Tools Featured in this Teardown

Introduction

Today, we are going where no iPhone teardown has gone before. With the upgrade to a new-fangled Force 3D Touch display, we just couldn't keep our hands off this front panel—so, we're going deeper.

This time, we're breaking down the Retina HD display assembly layer-by-layer to give you the skinny on what makes this year's hardware so unique. This teardown will not feature a repairability score—the process for disassembling and reassembling a fused smartphone display is something best left to the pros and their very specialized (and awesome) tools.

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This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your iPhone 6s, use our service manual.

Image 1/1: 3D Touch facilitated by a capacitive sensor layer
  • The freshly released iPhone 6s brought some new features to a familiar package. Following this trend, the screen packs in a few integral changes and features:

    • 3D Touch facilitated by a capacitive sensor layer

    • Pliable glass cover made by dual ion‑exchange

    • 4.7-inch 1334 × 750 pixels (326 ppi) Retina HD display

    • Integrated touch digitizer

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Image 1/2: ''Usually'', a refurbisher will just cut the thinner bits from either side of the frame and remove them, leaving the top and bottom pieces glued to the glass. Image 2/2: Today, we've decided to take the scenic route and remove the plastic mounting frame in one solid piece by cutting around the perimeter of the assembly.
  • First to fall: The plastic mounting frame containing the clips that secure the display to the body of the iPhone. (Try saying that five times fast.)

  • Usually, a refurbisher will just cut the thinner bits from either side of the frame and remove them, leaving the top and bottom pieces glued to the glass.

    • Today, we've decided to take the scenic route and remove the plastic mounting frame in one solid piece by cutting around the perimeter of the assembly.

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Image 1/3: In iPhones of yore, these clips were the only things securing the display assembly to the body of the phone. Image 2/3: However, in the recent [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+6s+Teardown/48170|iPhone 6s teardown], we discovered a new adhesive gasket helping to secure the display to the body. This gasket also has the benefit of improving [http://ifixit.org/blog/7408/iphone-waterproof/|water resistance] in the new iPhone. Image 3/3: However, in the recent [https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+6s+Teardown/48170|iPhone 6s teardown], we discovered a new adhesive gasket helping to secure the display to the body. This gasket also has the benefit of improving [http://ifixit.org/blog/7408/iphone-waterproof/|water resistance] in the new iPhone.
  • After a bit of cutting, some heating and plenty of patience, we manage to remove the mounting frame from the front panel.

  • In iPhones of yore, these clips were the only things securing the display assembly to the body of the phone.

    • However, in the recent iPhone 6s teardown, we discovered a new adhesive gasket helping to secure the display to the body. This gasket also has the benefit of improving water resistance in the new iPhone.

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Image 1/3: This mylar sheet immediately grabbed our attention. On older iPhones, this sheet was one of the layers that made up the backlight—it now covers a new mystery component. Image 2/3: The display is actually so thin you can see through it—the mylar keeps whatever is hidden under it, well, hidden during normal use. Image 3/3: The display is actually so thin you can see through it—the mylar keeps whatever is hidden under it, well, hidden during normal use.
  • With the easy stuff out of the way, our operation continues by separating the backlight and this metal-backed layer.

    • This mylar sheet immediately grabbed our attention. On older iPhones, this sheet was one of the layers that made up the backlight—it now covers a new mystery component.

  • The display is actually so thin you can see through it—the mylar keeps whatever is hidden under it, well, hidden during normal use.

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Image 1/3: Why exactly did this discovery surprise us? Apple had previously stated that 3D Touch functioned using [http://pages.citebite.com/y4c6t6e9m4xhi|sensors integrated into the backlight], but this seems to be a separate component entirely. Image 2/3: Repairability note—the home button cable has been replaced by traces along the side of the 3D Touch sensor panel.  We'll have to wait and see if this is for better or worse. Image 3/3: Repairability note—the home button cable has been replaced by traces along the side of the 3D Touch sensor panel.  We'll have to wait and see if this is for better or worse.
  • We take a peek below the reflective film and, to our surprise, we find a new, second layer of sensors—likely the capacitive sensors that support 3D Touch.

