How to replace a broken iPhone 5S screen

Bill Detwiler shows you how to replace a cracked screen on your Apple iPhone 5S.

Should I do this myself?

Before undertaking this DIY project, I suggest you watch my video on what to know before trying to fix a smartphone or tablet and then decide if you should repair the phone yourself or have someone else do it.

Also, if you have an AppleCare+ or other warranty that covers accidental damage, just get your phone fixed or replaced under the warranty. Even if your phone is out of warranty, Apple will replace the screen in-store for $149 (US) and the entire phone for $269.

But if you’re ready to tackle a challenging but satisfying do-it-yourself fix and perhaps save a little money, here’s a guide for replacing a cracked display.

For more teardown photos of the iPhone, iPad, and other tech, check out my Cracking Open blog on TechRepublic.

Get the replacement parts and tools

Before beginning the repair, you’ll need to get the necessary replacement parts and tools.

The iPhone’s front panel and LCD are fused together, so I recommend buying both as a single unit–most parts providers only sell them this way. You’ll find them anywhere from $50 to $150 online. Just be sure that you buy the right one for your phone, and read the reviews of people who have installed them. Not all replacement screens are made to the same tolerances as the original part. I also suggest you buy a replace screen with the front-facing camera, earpiece, and sensor assembly already attached.

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iPhone 5S replacement screen without Home buttonBill Detwiler/TechRepublic

The Home button is another story. Very few, if any, replacement screens come with the 5S’s fingerprint-scanning Home button. Before installing the new screen, you’ll need to transfer the button from your old screen to the new one. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

As for tools, you’ll need a few thin prying tools, tweezers, Phillips 000 screwdriver, suction cup, and a special pentalobe screwdriver, for removing the phone’s outer case screws.

In this guide, I’ll be replacing the panel on an AT&T iPhone 5S, but you can use same basic steps on phones from other carriers and, with the exception of the steps relating to the Home button, on the iPhone 5 and 5C.

Lastly, know that by following these instructions, you do so at your own risk. And remember to back up the data on your phone before starting the repair.

Step 1. Eject the SIM card

With all the prep work finished, we’ll start the repair by ejecting the SIM card.

Step 2. Remove the broken display

Next, remove the two screws located along the bottom edge and gently lift up on the front panel using the suction cup and a prying tool if necessary. Take care not to pull the panel too far.

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Disconnecting the iPhone 5S touchscreen display cables.Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Before completely removing the panel, we’ll need to disconnect several cables, starting with the one for the Home button, which is covered by a small metal bracket.

To disconnect the other cables, we’ll need to remove a metal shield on the upper portion of the motherboard.

Finally, we can detach the panel’s three remaining cables and completely remove it.

Step 3. Transfer the Home button

Before we can install our new panel, we need to transfer the Touch ID enabled Home button from the old panel to the new one.

So first, remove the single screw that secures the button’s cable. Note the position of the small contact under this screw. It will need to be in the same position on the new panel.

Next, very gently fold the cable down so we can access the metal bracket underneath.

Now, remove the two screws attached to the bracket and the bracket itself.

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Transferring the iPhone 5S Home button from the broken screen to the replacement.Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Finally, comes the most delicate part of the process. Very, very carefully pry the Home button cable away from the panel, followed by the Home button.

You may need to apply a little heat to the soften the adhesive as you remove these components. You may also need to push up on the button from the front of the panel. Just be gently and go slowly.

With the Home button removed, we can place it on our new panel, reattach the bracket, and reposition the cable.

Step 4. Install the new display

We’re now ready to install the new display. So, reconnect the cables at the top of the panel and replace the metal shield. Then reconnect the Home button and reposition its metal bracket.

Lastly, press the new panel onto the frame, secure it with the two pentalobe screws, and power up the phone to make sure both everything is in working order.

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iPhone 5S with a brand new, replacement touchscreen display.Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Congratulations, you fixed your phone!

As fixes go, this one isn’t too tough, but it does take a lot of patience and attention to detail.

How to Use a Toothpick to Clean Out Your iPhone

iPhone or iPad not charging? The Lightning port may be clogged. Here’s how to clean it out with basic household items.

