This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2015-07-24 at 9:35 a.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/15807
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How to Replace a Cracked iPhone 5c Screen with Screasy

by Josh Centers

My wife’s iPhone 5c is only a little over a year old, but it’s already a wreck. We tried protecting it from our toddler with a Lifeproof case, but since our Amazon-branded Lightning cables weren’t compatible with the case, my wife would often remove it to charge her iPhone. One thing led to another, and before long, she had a screen that was not only cracked, but had a chunk missing from one corner.

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As a tech writer, I get tons of press releases from companies, many of which are completely uninteresting (no, sorry, I don’t cover “past life regression therapy,” self-help books for teenagers, or anything to do with the zodiac). But I received one that caught my eye from Corey Schard, co-founder of Screasy [2], which sells all-in-one screen replacement kits for every iPhone model from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6 Plus. I told him about my wife’s iPhone, and he graciously agreed to send me a kit to test it out. (Besides, I wanted to see how things had changed in the six years since Jeff Carlson wrote “How to Replace a Cracked iPhone 3G Screen [3],” 30 June 2009.)

Getting Started with the Screasy Kit -- Screasy claims that most repairs are completed within 15 minutes or less. I don’t doubt that, because if everything had gone well, that’s all the time I would have needed. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan, and amusingly, in roughly the same way Jeff had problems back in 2009 with a completely different iPhone.

But before we get to that, here’s what the kit includes:

In theory, the Screasy kit includes everything you need to replace the screen. However, I recommend a few more things: a good pair of tweezers, a powerful flashlight or headlamp (I used this $4.99 UltraFire LED flashlight [5]), and maybe another #000 Phillips screwdriver for stubborn screws. Also, you’ll want something that can keep the tiny screws from getting lost. Fortunately, I had recently installed Allure flooring in our bathroom, so I had some scrap pieces laying around — the adhesive strip was a perfect storage medium. You could instead use double-sided tape or a segmented container, but you want something that can hold the screws in a set pattern.

Before you start, enable AssistiveTouch in Settings > General > Accessibility. As I explained in “Work Around a Broken iPhone Button with AssistiveTouch [6]” (24 July 2013), this feature is handy if a button on your iPhone stops working, and in this case, it saved me a lot of trouble later.

Screasy also offers video instructions [7]. However, there are lots of little details they don’t mention, so I recommend also studying the screen-replacement instructions for your iPhone from iFixit [8].

Disassembling the iPhone 5c -- First, power off your iPhone 5c by holding the Sleep/Wake button, and then sliding the Slide to Power Off switch to the right.

Next, remove the two pentalobe screws on the bottom of the iPhone, which are on each side of the Lightning connector. Although the included pentalobe screwdriver is magnetized, you may have to pull the screws out with your thumbnails or tweezers.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t careful enough, as one of the screws popped out of my fingernails and went flying onto the floor. Finding a dark screw on a dark floor was not easy, and the flashlight was especially handy. After a few minutes of careful searching — a magnet might have helped too — I recovered the screw.

Next, you need to carefully separate the screen from the case. Take the iSesamo tool, and gently insert the pointy end in the gap between the bottom of the screen and the casing. Pry up gently, and then steadily work around the screen, prying until you’ve freed it.

You now need to lift the screen up from the bottom. Don’t raise it more than 90 degrees from the case, as that could damage the ribbon cable that attaches the top of the screen to the body of the iPhone.

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Now look inside your iPhone. There are two spots to be aware of. The first is a metal square in the bottom right — this is magnetized and Screasy recommends using it to magnetize your Phillips screwdriver, by gently rubbing the tip over the square (the square is visible in the above picture). If you’re uncomfortable with that, another magnet of sufficient strength should work. The second spot is where the real work will happen: in the upper right there is a metal shield with four screws.

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Begin removing the screws from the shield, but be aware that the screws are all different lengths, so you need to keep them arranged in the proper order once they’re out. I recommend starting with the upper-left screw and working counter-clockwise. The upper-right screw, which is the longest, is not magnetized, so it can be trickier to remove. Use tweezers if necessary.

