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OEM vs Non-OEM – What are the differences for Replacement Screens?

The replacement iPhone screen market is abundant with parts, from ‘cheap eBay rubbish’ to ‘genuine quality goods’. The market is washed out with screens, some of which are completely washed out!  

Having supplied iPhone screens to the masses since 2007, we thought it would be good to give some insight into the market from a buyer’s perspective.

When looking for replacement screens from places like eBay, Amazon or even reputable stockists like Replace Base you won’t always be able to pinpoint exactly which factory the screen was produced in. Less reputable sources may withhold this information on purpose, to hide poor quality or even gaps in their knowledge whereas others may not be able to specify because the screen is produced by multiple factories, each contributing individual components.

The main players

The replacement parts industry has a few main players based out of China, these are TianmaAUO (AU Optronics)Longteng and ShenChao. We’ve not mentioned some of the smaller factories, niche market manufacturers or new to market in an effort to keep it simple, but from now on we will refer to these big players as the ‘OEM’.

All of these OEMs are large corporations who make screens and electronics for several larger household names. Replacement screen production is a very small part of their business and contrary to popular belief, these companies usually don’t make the entire screen assembly! For many they will produce either the LCD panel or just the digitizer (to be bonded to the LCD panel later). 

Once the LCD panel has been produced by the OEM, it moves onto a smaller factory who will then assemble the entire screen into something more recognisable. This includes laminating the LCD and glass panel (a process that involves an optically clear adhesive) and installing the backlight and frame. It is at this point that the screen assembly is ready for wholesale.

All seems pretty simple, yeah? A fairly straightforward supply chain that should produce a consistent LCD screen. No. The problem lies in the variety of external factors that affect the quality of the screen. From now on it becomes a bit of a minefield. 

Not all specifications are created equal

For the majority of OEMs they aren’t setting out on an adventure to produce, say, a replacement iPhone 7 screen – it would be a legal mess if they were! In some cases these OEMs don’t even know the screens are being used specifically for iPhones.

A company or individual (possibly even one of the smaller factories) have given the OEM a specification of the replacement iPhone screen and booked them in for bulk manufacture. This is the same process you would probably go through if you had a great invention that needed mass production.

To cut costs, these individuals placing the orders will request that cheaper materials are used, that the technology and methods used to check the quality are basic and may even suggest testing is not always necessary. It is at this point the blame should be removed from the OEM, they are just following the spec they were given.

For example, you can have 2 AUO screens side by side, both from the same OEM, both possibly from the exact same factory but one has been manufactured as a WLCD and another as an IPS display. The same part manufactured in a completely different way, each with unique characteristics.

Screen A could cost $2 to produce, screen B $6

There appears to be no record of just how many variants come from each OEM but we have estimated that 90% of the screens from each OEM are produced within 3-4 specifications, suggesting inconsistencies are prevalent.

After the OEM, the part is in the wild

Once the LCD panel has left the OEM, the supply chain branches out to any one of the dozens of smaller factories to assemble the screen.  

This screen assembly isn’t hard to do – we have the equipment here to do the job! All you need is some basic tooling, some OCA (optically clear adhesive), an autoclave, a pressure chamber, the materials for the glass panel and frame and the glue needed to put it all together. The basic nature of assembly means variations and inconsistencies are common.

The first inconsistency can come from the OCA, the optically clear adhesive that sticks the outer glass panel to the LCD. This can come in sheet form or liquid form both with differing results. Something as simple as using the incorrect sheet can cause the screen to sit a millimetre too deep which will prevent the screen fitting correctly. Also, it is worth noting that different OCA’s can produce different colour tones, giving screens a slightly yellow or blue hue, different to the original screen the phone was bought with. Even the way the glue is cured can have an impact!

Another variation can come from the glass. Unsurprisingly glass can have a huge impact on the quality of the screen, for example, glass with a good density, a nice oleophobic coating preventing fingerprints and oily smooth touch can be affected by an incorrect colour choice. Not long ago we saw the iPhone market awash with screens that looked a creamy yellow colour despite being fairly good screens.