A simple search on Apple’s forums shows a common trend: a lot of iPhone and iPad owners are having problems charging their device. Two of my colleagues have also run into this problem. There’s a simple solution to this. Before blaming the cable or phone, check your device’s Lightning port.

Lint and other debris from our pockets or purses gets stuck in this port and can build up over time. To be safe, back up your iPhone or iPad to your computer or the cloud. Power it off, and with a normal toothpick, gently remove the lint. You will be amazed how much can get stuck in the port.

Connect the charger and see if it works. Still having problems? Try cleaning the port out again, but this time use a can of compressed air. Alternative options for toothpicks include using a SIM-card tool, a bobby pin, or a small needle.

You can also use this method if your iPhone or iPad is stuck in “headphone mode” even though no headphones are plugged in. The same method can also be used for cleaning out the charging port and headphone jacks on Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices.

Bring Jet-Fighter Tech to Your Car with Navdy

Bring Jet-Fighter Tech to Your Car with Navdy

Navdy hardware (Navdy)

Many new cars are available today with a piece of jet-fighter technology called a “heads-up display,” a projector that shoots key data, like your speed or navigation data, onto your windshield, right in your line of sight.

Fighter (and some airline) pilots use HUDs so they can keep their eyes on the world outside while still monitoring their instruments. It’s safer and it lets the pilots process more information without having to shift their attention between the outside world and their inside displays.

But if you want a car with an HUD, you pretty much have to get a new car. And you have to pay up. HUDs are expensive options, often available only in packages with other high-end toys. They don’t do all that much, either.

Or you could look into the Navdy, a heads-up display for drivers that should be available early next year for $499. You can preorder it now for $299.

The Navdy gives you not just a heads-up display on car data like speed and navigation, but it also shows you who’s calling your mobile phone, what music it’s playing, who’s texting you, and so on. And you control it with gestures — like showing a thumbs-up sign to accept an incoming call.

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Navdy user experience, fantasy version (Navdy)

The gear
The Navdy device is a slab of plastic you attach to the top of your dashboard, right in your line of sight. There’s a small screen that information is projected onto, and you can see through it. It sits low enough on your dash that the data it displays should not appear to be directly on top of the car in front of you, although the screen is definitely in your line of sight.

The display is full color and looks pretty good. I tried a prototype, and it was easy to read, glanceable, and not intrusive.

The device takes power from your car’s onboard diagnostic port (OBD II), not the cigarette lighter. You have to run a wire around and under your dash to the port, but it’s easier to tuck it out of the way than it would be if you had to run it to the lighter plug that’s generally right out in front of everything. The OBD connection also supplies key data to the Navdy, like speed and engine fault codes.

The prototype I saw was attached aggressively to the dashboard of a demo car, but when the device ships it will come with a mount that lets you remove the Navdy from it easily (so you can stash it in the glove box or something). The power cord will stay plugged into the mounting base, so it should be easy to snap the main unit on and off. This should reduce the likelihood that someone will break into your car to steal the Navdy, but the mounting plate itself may end up advertising that you have one stored in your car somewhere. Remember the problem people had with GPS units: Even when they were removed and hidden, the telltale round suction cup impression left on the windshield told thieves that there might be expensive portable electronics in the car.

Inside the Navdy are an Android computer and a Bluetooth radio that links to your smartphone — Android or iPhone. But the idea is that you can stow your phone and use the Navdy instead for anything you’d need to do while you’re driving.

The experience
The video demo (above) of the Navdy is compelling. I did not get to try the software, unfortunately, or interact with the unit. The supercool gesture controls weren’t working when I tried it, and I didn’t see it displaying any media information or text data.

The Navdy will use Google Maps for navigation, I’m told, although it won’t, at launch, use Google’s traffic data. For playing audio, it will run Pandora, Spotify, iTunes Music, and Google Play Music. Support for other audio media (podcast players, audiobook readers) may come later.

What I saw was prototype hardware displaying directions on the screen in front of me during a demo drive. It showed good, clear, turn-based directions. And when a call came in, it moved the direction arrow off to one side to show me the Caller ID from the person calling.

