Update 7/18/2015: See Results

While putting away my work area before going to bed last night, I accidentally dropped my mouse onto my phone. I didn't realize this until I was about to set my alarm.

Lest to say, a broken screen is the last thing I wanted to grumble about before going to bed. But that was just the case. Annoyed, I just set it aside, resolving to, "deal with it tomorrow."

Tomorrow came and inspecting the damage, I found that the mouse just happened to have fallen onto where the LG logo is. You can trace the the broken lines to the point of impact:


Point of Impact

What makes this so annoying is that if the screen had been hit somewhere within the visible portion of the LCD, I could still carry on using my phone, but with some annoying shatter lines, missing pixel lines, etc... but at least I'd be able to make stuff out and continue to make/take calls.

Unfortunately, where the mouse hit is right about where the LCD gate driver chip is. It's the thing that flips the millions of pixels on and off to produce an image:


Source: http://www.solomon-systech.com/files/ck/images/DesignIC/TFTGate.jpg

On most OEM panels, the gate driver is a long silvery looking chip that's near one edge of the screen. Without it, there would be too many wires going into the screen.

In any case... what all this means is that every column of pixels up to where the chip's been damaged will be blacked out.

We Can Fix It!

I read somewhere last year where scientists and baby boomers lament that young people can't mend things.

Well, I take offense to that! They must also realize that "things" are much more complicated, integrated, and tiny nowadays. Whereas in days past everything was made out of wood, plastic, metal, and electronics you can handle without a magnifying glass - nowadays things are made out of impossibly thin plastic, tiny screws, one-way snaps, glue, and surface mount chips that require special equipment to repair.

Processes developed over decades that produce super thin and ultra light mobile phones sacrificed repairability in favor of ready for consumer packaging and design. It's the reason why we all don't still carry around Zack Morris brick phones:


Source: http://top-img.com/z/zack-morris-phone

Anyway... I don't really feel like getting a new phone. It took me forever to get it to where I like it and with the screen completely blacked out, there'd be no easy way for me to recover data stored on the phone itself.

So as it's a broken LCD screen and you can get any part from China for really cheap, let's hop on over to ebay. A quick search for L90 LCD reveals many many choices.

I pick one that ships from the US for $12.99 and free shipping. Similar modules shipping straight from China cost about the same, but you have to wait for it to arrive on the proverbial slow boat from China.

I pull out the gift card that kk6bs gave me for my birthday and it should come sometime later this week or sometime next week. I can deal without a phone for a week.

Phone Surgery

Next step, let's prep the phone for its new LCD module. While I could've probably poked around the phone and disassembled it, it's much better to see if someone else has already done it so there are fewer surprises.

Searching youtube, I found this lovely video:

I watched it a couple times and took note of what screws and potential rough spots where I can damage the phone to the point of being irreparable. Things like stripping tiny screws, tearing tiny flex cables, and breaking tiny plastic snaps.

Having armed myself with some knowledge, I got out my tiny screw driver, spudger, an iron because I don't have a heat gun, and a ramekin to hold the screws.


Spudgers are like tiny plastic crow bars

I carefully take the thing apart (watch the movie above for specifics):


Battery, SIM Card, Memory Card, Screws Removed

After removing the screws, the spudger made short work of releasing the gray casing from a number of snaps all along the edge holding it in place.


Motherboard removed

Again with the spudger, I carefully disconnected all the cables connecting the LCD, Digitizer, Battery, and Antenna to the motherboard. That board on the right is an entire computer in your pocket.

There was a super thin piece of tape holding the flex cables down. Again, careful probing with the spudger released them as well as preserving that piece of tape for later reassembly.

The part is probably the most difficult - separating the digitizer (aka the glass) from the LCD assembly so that I can extract the damaged LCD screen.

The LCD is sandwiched and glued between the digitizer and the casing. The video shows the guy using a heat gun (or a hair dryer as he suggests) to melt the glue enough so that you can pry them apart.

Unfortunately, I have neither. But, I do have an iron. So, setting the iron to its lowest setting and placing a piece of aluminum foil over the glass, place the LCD Assembly glass facing up, with the foil in between, and then set the iron on top of it for 20 seconds.

The three pieces came apart pretty easily with my handy spudger:


Digitizer, LCD Screen, Casing

Now, inspecting the LCD Screen, I confirm that indeed, the gate driver was damaged beyond repair:


Damaged Gate Driver

Everything to the left of that missing spot was blacked out, everything to the right "worked."

As I'm typing this up, I received a shipment notification from ebay that my new LCD panel is on its way... I'll post an update once the screen's been installed and hopefully, crossing fingers, the part fits and I can do the reverse of the disassembly, power my phone up, and go along my merry way.

And it's getting late... and it's bagel burger time.

Update 7/18/2015: See Results