How Do I View Messages on a Broken Phone?

Nobody likes a broken phone screen, especially when you need to access something on your device, but you can’t see the screen at all. This is an embarrassing situation, as Lifehacker reader Ayana explains in this week’s Tech 911 question:

I dropped my phone in the bathtub about 4 days ago. I thought I saved it in time, but eventually the screen started to glitch and the screen went black. It’s still on … still ringing … I hear my message notifications are still being sent … I just can’t see and my screen is still black. [Is there] a way to access my phone’s messages and call logs without doing anything on the other phone?

Before a disaster, it is important to set up your phone.

It’s not easy Ayana, because there are many ways to do what you want to do. However, you will need to configure many of them before you lose the ability to interact with your device. If you haven’t, you’re out of luck, and it’s an unwanted by-product of having devices that don’t necessarily sync your data to the cloud the minute you start using it. (This should really be the default.)

You didn’t mention which platform you are using, so I will give you some solutions for iOS and Android. If you’re using an iPhone, it’s incredibly easy to access your messages if you’ve previously synced them with iCloud. Pick up another Apple device like iPad or MacBook, make sure you’re signed in to iCloud and sync messages with iCloud, and you should be able to send and receive as if you were doing it from your iPhone.

Likewise, if you’ve previously connected iPhone to Mac and set up your iPhone as a trusted device, you should be able to access the device through Finder and make a quick backup. This will prevent you from accessing your messages right now (you need a third-party app to do this), but it will set you up to restore said messages on a new or fixed iPhone in the future.

If you don’t have any other Apple devices, you’re stuck. Apple does not provide a web-based way to view your posts. And while there are some other third-party apps that could theoretically allow you to interact with Messages using, say, a Windows computer, you’ll have to set them up on your iPhone as well. Since you cannot access it, there is no such solution.

If none of these suggestions work, your best bet is to make an appointment at the Genius Bar and see what Apple can do. I would take your MacBook with me, if you have one, in the hope that they can back up your device before fixing or replacing it. I’m not sure what they can do if you can’t authenticate on the said iPhone as the screen isn’t working, but it’s worth a try.

Going forward, make sure your device backs up to iCloud regularly; if not, make sure you back up regularly. (The former is much easier to handle than the latter.)

If you’re using an Android phone, you can access your messages through the cloud in a variety of ways, but you’ll have to use a service that requires you to pre-configure it on your device. There are many apps out there for this kind of thing , but they are of little use to you if they are not installed on your Android. It is for this reason that I highly recommend switching to Messages from Google, which will at least allow you to access your messages through the website in the future.

Likewise, if you’ve previously enabled USB debugging, you can even use a PC app like Scrcpy to view and control your connected Android. Whatever method you use to access your phone, make sure you back up ( including messages ) so that you can restore everything to a new (or fixed) device in the future.

Best All-in-One Solution for Broken Screen Phone

Whether you have an iPhone or Android, you can try this slightly more expensive (and desperate) approach to accessing your device. You will basically need whatever combination of dongles, hubs, and cables you need to do the following:

  • Connect your phone to an external display (via HDMI)
  • Connect a USB mouse and keyboard to your phone.

So, for the iPhone, you might consider getting something like this , which you would plug into your iPhone and then plug into your TV (via HDMI) and a USB hub that has your keyboard and mouse plugged in. This mayallow you to see and / or controlyour device’s screen with your mouse rather than your finger.

I would try this approach if my phone screen was broken, but it would be a little expensive. If your text messages are of little value to you, leave this decision to last.


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