    • Why exactly did this discovery surprise us? Apple had previously stated that 3D Touch functioned using sensors integrated into the backlight, but this seems to be a separate component entirely.

  • Repairability note—the home button cable has been replaced by traces along the side of the 3D Touch sensor panel. We'll have to wait and see if this is for better or worse.

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Image 1/2: Each of the gold rectangles on this back panel is a single plate of a [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitance|parallel plate capacitor]. Image 2/2: Each box has a tiny trace (the dark areas are actually highways of many traces) running back to the control chip. Which...
  • Back to those capacitative sensors we mentioned. Under that funky film is certainly a grid of...something.

    • Each of the gold rectangles on this back panel is a single plate of a parallel plate capacitor.

    • Each box has a tiny trace (the dark areas are actually highways of many traces) running back to the control chip. Which...

  • ...We find on the backside of the panel, probably. This Apple-custom chip is responsible for wrangling the capacitors—keeping them charged and measuring changes in current to and from each.

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Image 1/1: Pressing down onto the glass bends the glass very slightly at the point of contact, shortening the distance between your finger and the corresponding capacitor plate in the array beneath the display. This registers a "push" rather than a "touch".
  • Apple worked closely with Corning, the makers of Gorilla Glass, to develop a pliable glass for the new iPhone's glass cover.

    • Pressing down onto the glass bends the glass very slightly at the point of contact, shortening the distance between your finger and the corresponding capacitor plate in the array beneath the display. This registers a "push" rather than a "touch".

      • In a parallel plate capacitor, capacitance is inversely proportional to distance—a shorter distance means greater capacity for charge on the plate, so the IC would measure an inflow of current to the sensor board.

  • While the plates are similar to those in a touch screen, they are too large to pinpoint a finger press. Luckily they don't have to.

    • The "real" digitizer is still present for precision tracking, these plates only have to detect a flex in the glass—not where it occurs.

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Image 1/3: This particular machine uses a vacuum to secure the iPhone's glass to a heated surface. This process helps to weaken the optically clear adhesive (OCA) that secures the glass to the actual display. Image 2/3: Once the OCA had been sapped of its sticky strength, a .08 mm molybdenum wire makes short work of fully separating the LCD from the glass panel. Image 3/3: Once the OCA had been sapped of its sticky strength, a .08 mm molybdenum wire makes short work of fully separating the LCD from the glass panel.
  • With the back half of the display assembly dispatched, we set to work removing the display from the front glass.

  • This particular machine uses a vacuum to secure the iPhone's glass to a heated surface. This process helps to weaken the optically clear adhesive (OCA) that secures the glass to the actual display.

  • Once the OCA had been sapped of its sticky strength, a .08 mm molybdenum wire makes short work of fully separating the LCD from the glass panel.

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Image 1/3: Lucky for us, the folks from STS Parts brought their guillotine (also known as a Polarizer Remover Machine) that scrapes it up like gum off a shoe. Image 2/3: The film is destroyed in the removal, but replacements are easy to come by. Image 3/3: The film is destroyed in the removal, but replacements are easy to come by.
  • With the glass removed we are left with a rather messy-looking LCD—removing the glass has really done a number on the polarizing film.

  • Lucky for us, the folks from STS Parts brought their guillotine (also known as a Polarizer Remover Machine) that scrapes it up like gum off a shoe.

    • The film is destroyed in the removal, but replacements are easy to come by.

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Image 1/3: First, the backlight shoots light through a thin layer of liquid crystals. As the light passes through it's reflected at different angles by the crystals' orientation. Image 2/3: The angle of reflection determines the color of the light we see. In order to change the angle (and by extension, color) the display hardware must apply a voltage across the liquid crystals to change their orientation. Image 3/3: In order to produce a wide range of colors, each pixel is broken down into three subpixels: red, green, and blue.
  • Ever wonder what a polarizing film does? Join us for Science with iFixit as we shine some light on the inner workings of an LCD and why they need a polarizing film:

    • First, the backlight shoots light through a thin layer of liquid crystals. As the light passes through it's reflected at different angles by the crystals' orientation.