With the screws removed, you should be able to lift the shield out of the iPhone and set it aside. Be sure to maintain its original orientation.

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Now you’re looking at the connectors that attach the screen to the body of the iPhone — they’re small black rectangles. There are three that connect to the iPhone, and the ribbons overlap the connectors, so you have to remove them in order. Note that there is a fourth connector, on the bottom left, that attaches to the battery — you don’t want to remove it.

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Take the plastic spudger and use the hooked end to gently pry the connectors up, one at a time, starting with the right-most connector, then the middle connector, and finally the upper-left connector, making sure to skip the battery connector. After the third is free, your display will be completely disconnected from the iPhone. The easy part is over. Yes, that’s the easy part.

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Reassembling the iPhone 5c -- Now, remove the new display from its styrofoam container, making sure to pull away any adhesive residue that may be left behind.

Now you’re going to reverse the previous instructions. Begin by attaching the upper-left ribbon connector, followed by the middle, and finally the right-hand connector. It can be tricky to line these up. What I did was place my finger over the connecter and sort of rub it into place, pressing down gently until I felt a click. Once the connector is engaged, gently apply pressure to all parts of the connector to ensure a full connection.

Then you need to replace the shield and screw it back into place. Start with the magnetic screws, attaching them to the magnetized Phillips screwdriver head and carefully inserting them into place. For the non-magnetic upper-right screw, put the head into your tweezers and slip it into the hole, and then screw it down. If you drop a screw inside the chassis, pick up both halves of the iPhone, hold them upside down over the table, and gently shake them to drop the screw. A loose screw inside the case could cause an electrical short.

With the shield back in place, it’s time to test things out before you finish reassembling the iPhone. Carefully lower the screen onto the body, so as to protect the innards, and then press the Sleep/Wake button to turn the iPhone on. Give it time to boot up, and ensure that the screen looks good, the touchscreen works, the front-facing camera works, and the front speaker plays audio. This is where AssistiveTouch comes in handy, since you can tap the on-screen button to activate the Home button while it’s disconnected.

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Your Home button won’t work at this point, because when you press it on the front half of the iPhone, it pushes contacts onto two gold pins on the back half. If you want to make sure that the Home button is connected upstream, you can bridge these two gold pins with a screwdriver — the iPhone should act as if you pressed the Home button.

If you see lines on your screen or if something doesn’t work, turn the iPhone back off, remove the shield, pull up the connectors, and reseat them.

As you fumble around with your iPhone, you may wonder why the shield is necessary. It protects the screen from electronic interference from other components. Without it, you’ll see lines on the screen, which could lead you to think that something isn’t connected properly.

When you’re satisfied that everything is working, it’s time to reassemble the iPhone. Starting at the top, gently press the screen back into the case. Be very careful here, because if you’re not, you could pop one of the ribbon connectors loose, or worse, damage it.

Once the screen is back inside the case and seated properly, before replacing the pentalobe screws, test the Home button to see if it works. If yours does, great, reinstall those pentalobe screws and you’re done. But my Home button didn’t, so I had some more work to do.

Fixing the Home Button -- I knew that the ribbon cables were attached correctly, because I could bridge the two gold pins to activate the Home button functionality. I decided to contact Screasy to see what they would recommend.

Screasy’s Corey Schard responded promptly with two options: replace the Home button bracket with the one from the original screen, or send the screen back for a replacement. I decided to try the former, given that the Home button on the original screen still worked fine.

To remove the Home button bracket from the original display assembly, I first had to remove the two Phillips screws holding it in. The right-hand one came out with no problem, but the left-hand one wouldn’t budge. Thankfully, I had a slightly larger #000 Phillips screwdriver that managed to break it free.

Next, I had to pry the Home button cable loose from the display assembly. Screasy recommended using the flat-head screwdriver for this, but I found that the iSesamo worked better. I gently slid the iSesamo’s tip under the edge of the cable and carefully pried it from the assembly. Once that was done, the bracket was free.