The demo of the device’s screen and optics, while very impressive, wasn’t enough to lead me to recommend the device just yet. I’ll have to see this thing in action, and see how well it fits on top of a more car dashboards.

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A prototype Navdy (Photo: Rafe Needleman/Yahoo)

Worth it?
The great thing about aftermarket car electronics like the Navdy is that they generally do more and cost much less than getting the manufacturer’s built-in option for the same thing. Your smartphone’s free navigation app is almost always better than the $2,000 extra-cost navigation option you can get with a car, for example. The same is true with the Navdy: For under $500, you get a full-color, rather large heads-up display, with support for navigation, communication, and media — and with a really clever gesture-based control interface. In contrast, existing manufacturer-provided heads-up displays are generally limited to just showing speed and navigation. And for all that, they’re overpriced.

However, nobody’s going to break into a car to steal a built-in HUD, and you won’t have a wart of aftermarket electronics in your line of sight at all times with it, either.

I do not think the Navdy is a necessary piece of equipment for the modern driver. It’s useful and fun, and probably safer to use than a mobile phone, but a good high-mounted smartphone holder will get you part of the way there and for a lot less. That said, if you feel the need to do a lot of smartphone work while you drive, and you’re not about to get a car with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay built in, this looks like a very clever gadget.

New Documentary Claims Cell Phone Radiation Is Tied To Brain Cancer

                            

 

Mobilize asks us to consider what electromagnetic radiation might do to kids growing up with devices. (Photo via Mobilize)

We all have a sneaking suspicion that our cell phones are bad for us. You hear it every day: they erode our attention span and keep us connected to social media when we should be paying attention to the people right in front of our eyes. But what if cell phones are actually physically bad for us?

Mobilize, an upcoming documentary from filmmaker Kevin Kunze, is the first feature-length documentary to examine the possibly harmful effects of cell phone radiation. The production value is shoddy at best — Mr. Kunze started the film as a student, and paid the production costs himself — but the film is dense with professors and researchers who testify that the effects of cell phone radiation on the human brain are very real.

The film zeroes in on a specific phenomenon — the effects of the radiation in cell phones when they are held against the side of your head. Cell phones emit a small amount of electromagnetic radiation when they transmit a signal, and the film asks whether or not that radiation has any effect on the human brain, the most sensitive area cell phones come in contact with.

As the film shows, most cell phone manufacturers include ass-covering disclaimers in their phone manuals, suggesting you keep your phone about an inch away from your face — an absurd request for someone who needed to, say, make a phone call. The radiation is real, but unlike health risks from tobacco, certain medicines, or cars, the warning has been relegated to fine print in small books that almost no one reads.

The FCC regulates both cell phone radiation and the media, and is heavily influenced by the cell phone industry's powerful lobbying group.

The FCC regulates both cell phone radiation and the media, and is heavily influenced by the cell phone industry’s powerful lobbying group. (Photo via Mobilize)

The biggest trouble with getting accurate research, Mr. Kunze said, is a tale as old as time in politics: lobbying money. For every independent research report that says there’s a tie between cell phone radiation and brain tumors, there’s an industry-sponsored report to refute it.

Additionally, The Wireless Association (CTIA) has a tight grip on the FCC, which regulates both the media and cell phone radiation. When lawmakers in California tried to increase the visibility of radiation warning labels, the CTIA withdrew their annual convention from San Francisco and brought in executives from the top cell phone companies to block the legislation.

The film makes multiple allusions to the lobbying playbook of the tobacco industry when it first started to become clear that cigarettes are unhealthy, but Mr. Kunze doesn’t see tobacco as the best analogy.

“I think the better comparison is cars, which are another part of everyday life” he said. “It was years before we put in airbags and seatbelts, because we were blaming drivers for getting t-boned instead of focusing on what the industry could do.”

But plenty of people died in car accidents before that happened. When it comes to cell phones, it appears that we’re doing alright so far. After all, we haven’t seen incredible spikes in the number of brain tumors to correlate with the sudden ever-presence of cell phones.

The issue, Mr. Kunze says, is the threat to young kids. No generation before this one will have had cell phones since infancy, and developing brains are much more susceptible to electromagnetic radiation.