It is these smaller factories that are also responsible for the screen frame 99% of the time and often where more inconsistencies are noted. The frame is adhered to the outer rim of the glass and allows the glass screen to secure into the phone. It may sound trivial but so many of these screens are bonded using double-sided tape or poor glues that they result in screens lifting shortly after installation. Good, reputable factories will be using an epoxy resin or cold press process to bond the glass and frame, these do a much better job and last significantly longer.  

Significant variations in quality can be found in the backlight. Often differing quality in screen backlights can result in poor or uneven brightness and even excessive battery drain. This can normally be attributed to a cost-cutting method of build.

There are other smaller factors that need to be taken into consideration but as you now understand, the market is saturated with varying quality starting from the screen specifications running right the way through the process.

When sourcing aftermarket screens we use our trusted agents on the ground in China and Hong Kong to search out the best screens possible. We have been working with these agents for a number of years and their experience in the market and knowledge of the products helps us provide you with the best quality available. Tests are done on several screens to check quality and consistency and if it’s a factory or producer they’ve not used before then they will complete a factory inspection checking tooling, methods, and processes. We’ve found one month a screen can be the best in the world and the next they will be including a cheaper backlight, dropping the quality again. We have measures in place to know what the best screens in the market are at any given time.

When it comes to picking OEM or Non-OEM the decision is not always simple. If you have any questions about our replacement screens, get in touch with our sales team who are on hand to answer your questions. 

Restore the home button function on your iPhone 7 & 7 Plus

OK, so all in the industry will already know this but changing the home button on a Touch ID enabled Apple device prevents Touch ID from working, this is because the button that your iDevice shipped with is paired to your iDevice, currently only Apple can programme a new button to an iDevice.

With the introduction of haptic feedback from the iPhone 7 onwards replacing the button now renders your iDevices home button completely useless, this is because Apple removed all moving parts (including the physical internal button) and reply purple on the Touch ID and digital interface.

At least we have some good news!

The Chinese engineers have been working hard to find a workaround, after a few months of trial and error we now have a great modification for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, this brings back the home button function (although not touch ID) but at least you can use the home button again!

What is it?

It’s a replacement charging port for your iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, it has been modified to allow a physical button to be present and function as your home button usually would.

Our kit comes with everything you need to make this handy mod work

  • Modified charging port
  • Internal button mechanism flex cable
  • External colour match button
  • Strip of foam

Hows it installed?

Easy.. the charge port is replaced in the exact same way as a standard OEM part, the only change is that you need to remove the speaker bracket in the bottom left corner (the small black bracket held in with 2 screws, this isn’t required and has no function and due to space limitations needs to be removed.

The home button parts will fit into the screen under the standard bracket, once assembled into the screen you can add the foam padding underneath to secure the button in place.

How is this version different from others?

These Chinese have been working on these for a while, earlier this year they released the first version at a cheaper price, although this worked as expected it did cause several issues with the phones normal function (usually caused overheating) and most were recalled, if you see a cheap version in the market of this part be very wary.

Ours are the 3rd generation and fully tested to be 100% compatible with your phone

Any limitations?

Yes, although the button function will be restored to its former glory (including Siri and double tap) the Touch ID still wont function, also, using headphones on the lightning port will no longer function, we would recommend using this mod only if your happy using Bluetooth headphones.

More information:

We recommend this part is fitted by someone familiar with iPhones but wouldn’t want to discourage you from giving it a go yourself if you have any questions or need assistance you can contact our team of experts at any time.

Get yours here

Beyond lithium – the future of batteries

As the need for power grows, the search for better battery technology continues. Pressure continues to come from the smartphone producers looking to increase phone battery life, car manufacturers developing electric cars and those working on storage options for the solar and wind power industry.

For these industries the last 25 years have been dominated by lithium-ion based batteries which pack large amounts of energy into a relatively small space. Although these powerful, lightweight batteries have been at the forefront of battery development limitations are known.

“There’s a sense that existing lithium-ion batteries and related charging technologies are reaching their limitations,” said CCS Insight.

Research into new options has already begun with Samsung developing a battery based on a ‘graphene ball’ that could potentially boost battery capacity by up to 45% and take just 12 minutes to recharge. Despite being a step forward, this technology only really represents and enhancement to lithium-ion batteries, rather than a replacement.

