How to Use Your Phone When the Screen Is Cracked

You drop your phone and the screen breaks. Ugh. You’ve probably cleverly put important data in the cloud, right? – you may still want to remove some things from your smartphone before taking it for repair or changing it to a new one. Or you may not be able to afford to buy a new phone right now. How do you keep using your phone when the screen is cracked?

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The only time I cracked my smartphone screen was when I accidentally dropped my iPhone 4S in the pool. (Water resistance – well, water resistance – only appeared in the iPhone 7.)

However, there are a number of other experts out there who understand about broken screens and there is little salvation for you, whether you are dealing with a crashed iPhone or Android device. You will be more fortunate if the screen is partially broken and some part of it responds to your commands, and less luck if you can’t get your fingers to work at all.

If your iPhone screen is broken …

First, you probably want to do your best to authenticate with your device and disable USB Restricted Mode . I’ll tell you why a little bit. If you’re lucky, you can still sign in to your device using Touch ID, although you’ll still have to deal with a broken screen that might not open the settings app, depending on where it’s on your screen.

As Decipher Tools’ Kelly Heffner Wilkerson writes in this excellent blog post , hold down the Home button until Siri appears. Once you’ve done that, ask Siri to “turn VoiceOver on”. You can then use any part of the screen that still registers your finger and gestures to navigate iOS. Use this trick to enter your PIN if Touch ID isn’t working (or hasn’t been configured). This method will allow you to log into your device and do whatever you need to do, like launching Google Photos one last time to back up those vacation pictures, or perhaps very quickly launching a manual iCloud backup.

You can also just connect your iPhone directly to your desktop or laptop and copy your photos and videos (or create an iTunes backup) after authenticating. And with the VoiceOver trick, you can even allow access to your new computer to see your iPhone if you’re in an emergency and need to borrow a friend’s laptop.

If your screen isn’t working at all, a little more fun awaits you. You’ll want to take a Lightning-to-USB adapter and use that to connect a simple USB keyboard to your device. You should then be able to use the keyboard assistance keys to authenticate to the passcode device. Turn on VoiceOver as mentioned earlier so you can navigate your phone and get what you need.

As far as disabling USB Restricted Mode, remember that your iPhone will disable the Lightning port if an hour has passed since you last unlocked your device. It doesn’t give you a big window to get a Lightning-to-USB adapter and a crappy old USB keyboard, but it’s something.

If your Android smartphone screen is broken …

If you have a suitable converter for your Android device, you can do the same keyboard trick : plug your old USB keyboard directly into the [your phone’s connection] to USB converter (probably via an OTG cable) and you can just enter the PIN- code to unlock your device. You can even connect to your smartphone using a Bluetooth mouse if you like.

You can also try turning on MTP mode on your smartphone so you can transfer files from it – and you’ll probably want to do a quick web search to make sure you’re taking the right steps for your specific Android device. If your device already has USB debugging mode enabled or you can enable it, you can also try a tool like Scrcpy to control your device over a normal USB connection to your desktop or laptop. Samsung Smart Switch software or Kies can also help you if applicable.

Basically, if you can somehow enable MTP to transfer files manually, or USB debugging mode to use various applications (or ADB ) to copy files from your device, you should be fine. In some cases, simply authenticating with your device and manually starting the backup is sufficient.


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