“Why not educate kids on this issue?” Mr. Kunze asks. “They’re the ones who are most vulnerable, and they’re the ones we’re experimenting on.”

Children born in the past few years will be the first generation with lifelong exposure to cell phone radiation. (Photo via Mobilize)

Children born in the past few years will be the first generation with lifelong exposure to cell phone radiation. (Photo via Mobilize)

Mr. Kunze has been embedded in researching the issue for years, but when you speak to him, his claims often sound conspiratorial. He believes that suspicion around cell phone radiation has factored into the reasoning behind Facebook’s reluctance to get into the phone business, or why President Obama’s daughters don’t have phones (in fact, Malia has had one for years).

There are parts of the film where this over-reaching leads toward tinfoil hat territory. One clip shows Virgin founder Richard Branson saying that he uses a headset because he’d rather keep dangerous cell phones away from his body and face. Mobilize points out that he later went on to establish Virgin Mobile and now does cell phone commercials, and begs the question: What does Richard Branson know that we don’t?

Probably nothing. The more likely explanation is that in the early clip, filmed off-the-cuff in the back of a limo half a decade ago, caught him in a moment of speculation. It’s not clear that it’s ever something Mr. Branson cared very deeply about, or that he’s got some secret knowledge we’re not in on.

But to Mr. Kunze’s point, the problem is that nobody has anything approaching a definitive conclusion. As long as lobbying money is more powerful than our willingness to seriously look at the devices up in our pockets, we will continue to not know and make cynical jokes that our cell phones are killing us, instead of very seriously asking if they are.

 

Steve Jobs Wanted to Give Free WiFi to Everyone

You might associate Apple with expensive products and upmarket accessories. But, believe it or not, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was allegedly infatuated with the idea of giving free WiFi to everyone in America.

According to Walt Mossberg, a tech journalist known to have been close with Jobs, the Apple boss’s idea wasn’t for his company to foot the bill for a free, country-wide WiFi utopia. Instead, back in the first days of the original iPhone (2007), Jobs envisioned a scenario closer to what we have now: WiFi routers in commercial and residential communities openly sharing Internet access to passersby.

In a recent piece for the technology website Re/code, Mossberg gives his account of a conversation he had with Jobs, explaining that the late Apple CEO was frustrated with the limited capabilities of cellular networks in 2007. Jobs knew that the iPhone thrived on WiFi, and he wanted all iPhone owners to have access to speedier wireless data all the time.

According to Mossberg:

“Jobs said he understood the need for security, but he was determined to figure out a way to make free, safe, Wi-Fi sharing from homes and small local businesses not only possible, but common. He even told me that he planned to get other companies involved, in a sort of consortium, to make this happen.

“His idea was to get as many wireless router makers as possible to build in a ‘guest network’ option — essentially a second Wi-Fi network, securely walled off from the rest of the home network, and with its own name. Then, he hoped that the industry would encourage people to share their bandwidth with strangers via these guest networks. That way, a smartphone user could walk around, moving from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another, without logging in — much like people using cellular data move from one cell tower to another.”

Though more routers today do allow for a separate “guest” channel, Mossberg admits that he has “no idea whether this stemmed from Steve Jobs’ idea.”

Many Internet providers go a step further in configuring rented residential and commercial WiFi routers to automatically provide “guest” access in an attempt to facilitate community broadband networks. The communal “cable WiFi” scheme, outlined by our columnist Rob Pegoraro, can be thwarted if the customer chooses to disable the sharing, a process alsooutlined by our columnist Rob Pegoraro.

Since the main way to connect freely with “cable WiFi” or the like is by logging in with cable subscription credentials, it means the service generally isn’t free or available in most neighborhoods. That’s why Mossberg says that, nope, “No such big public consortium for home Wi-Fi sharing [as described by Jobs] ever emerged.”

That might be changing. My colleague Alyssa Bereznak detailed a new system being piloted in Spain, in which neighbors pool together their WiFi to form a stronger signal for whoever is online at the time.

Granted, this system hasn’t caught on quite yet. But, hey, who knows? Now that the cat’s out of the bag on Jobs’ big “free WiFi” idea, maybe someone will lift it outright. It wouldn’t be the first time a company has stolen from him, right?