Let’s run through some more of the alternatives currently being researched:

Gold nanowire batteries 

Nanowire battery advancement, at the University of California Irvine, means nanowire batteries can now withstand more recharging than ever before, meaning future batteries may never die. Previously nanowires haven’t been able to withstand the recharging process but the use of gold nanowires in a gel electrolyte has changed that. These batteries were tested recharging over 200k times in a three-month period and showed no sign of degradation, proving the possibility of increased battery lifespans. 

Solid state lithium-ion

Toyota published a paper with the results from their solid-state battery tests a couple of years ago. They tested a solid-state battery that used sulphide supersonic conductors which operate at super capacitor levels. This superior battery can completely charge or discharge in just 7 minutes, making it ideal for electronic cars. Despite solid-state batteries being more stable, work is needed on the electrolyte materials meaning it’s unlikely that we are going to see these batteries in operation for a little while. But it’s a step in the right direction for the production of safer, faster charging batteries.

Foam batteries

Prieto have managed to produce a new battery that uses copper foam substrate. The use of foam means these batteries will not only be safer, thanks to the removal of flammable electrolytes but they’ll offer longer lifespans, quicker charging and be cheaper to produce.

Although not yet ready, the long-term plan is to be able to get these batteries into smartphones and cars of the future.

Ultrasound

uBeam uses ultrasound to transmit electricity with power turned into sound waves, that are then transmitted and converted back to power upon reaching the device. Gadgets will need a thin receiver attached to them to receive the charge, but it means charging is possible through the air.

Sand batteries

Sand batteries offer an alternative type of lithium-ion battery with three-times the performance of a standard Li-ion battery. This battery is still lithium-ion but uses sand instead of graphite anodes, making this better performing, low cost, non-toxic and environmentally friendly battery a real alternative to the standard lithium-ion battery found in your smartphone.

Sodium-ion batteries

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are working on new types of batteries that use sodium, one of the most common materials found on the planet, rather than rare lithium. They should be up to 7 times more efficient than conventional batteries whilst being significantly cheaper to produce. Research into these batteries has been ongoing since the ‘80s in Japan but is expected to be ready for smartphones, cars and more within the next decade.

These are just a few of what’s being developed and although it’s thought that over the next five years lithium-ion is likely to remain the basis of most batteries used in smartphones, there is plenty of innovation happening in the industry. The future of batteries looks bright! In the mean time you can get your replacement smartphone batteries here.

Where should your tech be stored when travelling by plane?

Whether you’re organising a last-minute getaway or already planning your next break abroad it pays to be prepared. In recent years air travel has seen new rules come into force regarding what tech can be flown and where it can be stored.

All inbound flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia or Saudi Arabia will face restrictions with all tech or gadgets over 16cm x 9cm x 1.5cm to be held in the hold. This rule includes, mobile phones, tablets and laptops and can extend to keyboards, spare batteries and power banks but don’t panic, the iPhone 7 plus can travel with you, so most phones will be accepted! If you are only taking hand luggage and your device does not meet the requirements it will not be allowed to travel with you.

Flying in and out of the UK from any other country is more relaxed with several devices being able to travel in handheld and/or hold luggage. These include:

  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • MP3 players
  • Wireless headphones
  • Hair dryers and straighteners
  • Travel irons
  • Electric shavers
  • E-Cigarettes 
  • Camera equipment

Although restrictions aren’t so strict there are some limitations on batteries. Each installed or spare battery that accompanies a portable electronic device must not exceed a lithium content of more than 2 grams in a lithium metal battery or a watt-hour rating of 100Wh in lithium-ion batteries.

Spare batteries for portable electronic devices containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries should be individually protected to prevent short circuits and are to travel in hand-held luggage or on your person. For more information about items that are allowed in baggage click here.

Finally, make sure your devices are fully charged! If you are planning to travel with a permitted device, it must be charged, and you must be able to prove it should you be asked. Airlines can ban you and your device from flying if it has no power.

