How to Teardown and Repair your iPhone

Owning an iPhone is a mixed bag of great (perceived) benefits as well as various measures of frustration. On one hand, whatever model the current iPhone is, it’s some of the most cutting edge technology available. It’s fun to play with and explore. On the other hand, having to own the latest version means swapping the phone out every time a new one hits. It also means that it’s a crapshoot as to what you should do when your iPhone breaks after say a drop to the ground or a trip into the toilet. Should you buy a new one? Should you pay to have it fixed? At what point is one choice a better investment than the other? Or, should you have a go at fixing it yourself? These are all important factors to consider, because any or all of those could be costly depending on the issue and because Apple frowns upon people tinkering with their products.

Part of the issue with the complexity of repairing iPhones ourselves and other Apple products is that Apple claims that by limiting our ability to tinker with and repair their products, they’re not only protecting their intellectual property, they’re also protecting us from various threats and maybe even ourselves. The real reason, in all probability, is Apple makes it hard to tinker with their stuff so that people either buy a new one whenever something goes wrong or it becomes obsolete, or require us to go in and consult with their “Geniuses” to repair something. After all, if you can fix it yourself, why would you bring it in, pay, and then have a “Genius” do it? Good question.

Regardless of how you feel about all of this and despite whatever Apple’s true motive is, with a little bit of knowledge and the right tools, you can extend the life of your iPhone or iPad and get just a tad more for your money than you might otherwise. If you’re really good you may even be able to fix your own cracked screen or make a few bucks off of fixing stuff for friends and family. At the very least, we should all be able to easily change out a battery, you don’t even need tools for that on an Android. So, here’s a quick rundown on Apple’s iPhone XS, the most current model as of this blog’s writing.

iPhone XS pentalobe screwdriverFirst and foremost, it’s probably a great idea to watch this video of the iPhone XS teardown and this video for the XS Max. The first is a great video as it shows how to take the thing apart and does it in a really organized way showing you more or less what tools to use at which point to work on it. You also get a look at how the X and XS are and are not interchangeable. As for the tools needed, you can buy a whole kit from iFixit, or you can just find high quality brands and focus on the specific tools needed for your task. You can get many of these same parts individually or in combo sets made by Wiha or other excellent brands. After all, you might as well get a high quality bunch of tools. This will not only give you tools that last, but it will save your screws from being stripped as well. As we mentioned before, there was a huge difference between a cheap precision tool and a Wiha precision tool.  

To start with, for the XS, you’ll need four different kinds of precision screwdrivers or bits to get into the phone. For all of the tools that follow, if applicable and available, you may want to consider getting ESD safe tools to ensure static doesn’t render your repair efforts meaningless. The first type you’ll need is Apple’s favorite, the pentalobe screwdriver and it seems that Wiha makes the best of these. It looks like the size you’ll need is the P2 pentalobe, though a P1 is sold in some sets for this too. For the P2,you can get it individually or Wiha has a 6 piece precision pentalobe set (26794) or a couple of different options for multi-bit with handle options (75995 or 75097). The other special driver you’ll need is the tri-wing 000 driver. Wiha recently introduced their PicoFinish precision driver (26631) and while it’s a tiny little thing, it’ll probably have the best fit on the market. The other two precision screwdrivers you’ll need will be the Phillips #00 and #000. With these four screwdrivers, you should be able to get into and play with your iPhone.

iPhone XS Tri wing 000 screwdriverOne of the other key tricks to getting into your iPhone, you need to heat up the edges to loosen up the glue. The video recommends using the temp setting of 80C (176F) for about five minutes. On the low cost end, you get a decent brand like Steinel’s 34103 all the way up to Ideal’s 46-203. Either one is a good choice, it just depends on if you have other uses for it after taking apart your iPhone. Heat guns come in handy for shrink wrapping, so maybe consider that too.

The last group of tools that will help you out in your Apple repair adventure are tweezers and spudgers. With tweezers you’ll get by with a couple different types, your normal straight tweezers and curved tweezers, both long nose. These will help you scoop out the delicate pieces in the iPhone without breaking them in you giant-ish hands. The spudgers will come in handy to gently pry off the pieces inside the phone so you can grab them with the tweezers. Both Ideal and Klein make some spudgers that will get the work done, and really this could be a choice made by which you can get cheaper.

Working on your iPhone isn’t the easiest thing to do, so make sure you study up on it and get the best tools you can to help you be successful. Apple doesn’t really like you doing it, they’ve made it hard, but they haven’t made it impossible. Yet. In the end, if you’re careful, you’ll be able to replace your own battery and maybe even broken screens. You’ll be able to extend the life of your iPhone XS and impress your nerdy friends.  

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