It is the one moment that all smartphone owners dread more than any other: having left their hand, the slow drift of their cherished glass rectangle towards the unforgiving concrete below.
Gravity being the cruel mistress that she is, many of these devices end up damaged to the point of being unusable. The only solution in such a scenario is also the worst nightmare for any budget-conscious individual: braving the depths of the phone repair shop.
Afraid of being ripped off, and short on cash, this is the position in which I found myself one fateful morning back in October. My partner had entered the room, with a certain look upon her face, hand held out containing her Lumia 520, complete with an enormous crack running down the screen.
With tears in her eyes, and uttering a strange noise (on a frequency known only to hamsters), she placed the phone in my hand and begged if I could, please, fix it. As anyone who balances their work and personal lives on one device knows, its loss creates quite a hole.
Nokia as a brand has enjoyed quite the reputation as the builder of robust devices. Even given this renown, the poor little Lumia was nonetheless no match for my partner’s aggressively clumsy tendencies. The screen suffered an almighty crack from its top left corner all the way down to the bottom right. This blow also disabled the digitizer, the screen no longer registered touch input.
As such, there I was, without a clue. Being vaguely ‘technological’, I’d often found myself on the receiving end of such requests. This isn’t based on any proven competency, with most cases being revolved via a cunning Google search.
I proceeded to follow in this time honored tradition, and what I discovered led me down quite the rabbit hole.
As it turns out, as well as having something of a reputation for durability, Nokia is also well-known for the relative ease of repairing its devices. Using the commonly-found Torx screw in its devices, it is relatively simple (along with the use of a guitar pick) to fix a Lumia phone. Factoring my own inexperience and general clumsiness however, in retrospect I should perhaps have known a little better.
For my first step, as I thought might be logical, I watched several YouTube tutorials on Lumia 520 screen repair, along with several written articles. The process seemed to be detailed well enough for an amateur to attempt, as such I went ahead and ordered a replacement screen, along with a phone repair kit from eBay.
The items arrived promptly, and I didn’t waste a second before tearing in. Firstly, I removed the back cover, then the battery. Placing these to the side, I then set about the next step, unscrewing all screws and then removing the plastic clips attaching the body.
Working from the top with a plec, I picked each of the eight or so clips individually, though this took a little time they eventually came loose. This exposed the innards of the phone, the circuit board. Unclipping the two plastic bands, this in turn was removed with little fuss. Only the LCD and the front screen glass remained, this is where my troubles began.
Attached via an unfortunate sticky strip, the LCD took quite a while to remove without causing it damage, though in the end I managed. This left the front glass and the frame surrounding it, which were attached to one another with industrial strength glue (which as it turns out is quite hard to remove).
Despite the application of heat and some considerable force on my part, I could not get the damnable thing to budge. In a blurred frenzy, I may then have applied a small blade to remove the glass, of course the frame then snapped, rendering the whole endeavor useless.
As I had ordered a replacement screen, as opposed to a screen and frame, I was left in something of a bind. Once again I turned to eBay to solve my woes. Soon I found an option that caught my eye, mainly due to the very, very low price. I ordered it, then proceeded to wait for my new screen and frame.
Fast-forward three weeks (I had unwittingly ordered a piece from China). I received a little package in the post, and once again set about repairing the beloved 520. By this point, we had secured another device for my partner, a Lumia 630, which she loved even more. The 520 was now a mission, my honor was at stake.
The device had remained disassembled, as such reassembly with my new parts was a very simple process. Once everything was clicked, screwed and pushed back together, I powered the device on. Greeted by blessed touch-interactivity, I was rather pleased with myself. With a smug grin I went about resetting the device to its factory state in order to play with Lumia Denim (as the UK owner of a Lumia 1020, I was rather keen).
This turned out to be a mistake.
When a device resets, it performs a hardware check to ensure everything is in order. Nokia phones in particular look for official Nokia hardware, if they do not find it, then they let you know. Upon being greeted with the language selection screen, I was once again unable to interact with the device. My cheap, non-official, screen no longer worked. I was crestfallen.
I would not be defeated however, not by a mobile phone. I ordered a new part, this time official, before proceeding to wonder what exactly I was doing with my life.
The new part arrived within a day, I disassembled the device, replaced the screen once more, then I reassembled it and powered it on once more.
It worked. It finally, finally worked.
After almost a month of trying, and a small outlay of cash, I had replaced the screen. Having bought the device for £70 ($106.60), I spent around £15 ($22.84) on my various parts and tools, competent users can expect to spend around £10 or less, and only buy official parts. Having been quoted a price of £55 ($83.75) for a simple screen replacement, this represents a good saving overall.
Would I recommend that others try? Only with thorough research, know the device inside and out before making a repair, and bear in mind that unibody devices with tight construction are far more difficult to repair than the likes of a Lumia 520.
As for me, my mission was complete.
Have you tried DIY phone repair? Let us know in the comments below.