How to improve your mobile’s battery life

Mobile phones have seen rapid improvements in recent years with new sleek designs, cameras and even faster processors built in as standard. It would seem batteries have been left behind in the race to create the best mobile phone money can buy, with battery life a critical problem for many.

To help ease the struggle of many we have put together a list of our top battery saving tips:

Dim the screen brightness or set auto brightness

  • Your phones display eats into your battery life like you wouldn’t believe, being one of the biggest drains on a mobile phone. Setting your phone to automatically adjust your screen brightness to your surroundings is a safe way of ensuring you aren’t running the screen at full brightness when it doesn’t need to be. Although being a good starting point, the best option is turning your screen’s brightness down to the lowest setting you can tolerate and leaving it there. If you do nothing else, we suggest following this one!

Keep your screen time out short

  • Like we mentioned previously, your phone screen drains your battery at a shocking pace so, an obvious tip is to run your screen for as little time as possible. Setting your screen to time out after 15/30 seconds will mean it isn’t sitting around lit up whilst not being used. Android allows you to go down as low as 15 seconds whilst Apple only to 30 seconds – set at these levels and you should notice a difference! 

Turn off Wi-Fi

  • We always recommend using Wi-Fi when at home or in the office where you will have a stable connection (there’s no point wasting data if you have access to free Wi-Fi!) but when out and about it is recommended that you turn it off. Your phone will constantly be listening for signals even when not in use and this background processing will add to your battery drain problem. It’s the same for 3G and 4G, when at home keep it switched it off.

Turn off Bluetooth

  • Like Wi-Fi or cellular data, Bluetooth will be listening for signals whether your phone is in use or not. Unless you use Bluetooth on a regular basis, there is no point having it on 24/7. 

 Don’t leave apps running in the background

  • This only really applies to Android devices as Apple have previously said shutting down your apps will only drain your battery life further when you need to reload them. 

Go easy on location services

  • Another big battery drain is allowing apps access to your location services. Although convenient it often is not necessary for apps to need access, it becomes another use for GPS and Wi-Fi with no real benefit. 

Avoid vibrate

  • Although useful, turning the volume down and switching to vibrate is not helping your battery life. For your phone to produce a ringtone it must vibrate a small membrane enough to create a sound. For the device to vibrate it needs to move a small weight causing the whole phone to shake. This uses significantly more power than the ringtone. For those who need or prefer silence then switching to Airplane mode is an option. 

Steer clear of push emails

  • Having emails pushed to your phone is another battery drain you can easily avoid. If it is not used for work why do you need to have emails pushed through to your mobile device every 10 minutes? Check as often as you need, downloading as you go. 

Turn off non-essential notifications

  • Another quick and easy battery saver. Notifications will often light up the screen for the duration of your screen time-out – especially unnecessary if you're not looking at it!

Make use of power saving modes

  • If available, make use of power saving modes. Apple iPhones encourage the switch at 20% battery, but you can set it up on a permanent basis. It will reduce notifications, some display and motion settings but have great effects on your battery life. Some HTC and Samsung users reported anything up to 24 hours of emergency use despite the battery being as low as 15% (this was using the Ultra power saving modes). 

Update systems and apps regularly

  • As mentioned in a previous blog, keeping your apps up to date is a decent way of reducing their effects on your battery. Developers will often add new power saving updates to the latest version releases!

 Avoid too many games

  • Games for mobiles have become more sophisticated in the last few years with incredible (battery draining) graphics and modes that improve the user experience of the game but not the life of your battery! These high impact apps are heavy processor users, taking their toll on your phone. Stick to 2 or 3 that you use regularly and ditch the rest. 

Calibrate

  • Calibration is where you let your battery run down to 0% and then charge undisturbed to 100. It is recommended that you do this once a month, allowing the device to estimate its battery life more accurately. Although it’s not a battery life saver it’s a great rule to follow. 

No one can be expected to follow all these tips but picking a selection that suit you and your phone usage should see a boost to your mobile battery life. 

Replace Base - through the years

From 2010 to now the Replace Base site has undergone plenty of changes and improvements. We take a look back at where it all began!

 

We are proud to know that we still have customers from the early days and pretty sure they would remember the websites earlier versions. How far back can you remember? 

