a Maker, so I thought this would be a fun exercise. The instructions for disassembly, shown in a 6 minute video, actually took me over an hour, including time to take some pics along the way.

Start of iPhone 4 disassembly. Posted using Mobypicture.com

Squint Eastwood
The work bench light with magnifying glass was definitely needed because all the screws are exceptionally small. I ordered the repair kit as an optional add on to the replacement screen. It came with 2 case openers for lifting the screen and parts, a small magnetic tip phillips screw driver, and adhesive to put over the bare phone surface to help the new LCD screen & glass adhere better. I found that the supplied screwdriver was very weak, and the tip became worn and unusable after just a couple screws were removed. I ended up just using one of my own, better quality screw drivers instead, but mine weren't magnetic, so I would use mine to turn the screw and the magnetic one to lift the screw out of or into its hole.

1st Try
During my first attempt at reassembling the LCD screen, after replacing the 10 screws that hold the glass to the frame edges, I noticed that the flat connector cable from the LCD was not quite long enough to snap into its final position. That cable starts on the LCD screen, and must be fed thru a small slot in the frame so that it sticks out the back where it will attach. The video instructs you to be careful with this cable, but anyway I decided to just gently tug on the cable to pull it the rest of the way through the slot. That's how I lost $50 bucks. The cable was weak enough that I easily sheered it in half. I completed the reassembly anyway, hoping magically it would still work, but reality set in when I found that the phone turned on, but it would not respond to any touch. At all. Bummer.

First disassembly of the iPhone 4. Posted using Mobypicture.com

2nd Try
I ordered a new screen for another $50 bucks with the $19 "fast" shipping charge. Took 4 business days to get here, and they don't offer overnight shipping. I also ordered a metal back to replace the shattered glass back, hoping it would be more durable.

So I was stuck with a phone for about a week that let me see who called, but didn't let me do anything about it. Following the repair procedures from the video again, I took great care to not damage any cable this time, and was more patient. It still took me 2 hours to perform the complete repair. Nevertheless, the 4 hours total time and the expense of $140 still beat the $399 Apple replacement cost, and it was a fun experience that appealed to the Maker in me.
iPhone 4 inside out. Posted using Mobypicture.com

Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger!
Throughout the videos, they gently suggest being careful at various points. When they do this, think of it as screaming at you in red face instead, because it is far easier to damage the phone or parts than they make it appear.

The tiny screws are really difficult to re-insert, for someone with large hands and possibly inadequate tools. The 10 screws around the frame were especially difficult, and took me about 5 or 6 tries for each screw. Six of those have a tiny washer too, and often when attempting to place the screws & washer into the hole with the magnetic tool, they would touch the adjacent adhesive areas and get stuck, causing me to retry. Those 10 screws took around 20-30 minutes to replace, and that was the most painful step.

Also there is a tiny little crossbar support under the speaker that is not shown in the videos. When I pulled out the speaker, it was loose and just fell off. In my diagram, I label it as the Mystery Part. I couldn't figure out how to put it back in, and ended up just leaving it out.

Finally, I learned somewhere to place the screws on the table top and draw little circles around them with numbers and a name of where they came from. This was especially helpful during reassembly because a) all the screws started to look alike after a while, even tho they weren't, and b) the reassembly video does not reverse the exact order of the parts as they go back in. Instead, the reassembly goes in a different order than how they came out, so naming parts in addition to numbering them was a big help.

After successful reassembly, the phone works normally, including the sound, the vibrator, the touch screen, etc. And I got the rubber bumper to go around it and hopefully cushion future shocks. I'll note that I was disappointed by the strength of the metal back plate because after the first time I had it in my pocket, it became dented in a couple spots, so its not as strong as the glass, but it won't shatter either.

Repair Videos

iPhone 4 Teardown & Screen Replacement Video Directions by DirectFix.com
iPhone 4 Screen Reassembly Video Directions by DirectFix.com

Note that by performing the repair yourself, you void the warranty on the iPhone.