How to Repair a Broken Screen on a Smartphone or Tablet

If you’re reading this then it either means you either miraculously survived the New Years or you have a Tablet or Smartphone with a broken Screen, a common ailment that afflicts many Millennials (ages 18 to 28) who can’t live without their “precious”.

Apparently, the New Year isn’t starting off so great for you if it’s the latter as it indicates you didn’t take my advice and get a Screen Protector for your Tablet as per my article How to make your own Cleaning Fluid and Cleaning Tips for your Smartphone or Tablet.



At that point you may be mourning over your broken Tablet or Smartphone and wondering why you got yourself suckered into the “smart” Crowd, a rapidly growing Crowd in Jamaica as described in StudyBlue reveals Smartphones, Tablets make you smarter – The Big Bang Theory on Google. 

Was it the ease of transferring your old life from your Blackberry firmly placing you in the “In” Crowd from you BBM Toting Days to a brand new Smartphone to be a part of the “Smart” Crowd as described in How to transfer Phone Contacts and Data from your Blackberry to your Apple iPhone or Google Android Smartphone or Tablet? 

Or was it the fear that you’re beloved company Blackberry was going to go Bust and leave you High and Dry after having set BBM (Black Berry Messenger) free as predicted in Blackberry sold to Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited as BBM goes free? Your Blackberry resale value would fall to zero, making scenes of panic sales for little or nothing commonplace occurrences in most Electronics Stores as we transition towards smartphones. 

Maybe….wait…maybe it was the fact that BBM had gone free so you’ve decided to jump to the “Smart” Crowd because you could STILL have the Best of Both Worlds, Miley Cyrus Style with BBM on your Smartphone as surmised in Free Blackberry Messenger App coming to Android and iOS!

Whatever the case may be, the rapid adoption of BBM has put Blackberry “In” crowd peeps in Jamaica on a collision path with WhatsApp toting “Smart” Crowd. BBM’s popularity means they’re ramping up for a comeback on a Rising Tide of Smartphones in Jamaica as a true Mobile Social Messaging Network as prophesied in WhatsApp popularity fading as BBM’s the most downloaded IM App on iOS. 

Something to watch for in 2014, dear reader and a fulfillment of a prediction of the coming popularity of Smartphones and Tablets from my article Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican Smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy! 

Fixing your Smartphone or Tablet – Tools, KJV Bible and some Pringles Required 

And yet you’re not so smart when it comes to not leaving your Tablet or Smartphone in a manner that makes it vulnerable. You may also be having misgivings about the whole idea of having these gadgets as they do cost a lot to fix when they are broken. 

Don’t blame yourself as you’re a part of a growing trend Toward Tablets and smatphones, particularly the 7” Tablets in the US$50 to US$199 bracket as noted in The Two Towers of Tablets, 7” Amazon Kindle Fire and 7.9” Apple iPad are the Global Tablet size of Choice. I can visibly see this around me; everywhere I go I am now beginning to see people hunched over mini Tablets and Smartphones screens, the glee on their faces illuminated by the dulcimer glow of their screens while I go about my business on the JUTC bus! 

But that milk’s spilt; you’ve cracked your “precious”. How do you avoid 7 Years of bad luck by fixing your Smartphone or beloved Tablet and get it working again? Well, folks this is a DIY (Do It Yourself) that I’m sure you’ll want to read up on, as it may end up make some money for you fixing Tablets for family and friends. 

First off the bat, fixing a Tablet is no harder than fixing a Laptop Screen. You just need to identify in the absolute that the screen is indeed the problem (like duh-uh, the screen’s broken! Noobs!) and determine the part number and the make and Model of the Tablet. That means opening up the Tablet and going inside of its innards. So get some Pringles Potato chips, as this may take awhile! 

This video should give you an idea of what you’re getting yourself into, should you decide to starve the Computer Technician and go the DIY route! 

Ok folk, hop to it! Tablets and Smartphones have the same exact construction consisting of:

  • A back cover
  • A Digitizer or touch-sensitive glass sandwich
  • Bezel or Front frame
  • LCD
  • LCD-containing chassis
  • Motherboard-containing frame 

Before you begin, you need to determine the make and Model of your Smartphone or Tablet via locating the Smartphone or Tablet’s fifteen (15) digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identification). The IMEI can be easily found on any mobile device by looking inside the Battery of the Smartphone or Tablet where the IMEI written or by using *#06# to extract the Smartphone’s IMEI.

Once you determine the IMEI, you can use an IMEI Lookup Service such as the free use IMEI Number Database Website to determine the exact Make and model of your Smartphone and Tablet as per my article How to Access LIME or Digicel’s 4G Internet using an unlocked 4G LTE Modem Dongle, Smartphone or Tablet.

With the information in hand, you can then Google the part number of the cracked screen online, purchase it and have it shipped down to Jamaica as described in How to ship things to Jamaica after you’re purchase them online. Start at Ebay and Amazon though; great for finding sellers of hard-to-get parts for a lot of these Made in China low end Tablets!