How to repair your water damaged phone

So, you’ve spilt water on your most prized possession and you're rightly reluctant to buy a new one. Don’t panic – your water damaged device might be salvageable! We have put together a quick guide to water damage repairs.

First off, here are a few things you will need:

Ultrasonic bath - The ultrasonic bath doesn’t have to be the best on the market but should be a step up from the cheap jewellery cleaning ones available. We use a GT Sonic, costs around £180 and has 2 transducers (you’ll need at least 2 or 3 on your model, 1 just won’t cut it, unfortunately) - ideally, it should be heated as well.

It can also be said that bigger isn’t always better! Get a bath that is the right size for the boards you are going to be fixing – anything too large will waste cleaning solution. Another tip is that if yours comes with a wire rack, remove it. Elevation will only mean more cleaning solution used per board.

Ultrasonic cleaning solution - We recommend using a decent ultrasonic bath cleaning solution like Allendale’s flux remover & PCB ultrasonic cleaner solution to get the best results. DO NOT put IPA into your ultrasonic baths. This combination is highly explosive. IPA can be used after the ultrasonic bath to remove any water particles left on the board but not for the bath.

A good magnifying glass for inspection - Before starting your water damage repair you will need to check over the board for visible signs of damage, for example, burns on ICs and resistors. Mineral corrosion (white or green powder) is okay and should be cleaned off during the bath. Burns or serious corrosion shows components may have detached and probably not worth bathing unless you are planning board level repairs after. Some use a toothbrush before bathing to get the corrosion loose and others have recommended adding flux and hot air first – techniques that have seen results in the past.

Now you know the tools you’ll need to perform the repair, it’s time to get into the process.

Water damage repair technique:

  1. Strip the phone down, remove the logic board and if possible remove the plates that cover the ICs. This will help the bath cleaner get all the components and make drying easier.
  2. Place in the ultrasonic bath and cover with the cleaner solution, make sure the whole board is covered. Top tip: for best results fill to about the 1/1.5-inch mark, too shallow and the bath won’t work properly.
  3. Depending on the level of damage set the bath to about 60/65ᵒc and leave to run for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, remove the board from the bath and allow it to sit for 30 minutes on an ESD mat. You should see that almost all the mineral corrosion is gone. You could give the board a further clean using IPA. Leave to stand to allow remaining IPA to evaporate away.
  5. Give the board a shake to get all the last liquid of the board and out of any nooks.
  6. Once dry it’s time to test if the repair has been successful.

Water can cause havoc with electronics and you can get the device back up and running for something else to go wrong a few days later so be prepared for further repairs. Despite this, we have seen an 80-85% success rate with this technique.

If you are having problems with your repair check out our forum. Plenty of topics have been discussed with loads more to be had!

Looking after your mobile phone

Whether you have treated yourself to a new mobile phone and want to keep it looking like new or fancy maintaining the value of your current mobile before an upgrade we have some great tips to keep it in top condition.

  1. Keep it Covered
    • First things first buy a case and good quality screen protector. Phone and screen protectors are the best way to prevent damage from knocks and scratches and preserve the value of your device through good appearance. Using a sturdier case may also protect it from internal damage should the worst happen, and you drop it.
  2. Keep it Charged
    • Our second tip is to regularly recharge your battery. Some batteries last longer than others and it often depends on usage - the more the device is used the quicker the battery will run out and vice versa. To preserve your batteries long term life, we recommend keeping it charged between 40% and 80%. Adjust the frequency of recharging in accordance to usage.
  3. Keep It Safe
    • Tip number three, keep it somewhere safe when not in use. When sitting idle your phone should be left somewhere safe where it can’t be knocked onto the floor or trodden on. Your desk is ideal and near a charging point is even better! It might seem sensible to leave it in a bag out of the way, but this is not the case. Unless turned off we do not recommend you leave your phone in a bag or other closed container for prolonged periods of time as it can shorten battery life. Do not charge your phone in a closed container either, this is a fire hazard.
  4. Keep it Dry
    • So, number four is an obvious one – do not get your phone wet. Avoid using your phone in the rain, whilst eating or drinking or near open water. Water and other liquids can cause all kind of expensive damage and often irreparable damage.
  5. Keep it Cool
    • Avoid extreme temperatures. Cold conditions can cause damage to phone screens and batteries and cause condensation to form inside the device potentially short circuiting the system. Whilst, hot temperatures and extreme sunlight can cause batteries to overheat especially with continuous use in hot conditions, it can result in a dead phone and unsalvageable battery.
  6. Keep it Clean
    • Our sixth tip is to keep your phone clean. Clean the outside of your phone regularly with a soft cloth or alcohol wipes to avoid dirt getting inside or scratching. DO NOT use water, baby wipes, tissue paper or other cleaners – these may inadvertently add water to your phone or increase the risk of internal and external damage as well as scratches.
  7. Keep it Updated
    • The final tip for looking after your mobile is to streamline and update Apps regularly. The best way to start is to disable or uninstall apps you don’t need or use. They take up space and often use battery capacity whilst sitting dormant on your phone. For apps that you do use, make sure you have the latest version installed. Developers will update apps regularly, often cutting down on battery usage and guard against malware, bugs and security threats reducing their affect on your phone.