    • The angle of reflection determines the color of the light we see. In order to change the angle (and by extension, color) the display hardware must apply a voltage across the liquid crystals to change their orientation.

    • In order to produce a wide range of colors, each pixel is broken down into three subpixels: red, green, and blue.

    • Separate voltages are used to adjust the intensity of each subpixel which, when combined, can create millions of different colors.

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  • Well alright, you say, all this pixel and voltage business is very cool, but where does the polarizing film come into play?

  • The polarizing film is what brings it all together. It acts as a filter that only lets the right combination of colors through to make all the pretty pictures on your phone. Thanks, polarizing film!

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Image 1/2: An edge-lit backlight, like the name suggests, only has LEDs on one edge of the backlight. Light from these diodes is spread evenly over the screen by the [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffuser_(optics)|diffuser]—a multi-layer, semi-transparent plastic sheeting. Image 2/2: As mentioned earlier, the reflective mylar layer was previously one of the layers of the backlight.
  • Last to come off of the display is the edge-lit LED backlight—a common type of backlight found in smartphones.

    • An edge-lit backlight, like the name suggests, only has LEDs on one edge of the backlight. Light from these diodes is spread evenly over the screen by the diffuser—a multi-layer, semi-transparent plastic sheeting.

  • As mentioned earlier, the reflective mylar layer was previously one of the layers of the backlight.

    • In this iteration of the iPhone the mylar layer now serves two purposes; the new use, to obscure the 3D Touch sensors from view, and the traditional use, to reflect diffused light outward instead of wasting light on the internals of the iPhone.

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Image 1/2: Not pictured: scraped off, gunky OCA sheet. Image 2/2: This teardown was quite the endeavor—we definitely do not recommend you attempt this at home without the right tools and experience.
  • All eight (surviving) layers of the iPhone 6s display laid out for your viewing pleasure.

    • Not pictured: scraped off, gunky OCA sheet.

  • This teardown was quite the endeavor—we definitely do not recommend you attempt this at home without the right tools and experience.

  • Speaking of tools and experience, a huge shoutout to Israel from STS Parts for offering up the equipment and expertise that made this teardown possible!

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24 Comments

This an amazing display. Are any other displays you've taken apart this complicated? I don't see a teardown number for the display. Do you see any repair shop, including Apple, even trying to perform a component replacement of the display or will it simply be replaced in its entirety?

plink53 - Reply

Typically repair shops (including Apple) have always just swapped out the screens. However as the LCDs get more complicated and the price goes up on these repairers are turning towards more economical methods like screen refurbishment. A lot of times the cost of a glass-only repair vs a full display assembly is less than half! But it's a lot more complicated, as evidenced.

Matt Zieminski -

No phone has this many layers in the screen. The 5-6 had the glass, polarizer, then LCD, then the backlight. This has a lot more parts now, its not complicated if you know what goes where, but you need to assemble the pieces in the right order for the screen to be flawless.

Repair shops can replace just the glass if they have the right tools (what is shown above and more). At the Apple store, Apple will continue to replace the screens as a whole assembly, and send the broken screens back to where it is that Apple refurbishes them out (probably China). Apple will separate the screen and replace anything that it feels is necessary and then send it back to be used for another screen replacement.

Alec -

We actually went back and ripped up an iPhone 5s Screen for comparison and research; it turned out it was very similar to this (minus the 3D Touch Sensors and the mylar being part of the backlight). The only other teardown we've done specifically on a device's screen was for the Retina MacBook Pro.