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I then had to repeat the process with the new display to remove the bum bracket. The recommended approach would be to disconnect the display completely, but I just flipped the whole thing over and held the iPhone body in my hand as I worked on the back of the new display assembly.

Once the old Home button bracket was off the new display, I slipped the new one in and screwed it into place. Unfortunately, I dropped one of the screws while I was doing this, and I had only one hand free, as the other was holding the back of the iPhone. Luckily, I had two spare screws from the original display that I had attached to my adhesive strip. I picked another one up with the magnetized screwdriver and dropped it into the hole.

This time, when I put the two halves back together — Siri, play a drumroll — I had a fully functioning iPhone 5c again! A few quick turns on the pentalobe screws and I was done.

Recommendations -- Would I recommend that you attempt to replace your iPhone screen? No. I have decades of experience building and modifying electronics, assembling computers, and even cracking open an iPhone or two, but even with the best preparations, this project was challenging for me. You’d likely be better off taking it to a professional repairer or an Apple Store. Adam Engst came to much the same conclusion when he replaced the battery in his iPhone 5 (see “Replace a Dying iPhone 5 Battery [18],” 5 March 2014). Repairing modern-day iPhones isn’t for the faint-of-heart.

The Apple Store charges $99–129 for a screen replacement, or just $49–79 if you have AppleCare+, and as former Apple Genius Scotty Loveless points out [19], Apple will not touch a device that you’ve repaired yourself. The extra cost for labor and peace of mind is well worth it. (However, I will point out that my iPhone 5’s rear camera stopped working shortly after the Genius Bar replaced the battery — whether that was consequence or coincidence, I can’t say. See “Replace a Dying iPhone 5 Battery: Take Two [20],” 28 August 2014, for my other tale of iPhone-related woe.)

But if you insist on replacing your own screen, would I recommend the Screasy kit? Yes, with some caveats. Their iPhone 5c screen repair kit costs $64.99, about $5 less than a comparable kit from iFixit, and with more tools than the iFixit kit, including the iSesamo, which is about a $10 value on its own. So if an Apple Store isn’t handy, or you want the least expensive fix, the Screasy kit is worthwhile.

As for the screen itself, the quality is outstanding. It’s virtually indistinguishable from the original. Many aftermarket screen replacements are inferior, with unwanted tints and telltale digitizer grids. As far as screen quality goes, Screasy offers a high-end replacement.

But I was disappointed that Screasy’s Home button assembly did not work. I was also unhappy with the Phillips screwdriver included, as the head was not pre-magnetized and it didn’t offer enough torque to remove one of the Home button bracket screws. However, Screasy earned points back with responsive support that helped me resolve my Home button issue quickly.

That said, my wife now has a good-as-new iPhone, protected by a new OtterBox case that accommodates our third-party cables and that will hopefully stand up to toddler abuse. So even though I’m not sure I ever want to go through this again, it was worth it in the end. We’ll be purchasing AppleCare+ with her next iPhone.

[1]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-5c-cracked.jpg
[2]: http://www.screasy.com/
[3]: http://tidbits.com/article/10389
[4]: http://tidbits.com/article/12717
[5]: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0128999PM/?tag=tidbitselectro00
[6]: http://tidbits.com/article/13956
[7]: http://www.screasy.com/how-to-videos-2
[8]: https://www.ifixit.com/Device/iPhone
[9]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/Pentalobe-screw-removal.jpg
[10]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-5c-screen-removal.jpg
[11]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-5c-shield.jpg
[12]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-5c-parts.jpg
[13]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-screen-connectors.jpg
[14]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-5c-screen-removed.jpg
[15]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/iPhone-display-testing.jpg
[16]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/Home-button-cable.jpg
[17]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2015-07/Home-button-bracket.jpg
[18]: http://tidbits.com/article/14571
[19]: http://scottyloveless.com/blog/2014/what-to-do-if-you-break-your-ios-device-screen
[20]: http://tidbits.com/article/15029