Replacing glass on a Samsung Galaxy S3

I went over 5 years owning a state of the art smartphone without ever breaking the glass of one of them. However, those fine statistics came to an end about 10 days ago, when the phone slid out of my hand and went screen first straight into a tiled floor.

Although the Samsung Galaxy SIII is no longer state of the art, it's still plenty fast and one of the latest smartphones which still has NFC Mifare support (to understand why this is important to me, read my previous post). Furthermore, early march is possibly the worst month to go out and invest in a new smartphone, since both HTC and Samsung are launching their next generation model in a month from now. I've seen various videos on YouTube of people fixing the screen so I thought I'd try that, having very little to loose by attempting. I ordered this little kit from Amazon which arrived just a week later. As a guide to the actual process itself, I relied mostly on the one from iFixIt.
The kit came with a screen protector, so rather than using tape, I mounting this onto the broken screen, in an attempt to stabilize the glass panel.

Heating the glass panel with a heat gun was a scary exercise. I used a temperature gun at the screen, to try to monitor the heat-up without really knowning the target temperature. This involved a fair amount of trial and error. I had a lot of trouble getting started without also burning my fingers and melting the plastic tools.

The guides recommends to start at the very top of the phone, however, my phone was cracked much more around the top than the bottom. Furthermore, the cracks around the edge were significant and many. In fact, as small glass splinters were coming off, I got the nasty feeling that this was probably not going to end well.

However, after using a slightly higher temperature approaching 130 celcius, and working from the bottom of the phone and upwards, I regained some hope.

The key seems to be patience and plenty of heat. Eventually I managed to get the glass piece off, with only a minimal of glue gunk left on the actual AMOLED screen.

The easiest way to get the remaining glue off, seems to be to rub with your fingers.

I polished off all remaining traces of residue with standard alcohol wipes used for cleaning glasses.

The kit also came with some thin double-sided tape, which is used to attach the glass to the phone.

After careful cleaning of the AMOLED screen and removal of the back-side plastic protector of the new glass, it was time to let the two meet.

Voila, all done. I was surprised that the end result looked so nice, having read horror stories from other people who went through the process. There are a few lessons from my experiences, which I'd like to recommend to others:
  • Start the removal of the glass where it's the most intact. This will increase the chance of getting it off in one whole piece.
  • Aim for a glass temperature of around 120-130 celcius, any lower will likely cause you to crack the glass and cause more trouble for you.
  • Pry the glass very carefully, when you see the glass lift and melting glue ridges forming as the two parts are coming apart, try to keep it moving as slowly as possible.
  • Be careful not to use too much of the double-adhesive tape, as it will raise the level of the glass a bit too high. This happened with my attempt and I think I will try to remove some of the tape.

All in all, I remain very happy with the end result for £12. Is it perfect? Not yet - there is a slight difference in the feel of the touch screen due to the front glass panel being raised a tad too high. Is it easy? By no means - you should probably only attempt this if you consider yourself a bit of a tinkerer or you have a backup plan ready. :)


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