I can't be sure about Apple's policy on screen replacement, though I assume to maintain good success rates for repairs and turnaround times they'll just replace the screen assembly. Independent repair shops are another story; depending on their experience level and access to the necessary tools and parts, it is totally possible to perform. Ultimately it seems a bit more time consuming for something that is usually a 10-20 minute part swap. On top of all this, the people who provide parts will almost always provide displays in their entirety instead of layer by layer.

I think this will be a refurbisher only kind of procedure.

Andrew W. -

I'd be curious to know how much that 3D Touch panels weigh, and how it relates to the overall weight increase on the 6S-series over the 6-series iPhones.

NaN - Reply

Now that you have the glass panel alone, I'd be interested in strength testing on this "strongest glass ever" compared to the 6.

tipoo - Reply

Awesome breakdown! However I'm getting dust under my display. I've had apple look at it 3 times now and they can't figure it out so I got a new phone. Is there anything that could point to a cause for dust to form under the screen near the cell carrier?

Dylan Murphy - Reply

Dylan, if this is due to screen being refurbished keep in mind the "assembling" of the screen in the refurbishing process is done in a clean dust free environment.

Israel -

Seems unlikely. The glass is glued to the LCD assembly, and there are no gaps where dust could get under anything. I've heard of people replacing the glass without reglueing it, which could allow dust in. But I'm not sure how dust would get in the phone in the first place.

Greg M -

So am I to understand that the backlight is not soldered on as it is in previous models? It just comes off with the 3d touch module?

Jeffery VanDusen - Reply

The backlight power flex is still soldered to the flex cable like other models. The only difference is that the force touch is part of the backlight.

Israel -

I have searched the internet and am currently having trouble finding a method to spot weld the speaker mesh tag with the LCD frame , as currently the Original Foxconn displays from China surprisingly do not have them. Any ideas anyone ?

iRessurect - Reply

What do you mean spot weld? The ear speaker mesh is glued around the ear speaker hole, you can purchase these individually.

Israel -

Use just a dot of B-7000 adhesive at each end. It has a pinpoint applicator that makes it easy to get just the right amount, in just the right place. You don't really need the glue, the speaker will hold it in place as you assemble it if you are careful. Also great for gluing the frame to the glass. (Some replacement frames come with glue already applied. Just heat with your LCD separates machine and it will melt enough to adhere.)

Greg M -

Hey i just want to change the shield which has display number engraved on it

sahil - Reply

Go to step 4 on this tutorial. You can swap it out with a different one if needed.

Israel -

what is the at the top and over one? I need it to make SICK glasses.

Sterling Deye - Reply

where and how can i buy This particular machine in iran ? and how much is it in abroad?

amin - Reply

Just Google it. There are a number of manufacturers. Some are available on eBay. There is a nice basic temperature controlled LCD Separator Machine for just $35. Expect to destroy a few LCD assemblies learning how to do it, so practice with some scrap displays.

Greg M -

Thanks for the teardown. You should correct step 10 though! You make it seem as if there is only (1) polarizer. This is not true. There are (2) polarizers. One is adhered to the back of the lcd panel and one adhered to the front. They are out of phase by 90 degrees. It is the voltages applied to the liquid crystals that affects the light that has already passed through the rear polarizer before it goes through the front polarizer. Thus, the lcd gives the ability to affect the amount/intensity of light that passes through the front polarizer.

RJ - Reply

If i have a new digitizer installed on my iphone 6s and the backlight only works sometimes. where should i start with troubleshooting? It worked for a few hours then stopped working for the most part. Only sometimes does it want to work. Hopefully you can point me in right direction as to where i should check on logic board or connection wise.

Thank you

Dustin Murphy - Reply

Try resoldering the flex cable. Otherwise one of the flex PCBs is likely damaged.

Greg M -

Shame on iFixit to copy other peoples sites ideas and implement them in your own, you lack of ideas grabbers.

Filip Pusca - Reply

I'm not sure what you are referring to. This teardown was done in-house, with full cooperation and assistance from STS. All the photographs and text are original.

Jeff Suovanen -

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