Explained: Glass-Only Repair
Why do some repair shops offer ‘glass-only’ repair, and what does it mean?
Glass-only repairs, sometimes referred to as ‘re-glassing’, can be found on the market for some device models. While most repair shops don’t offer or recommend glass-only repair (because of the issues we’ll get into below), some still do, and it can create a bit of confusion because of the lack of available or consistent information.
Its helpful to start with the knowledge that a majority of today’s devices use a multi-layer ‘composite’ screen. A composite screen includes an AMOLED or LCD panel (the image/pixel layer) and various additional layers including polarizer filters and the top glass digitizer (the touch layer), all manufactured together and bonded into a single component. These screens are manufactured in an specialized facility that is separate from the factory that assembles the phone or tablet itself.
Some popular iPad and tablet models as well as a few entry level phones are designed with a separate glass digitizer that can be replaced independently; these models are indicated on our website when applicable.
Technically, it’s possible to ‘de-laminate’ or remove the layers of a composite screen all the way down to the AMOLED or LCD panel and add back the missing layers; however, it will affect the device’s usability and reliability.
When a screen is stripped down to the AMOLED or LCD layer, there are a few additional layers other than the glass digitizer that need to be replaced. For instance, re-glassing requires an adhesive to ‘glue’ the various layers back together. There are hundreds of different clear adhesives on the market and they all create a slightly different electrical conductivity (between the layers) than what the original factory-bonded screen had. The result is typically decreased touch sensitivity and increased battery drain; this is why sometimes people feel that their battery was replaced with an older battery after a screen repair – a re-glassed screen consumes more power even when not being touched. There are also specific polarizer filters that work in conjunction with the LCD or AMOLED panel; generic polarizer filters affect colour of the display as well as outdoor readability and reflectivity. A re-glassed screen will be noticeably more difficult to view outdoors and tends to be more reflective under indoor lighting environments. These displays also tend to experience separation of the layers over time (between the digitizer and the AMOLED/LCD panel). This may be a result of the various adhesives not being suitable for the temperature variances we experience in Ontario.
From time to time we purchase and test re-glassed displays from various sources, however we have yet to find any examples where the slightly lower cost of the previously repaired and re-glassed display is low enough to offset the performance and reliability issues.
If it’s not a great option, why is it still offered? Price and availability mainly; most repair shops aren’t authorized by the phone manufacturers and don’t have access to new replacement screens. Re-glassing is a very difficult and time-consuming process, so shops that offer it typically don’t undertake this process themselves; they can exchange your broken screen for a previously broken re-glassed screen. Some may also not be aware that the screens they’re buying from the aftermarket are re-glassed.
Hopefully this background is helpful; if you have any questions on this article, please feel free to contact us for additional information.