As I walked out of my last job and headed for the bus stop – my last day ended and a whole new life in another country ready to begin1 – I pulled my HTC Desire out of my pocket to check the time and it leapt out of my hands into a painful-sounding faceplant on the concrete, cracking the glass in front of the touchscreen. Devastated – and with glass splinters in my thumb from trying to check when the next bus was – I headed home.
A search on the Googles revealed that others in my situation had been quoted between $200 and $300 AUD to repair the touchscreen. Still others had chosen to ship parts from overseas repairers ($100 – $200 AUD) and replace the screen themselves. By the time I did my damage the phone was popular enough, and had been on the market long enough for me to be able to ship replacement parts from Hong-Kong for little more than $40 AUD. It turned out that the LCD was still working fine, but the broken glass cover at the front of the screen is actually the digitizer: The part of the screen that detects and sends the touches to the phone. 3 weeks later my replacement digitizer arrived and I set to work repairing my HTC Desire, following the instructions I found on this helpful website.
- - New digitizer
- - Star screwdriver
- - Cross screwdriver
- - Separator
- - Knife
- - Double-sided tape
Step 2 is where I discovered that the cross-head screwdriver included with the replacement digitizer kit didn’t actually fit my phone, and had to go out and buy a new one.
Note the VOID stickers that need to be removed to get at the screws: this procedure will end your warranty
Step 3 is where it starts to get hairy – try not to lose the Power button or Volume rocker as the circuit board comes out, and remember to unplug the antenna connection and to plug it back in when closing the phone up again.
Step 4 gets a little scary- the screen is held into the frame pretty firmly, and it requires peeling and slight bending to get it out (not too much bending, mind you). There’s some metal tape stuff that has to be peeled off as well, but it’s pretty easy to stick it back on once you put the screen back in.
Step 5 is similar to the last step, but worse. The digitizer is held in by a sticky black glue, and it’s necessary to pull it away far enough that you can cut it with the separator all around. I managed to do this without bending the frame, everyone else may not be so lucky.
Step 6 just involves cleaning the frame so that the new screen can go in.
Step 7: Put it all back together and…it doesn’t work. Crap.
Whenever I touch the screen it brings now the notification panel. I was lucky to get the phone unlocked for the picture.
Strangely, it seems to work fine when the screen is left just slightly out of the frame, so I went ahead with the next step. This eventually ended okay, as the tape made the screen work for some reason.
Step 8 is to glue the digitizer back into the frame using small (2mm) strips of double-sided tape placed along the edges.
Step 9 is to gloat! I replaced my screen for less than $50!
Overall it was a surprisingly easy procedure, despite the worry about the screen not working about halfway through. If you can’t afford to get the screen replaced by an official repair centre, or don’t have warranty anymore, and you’re comfortable pulling the pieces out of a Tandy Robby Robot toy then by all means go ahead and replace the digitizer yourself!
Just don’t sue me if you stuff it up.
- I’ve since moved to Vancouver, Canada for a 2 year working holiday [↩]