Repair in Mind (Featuring an iPhone Xr Back Glass Repair)

Design with repair in mind is something that some electronics manufacturers don't always take to heart - and the most egregious example is that of the dreaded iPhone back glass. Back glass on the iPhone serves the purposes of allowing wireless charging, as it is difficult to do through metal. As a result, that is another surface on the "glass sandwich" of a phone that can potentially be broken. Damaged back glasses allow the intrusion of water, dust, and other debris into the interior of the phone, but for the most part is an aesthetic choice that doesn't affect the functionality. Unfortunately, the back glass on an iPhone isn't designed with repair in mind. The adhesives used to hold down the back glass requires either the use of a specialized laser or a heat gun that goes well beyond the operating safety of the battery and other components. The safest way to do this repair is to transfer all the components over from one pre-assembled shell to another. This minimizes the potential dangers and bring the repair down to a manageable 2-3 hours. This is compared to a screen for an iPhone, which can take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour depending on model.

The Repair The following is a frame-to-frame of the steps needed to do this repair. A lot of intermediary steps were omitted, especially the finagling of very thin cables, difficult to reach screws, changing screwdriver heads, and so on. There are very few repeated screws in an iPhone, so a screw count is provided, and each screw has to go back in the same hole it came out of

The cracked iPhone Xr side by side with its replacement. With the whole assembly being replaced, some parts are included such as the buttons, flashlight, and other small parts

The screen is carefully removed, something that can become quickly very difficult in the case of deep scratches. 3 brackets are removed, making the screw total: 12

In the spirit of removing things, we've taken out the rear camera, SIM card reader, and logic board (the brains) of the device. This beings our screw total to 22

We move into the bottom portion of the phone, removing an antenna bracket, vibration motor, and other small brackets. Screw total: 35

At this point, we're an hour into the repair, the Xr has been gutted. We're cold, hungry, and begging for the sweet release of death, but now have to perform the repair in reverse order. Screw total: 47

Back glass repairs are especially popular for phones being traded in, but they continue to be a barrier for that. The assembled frame and glass is often close to if not exceeding the cost of a screen, and takes 2-3 times the amount of time to install, not including the increased danger to the phone for having to take so many components out. Glass is glass, and glass breaks, and the fact that Apples has neglected to take this into account during their design process (where Samsung has determined an answer) neglects an important aspect of owning a product - the right to be able to fix it.

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