Follow these top tips and all being well your phone will last the test of time.

How to improve the resale value of your mobile phone

From Day One:

For very little outlay, it possible to protect the value of your phone from the minute you first open the box. First, buy a robust protective case to protect your phone from accidental damage, such as might be caused by dropping it on the floor. Second, invest in a good quality screen protector to guard against scratches and scuffs caused by keys or coins.

Don’t be too eager to throw away the packaging; handle everything with care as you unpack your new device. If your phone comes with headphones and charger that are identical to those that accompanied your old phone, consider keeping the new one safe in their packaging.

Once in everyday use, make sure your new phone receives a weekly wipe down using an alcoholic spray and lint-free microfibre cloth.

The time has come to change your old mobile for a new model

If you want to get the best price for your old phone to take some of the financial sting out of buying a new one, there are some basic steps that you can take straight away:

  • Having your phone locked to one provider (e.g. EE) means that you are limiting your audience to the people who use the same network as you. A potential buyer will therefore either have to use that same network (in our example, EE) or have it changed. To make things easy for everyone, why not have your mobile unlocked so that it can be used on any network – most phone shops will be able to do this for you?
  • Consider changing the battery before you sell your phone. If the old battery is struggling, it will reduce the value of the device, so it could be more cost-effective to change it in advance of a sale.
  • Make sure that your phone is clean by giving it a good wipe with an alcohol spray using a lint-free microfibre cloth. A cotton bud will help you get into the little crevices and you might even consider a blast of compressed air to rid the device of any dust or pocket fluff. The effort will ensure you obtain maximum value for your phone.
  • If you can offer your phone for sale in the original packaging, together with the charger and headphones that came with the device, you will enhance the resale value when you come to sell. So, if didn’t hold on to the original packaging and the accessories, it would be a good idea to see if you can replace them through eBay or similar.
  • Finally, don’t forget to perform a factory reset on your phone before you sell it. Not only will this restore the phone’s original settings to the software, it will also delete your personal data for your own protection.

How to dispose of your old mobile phone battery

Replacing the battery in your mobile phone reminds you how your phone was when you first took delivery, when the battery seemed to last for ages before it needed recharging. There’s only one snag – what to do with the old battery? The days of being free to throw the old one in the bin with all the other rubbish are long gone – even if they are worn out, modern batteries contain harmful and hazardous waste. The first thing to check is whether your old battery has been punctured. If it has, it’s considered at very least to be a potential fire hazard – so, don’t hesitate, call in a professional for safe disposal because it’s just not worth the risk. The same rules apply if the battery is swollen because, in such a damaged state, it can still present an unnecessary safety hazard. And it cannot be recycled in the normal way. Assuming all is well with your old battery, place it in a cool, covered container to avoid any damage prior to disposal. Then seek out your most convenient battery recycling facility – these can often be found in your local supermarket or chemist. Alternatively, some local authorities will collect old batteries with a regular recycling pick-up. Check for details and dispose of all your old batteries responsibly.

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