iPhone repair: Not for the faint at heart!

Holy crap, repairing an iPhone is worse than repairing a 1950s stopwatch!

Within weeks of buying a 16G iPhone (first gen) to replace the one I lost in the BART parking lot, I dropped it and cracked the screen. Fortunately, I had not removed the factory plastic cover, so I was able to live with that cracked screen for months.

Then I found a vendor on eBay who sold just the glass screen component, and having seen an article on Something Awful where someone replaced their screen with thin plexi I thought I’d give it a try. What a disaster! First, the glass cover is glued to the digitizer in a vacuum chamber, and removing it involves breaking it off a piece at a time and removing the glue. I got glass in my eye and had to go to an ophthalmologist to have my eyes checked out. Second, since I couldn’t glue my new cover in place in a vacuum chamber, the glass cover made imperfect contact with the digitizer. I learned the hard way that multi-points of contact at unexpected times lock the digitizer input so that the iPhone won’t do anything until you put the screen to sleep and wake it up again. Holy crap is that annoying. I can’t tell you how many calls I had go to voicemail because I couldn’t answer using the screen input and I couldn’t get my headphones inserted in time.

The folks at PDA Parts have put together a video on the iPhone take-apart, and after finding a complete screen + digitizer + LCD module on eBay I thought I’d give this a try. It took me three very frustrating hours, but I managed to get my screen replaced. Let me tell you… There are scene cuts in the video from PDA Parts, and it wasn’t just clean editing; those buggers clipped bits out to make it seem easier than it really is! The video doesn’t depict the battery being glued to the case, which I thought was a somewhat important point as I tried to get the battery out without damaging it, or that the top and bottom of the glass cover are double-sided taped to the case. These are the sorts of little things that when left out of a take-apart video can really screw you up. Thanks guys!

In the end I have a working first gen 16G iPhone again, but the amount of frustration energy I built up during the repair has led me to the conclusion that I’m not going to go through this again if I drop the damn thing again. Between the parts, lost time and frustration, I have to conclude that it would have been worth spending the $299 for the flat rate repair. That’s how frustrating I found this repair to be!



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