Sunday, April 21, 2013

How To: Replacing the iPhone 5's Back Glass

About two weeks ago, I dropped my iPhone 5 on the sidewalk and somehow ended up cracking both of the glass panes on the back of my iPhone 5.  (Seriously, how does that happen)?  The next day, I called Apple because I was sure it wouldn't cost an abhorrant amount of money to replace two tiny pieces of glass.  Well, as you may have guessed, I was wrong.  Apple wanted ~$250 to fix my iPhone 5 or it was out of warranty.  (Let me just say that after doing all of this work and knowing Apple wouldn't replace the glass but the whole back frame of the iPhone, this makes a tiny bit of sense).  Anyways, I Google'd how to replace it and there weren't any answers or tutorials, so I set out on my own to fix an obscure part of the iPhone's parts list!  So, without further ado, here's how to replace the iPhone 5's top and bottom back glass.

The Parts List!

I purchased many things from eBay and Amazon but these aren't recommendations for these sellers, they're more of suggestions.

  • This iPhone-opening kit. It included two prying tools, a small pentalobe screwdriver, a small philips screwdriver, a guitar pick, and a suction cup.  All of these were needed for the operation!
  • Replacement OEM back glass.
  • This adhesive.  This will be used to secure the glass to the frame.  I used an xacto knife to cut the pieces.
  • This heat gun.  Used to loosen adhesive.  Also, it's totally awesome to have a heat gun.

So, total bill of materials: about $36.  For those doing the math at home, yes $36 < $250.

The Process

Now, I'm not going to step you through taking the iPhone 5 apart, but I will link you to iFixit's amazing guide and discuss my thoughts on the process.  Also, please note that this isn't for beginners and should only be attempted by those who know what they're doing!  I assume no responsibility for your broken device and all that jazz.

Step 23A: disconnect the cable on the bottom left!
So, start the process and deal with separating the screen from the frame (it will take awhile, you will get frustrated).  Continue through to step 12 where I think I should mention that the commenter is wrong about disconnecting the battery; it does NOT ruin the battery.  Everything will be fine once it's reconnected!  Also, I noticed that using the guitar pick to slide under the battery to sever the adhesive worked wonders!  Now, proceed until step 24 and then STOP.  One commenter was correct in pointing out that iFixIt forgot a step here; you need to disconnect the cable that connects the the logic board above the right speaker!  They already pealed it back in their photo of Step 23 so just emulate what they did.  Finally, continue until step 30 and then halt.

From here, there are two things that need to be done.  One is (if your device is like mine) you need to remove the flash diffuser.  Mine looked like a tiny reflective box over the camera flash's location on the back.  Remove it and the plastic flash from the glass.  Next, use the top of a plastic tool to gently push out on the camera lens; the lens cover should pop off so you should put it in a safe place.  

From here, we have everything we need to fix the glass!  So, get out a large piece of paper (or some form of catch-all surface) and put it beneath your iPhone.  Next, plug in the heat gun and let it get ready for a second.  Also, grab a heat-proof glove of some sort (I used an oven mitten)!  Now, hold the frame with the mit and turn the heat gun on (I used the High setting because I'm daring) and run it over the top piece of glass.  I held it about 2 inches away and went back and forth over the whole piece for about 45 seconds.  Now, turn it off, set it up right, and then grab your screw driver.  From the inside of the iPhone, you should see some small holes where the glass is located.  Push out on these with the screwdriver and the glass should eventually give out.  NOTE:  It will crack.  It will shatter.  It will make a mess.  Always remember to wear gloves and protective eyewear!

Once the hole in the frame is clear of glass, turn to the removed pane.  You should see a plastic black frame connected to the camera lens hole and one connected to the flash hole.  Remove them and set them aside.  Now, repeat this process with the bottom piece of glass!

Once done, you should take the adhesive and cut out small strips that you think would firmly secure the new glass and attach them to the panes.  Once reseated, turn the device around and find the camera area.  Put the plastic frames you recovered from the pane and put them in the inside of the frame.  Finally, you're free to reassemble your device!  Oh, you should put the glass lens protector back in through the back of the phone and it should just stay.  Now that that's done, you have a fully working iPhone 5 and your warranty in tact for only $36!  Take that, corporate America! :)