Apple’s iPhone X is notoriously hard to repair. Its screen and back are made of glass, and dropping the $1,000 iPhone will often break an unprotected device. Users who want to repair a cracked screen with Apple will have to pay upwards of $279 for the service.
Users who want to go another way and pay a third party repair store for a replacement have thus far been out of luck—aftermarket parts for the new wave of Apple devices simply didn’t exist. Worse, iOS software updates can cause problems with phones repaired with aftermarket parts.
But there’s a new wave of replacement screens coming out of China that promise to make repairing the iPhone X a little cheaper and easier if they can work out their own unique kinks. The first is a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, first spotted by Mobile Defenders.
The existence of aftermarket LCD iPhone X displays is surprising, because the iPhone X ships with an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen. That means third-party screen manufacturers have found a way to make an entirely different technology (which is used in other versions of the iPhone) work with the iPhone X.
Mobile Defenders tested out the screens and found a couple of quirks. They have a red shift when viewed from an angle, are thicker than the OEM OLED screen, and run hotter than an original iPhone X screen. Repair experts who have tested the screens say that it uses the iPhone X’s battery faster than expected.
“This is not a proper solution, and is almost guaranteed to be blocked by Apple in the near future,” Kev Notton—founder of San Diego-based RepairMapr, a diagnosis tool repair shops can use to annotate repairs—told me on Facebook. “We wanted to warn anyone that may purchase them off eBay/Amazon thinking that they're the real thing.”
There are listings for the screens on eBay, though a lot of repair professionals are getting them direct from suppliers in China. Confusingly, many of the listings refer to the screens as both LCD and OLED. They also tend to cost more than the $279 Apple charges for replacing the screen. “The term LCD is so loosely interchanged with 'display' these days, kinda like Kleenex to tissues, so I can certainly see average consumers being confused by it,” Notton said.
For Notton, even if a person who gets an LCD to replace their OLED is informed, the next person who uses the phone might not be. “Most of these devices have 3 or more owners in their lifetime,” he said. “Even if a single customer wants a cheaper repair, the next owner of that device won't know they're receiving a device with a lower quality technology inside.”
Aftermarket OLED screens have hit the market too. A video uploaded by REWA Technology—a Hong Kong based wholesaler—showed off the differences between the OEM screen, the LCDs, and the new OLED.
The aftermarket OLED screens had normal touch functionality and ran a little thinner than the OEM screens, but the sample REWA used in its video had a glitch that caused bright pink lines to run across the whole screen. Despite that, REWA and other third-party repair stores are hopeful that the new batch of screens from China will soon be provide customers a cheap and easy alternative to Apple’s official repair process. “It’s a start,” Michael Oberdick, founder of the Ohio-area repair store iOutlet, told me over Facebook. “I obviously wouldn’t put on a customer’s phone yet but I’m sure there is cases out there that the consumer is informed by a repair shop about the difference and possible issues and will put it on their device as it may be their only / quickest option.”