Now for the fun part. Remember to get your Pringles Potato Chips and KJV Bible ready, as you’ll need patience like Job to hand what comes next once that package arrives with the replacement screen. To start, you’ll need the following tools:

  • A KJV Version of the Bible (I’m serious folks!)
  • A tech Savvy friend with an eye for details and preferably sober
  • Camel Haired Brush (or any Brush that’s gentle on electronics!)
  • Camera with Video Capability
  • Canned air,
  • Cartridge Paper
  • Coloured Markers
  • Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers
  • Double-sided adhesive tape
  • Heat Gun
  • Marker
  • Masking Tape
  • Pen knife
  • Screw Tray
  • Small flat screwdriver
  • Small Phillips screwdriver
  • Solder iron
  • Tripod
  • Work gloves 

First come the pulling apart of the Tablet:

  1. Set up the Camera and the Tripod to Record yourself from above while you work
  2. Tape down the Cartridge Paper with Masking Tape, making sure your work area is flat and level
  3. Remove the device’s back cover
  4. Pull the main battery.
  5. Loosen any stuck-on cabling that is now exposed, like the camera cable, for example
  6. Remove cables if the clasps are exposed. These cables simply slide out of any exposed sockets after clasps are released.
  7. Unscrew the Phillips or Torx screws that hold the motherboard-containing back frame to the LCD-containing chassis
  8. Mark the screws using a coloured Marker
  9. Place the marked screws in separate Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers for safe-keeping and easy identification
  10. Separate the back frame from the chassis by gently and carefully pull the two apart.
  11. Remove any further cable assemblies that have become exposed by the separation of parts.
  12. Remove the LCD-containing chassis from the front frame or Bezel and glass assembly by unscrewing a second batch of screws.
  13. Store the second set of screws in a second set of Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers.
  14. Remove any further parts such as the camera.
  15. Separate the existing, damaged glass from the Bezel or front frame by waving the heat gun over the adhesive join and pulling apart. Wear gloves here because you’ll further break the glass. 

Ok. Now we’ve got the Screen out. Replacing the Screen should be a walk in the park. Here goes:

  1. Attach fresh two-sided tape to areas of the Bezel that have lost their stickiness reusing existing adhesive where possible. Don’t allow tape to overlap the Screen
  2. Look for any foam padding or seals and reattach.
  3. Thread the digitizer cable and remount the new digitizer glass to the Bezel by firmly pressing it into place.
  4. Remove any dust from the LCD and glass with canned air.
  5. Reattach any parts, like the camera. Then reassemble chassis, frame and so on, in order that you remember. 

Screen Installation Tips – Patience of Job. Colored Markers and Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers needed

This is the part that calls for Patience like Job with a quick reflection via reading a chapter of the KJV Bible; munching on some Pringles Potato Chips makes the backtracking easy. Jokes aside, if you’re a novice at pulling things apart and putting them back together in working order, marking the screws with a Marker and placing them in Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers becomes helpful.

Assembly/Disassembly repeatedly may occur as …well…you’re new to this as your first DIY deconstructing a Tablet. Simple errors, based on my experience, range placing wrong screws in the wrong holes or missing or excess screws after re-assembly. Hence the reason why the Camera with Video Capability and even better, a tech Savvy friend with an eye for details and preferably sober can save you some headache!

Here are a few installers’ tips from my own experience fixing these delicate Electronic Devices:

  • Be patient while the heat gun loosens the adhesive. Careful not to break the Bezel as you’ll need the Bezel intact.
  • Do not touch the inside of the glass — you won’t be able to get rid of the fingerprints after assembly
  • Don’t touch the LCD face. If you have to, make sure you’re wearing gloves. Wipe up all smudges with Lint free cloth and Cleaning Fluid as described in my article How to make your own Cleaning Fluid and Cleaning Tips for your Smartphone or Tablet.
  • Let your tech Savvy friend with an eye for details and preferably sober check and recheck your every move; annoying but helpful
  • Look for solid connections when attaching cables. Ensure that the clasps are open first. Usually the up position is open.
  • Maintain visual cues as to which cable to reattach where. Using a Marker to mark cables, if possible, is always a good idea. Remember the Camera’s Tape’s rolling, so don’t sweat it!
  • Never place Processors, Memory Card or Motherboards onto Metallic Surfaces.
  • Always work against a plain level white Background, preferably created using cartridge paper taped down with masking Tape
  • Perform a visual check for any hidden, un-removed screws or any hidden cables that connect the glass to the LCD-containing chassis if you detect resistance. Be careful not to use unnecessary force though, or a new Tablet or Smartphone is in your future!
  • The tape-style cables are often held onto the frame and parts by adhesive; heat gun comes in handy to gently heat and release.
  • There can be lots of screws here. Set up Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers and use a Marker with a distinct colour to mark the Coloured Plastic Cups or Saucers and the screws to indicate where they came from 

In general, firm snaps indicate a good assembly. Reapply any existing metallic tape and Count the screws. If any are left over, Assembly/Disassembly repeatedly is required! If you’ve reached this far and all screws are accounted for then congratulations are in order; you’ve just replaced your First Cracked Screen on a Smartphone or Tablet. You can keep the Video as a Teaching Aid for Novices like yourself or upload it to YouTube and become an overnight sensation!

Be Warned about that last bit though: you might have to hide in a manner similar to what happens when your friend(s) discover that you can convert Mini SIM (Subscriber Identification Modules) Card to Micro SIM and Nano SIM as described in How to make your own Micro-SIM or Nano-SIM Card.

This as when your friends develop the same Cracked Screens problem, they may come looking for you to fix their gadgets for free! At this point the procedure is as follows: hide them out patiently like Job, clutching your KJV Bible and munching on your Pringles Potato Chips!!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.