As much as I love technology, I also hate it sometimes (usually because of user error). Short story: I dropped my phone (which has a Ballistic case on it) when opening a car door. It hit the ground (I didn’t really see at what angle), and the touch screen stopped working. There were no cracks on the screen (not even a scratch!), but it was unresponsive to any touch. Even more frustrating was that all of the buttons (power, volume, home, menu, and back) worked. Argggh! Yes, totally my fault, but still, argggh!
As someone who relies on his phone for life and business (e.g., client calls, tenant calls, etc.), not having a phone you can interact with will certainly ruin your productivity and potentially more. And, getting it working (especially if you need it quickly) can be expensive! And, you may not even be in a place to get it fixed or replaced easily.
This is Part 1 (of 2) in an article on replacing the touchscreen (also known as the digitizer, which is behind the glass) of my AT&T Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (for the techies out there, this is the SGH-I747).
Part 1 is really about what to order to replace your touchscreen (Samsung Galaxy S3 i747 T999 LCD Touch Digitizer Screen Assembly With Frame Blue Replacement Part) and how to survive with an unresponsive screen while you wait for it (assuming it has to be shipped or you want to evaluate options without losing productivity). Part 2 will be about the actual replacement process.
Why share this?
First, I’m recommending you buy a very inexpensive ($7 for two) adapter (Cable Matters (2-Pack) Micro-USB 2.0 On-The-Go (OTG) Adapter) that could save you a lot of frustration if you ever lose touchscreen responsiveness on your Android smartphone, which is obviously a critical function in making it useful for you. Second, and last, replacing the full touchscreen is a relatively easy process on the Samsung Galaxy S3 (and probably other Android-based phones), so it could save you time and money. And, as many of you know, I’m all about saving money.
How much might you save?
If you bought insurance of whatever type, now would be the time to bust that out. If not, a used, unlocked replacement Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (same model) on craigslist or eBay is probably $150-200+. That will continue to go down as newer models come out, but still pretty expensive. A new one (same model, unsubsidized – see side note) will run $250+. Or, you can buy the replacement touchscreen digitizer for $100 on Amazon with free shipping. Note: Make sure you are buying the digitizer (digitizer + glass screen). There are many glass replacement kits out there for a lot less, but that is for replacing the glass on top of the digitizer, which is actually a bit more difficult (and you can ruin your digitizer in the process).
SIDE NOTE: If this happens to you and you’re on a contract with your carrier, it may be a good point to check in and see about upgrades for renewing, which can obviously help subsidize a new phone (in part or in full). You may also want to consider switching carriers, since many of them (at the time of publishing this) were offering lucrative contract buyouts for switching and probably throw in a subsidized phone in the deal. As a reminder to my readers, I’m on a no contract, $27/month plan from H2O Wireless.
What do I need while I wait for the replacement screen
Assuming you have to wait for the replacement digitizer (if you found it locally, I’m guessing it’s more than the $100, but may be worth avoiding the wait), you still have a functioning phone as long as you find a way to interact with it. That’s where the micro-USB 2.0 (male) to USB adapter (female) comes in (they have a micro-USB 3.0 for a little more for the Galaxy S5 or Note 3). I highly recommend everyone with an Android-based phone buy one of these adapters and keep it with you (at home or in your bag when you travel) — it comes in a 2-pack, so should be easy. It plugs into your micro-USB port (charging port) and lets you plug in USB devices. In this case, that USB device is a USB mouse, which lets you control your screen just as if you had touchscreen capability. You likely have a USB mouse lying around somewhere or can find/borrow one (much more likely than finding one of these adapters). If not, buy a cheap one too. Plug your adapter into the phone and plug your mouse into the adapter. Voila! You now have control of your phone.
Yes, this is a bit clunky. I don’t expect you to be walking around town toting your phone, adapter, and mouse in your pocket and whipping it out to take a selfie on the street. But, it is very functional while working on a desk/table and sure beats having a working phone that you can’t interact with. Plus, you can also use it to attach other USB-based devices, such as a USB memory stick, which could make file transfers possible/easier, especially if you don’t have a microSD card. Other options include a keyboard or the wireless adapter for your keyboard or mouse.
FYI: Your phone is powering the USB device, so anything you plug in must be able to be powered by the phone or have separate power. In other words, it’ll work with a mouse and USB memory stick, but won’t power a external hard drive (unless the hard drive has its own power source).
- Simple workaround for an unresponsive touchscreen
- Inexpensive (2-pack!)
- Micro-USB 2.0 and Micro-USB 3.0 Versions available
- Small and easy to carry
- Plug and play
- High quality, well built cable
- Angled adapter, which helps prevent bent adapters (FYI, the 3.0 version looks like it’s straight vs. angled)
- Bonus functionality for other USB devices (like memory sticks, keyboards, wireless mice)
- Full setup is clunky (not ideal for on-the-go use)
- Requires USB mouse, which you may not have
Take the 2 minutes to order this adapter now and put one in your work bag and keep the other at home. Fingers crossed you never have to use it. If you do, you’ll be so glad you have it!
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series.
Readers, what have been your hacks/workarounds for a broken phone? Share in the comments.