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iPhone LCD Screens Explained

Posted on 25th Apr 2017 @ 9:26 AM

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One of the most common misconceptions we see in the iPhone repair business is the true meaning and understanding of the definition of Non-Original LCD Screens and Original (OEM) LCD Screens.

It seems every company that sells LCD screens or buys back broken LCD screens uses slightly different terminology.

If you’re a bit unsure, don’t panic! We’ll try to define the root differences between the various stock conditions in hopes that some sense of common knowledge is put in place.

Why so Many Different LCD Conditions and Grading Scales?

It boils down to three reasons: culture differences, marketing and name brand copyright infringement.

  • Culture Differences – Most LCD screens are manufactured or reclaimed to be refurbished in the Asian market. Right out of the gate, there is a barrier of culture and language barriers that simply don’t align with other nations terms relating to cell phone replacement parts. For example: the phrase OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) seems to be used more often in Asia where Americans would tend to say "original" or "Genuine".
  • Marketing – Various marketing twists these terms just as much in an effort to advertise LCD screen parts in a manner that sounds more official and tends to keep the focus off some variant of the true condition.  For example An "Original white LCD display with digitizer and frame assembly for iPhone 4S" listing title on eBay sounds like a 100% authentic LCD screen and must be new since the item condition reflects it being so.

  What this really means is you are buying a full, complete iPhone 4S LCD screen assembly with:

  • – An authentic iPhone (Sharp or Toshiba) LCD screen; the LCD is “real,” but refurbished.
  • – Has an “aftermarket” digitizer adhered to the LCD screen.
  • – Other parts and components are reclaimed from broken LCD screens to make a refurbished LCD screen and could have other “aftermarket” parts used in re-manufacturing.
  • Brand Copyright Infringement – Unless you’re licensed to sell Apple iPhone parts, you’re not technically allowed to advertise new “Original” parts, even if the item is new and 100% authentic. If you ever see the words “for iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, 5c” etc. at the end of the item title or advertising pitch, now you’ll know why. Apple has actually been fairly quiet about imposing seizures at US customs and online marketplaces for those who sell parts without authorization.

In summary, sellers basically twist their advertising pitches to circumvent the risk of selling refurbished, unauthorized Apple parts while confusing the end consumer with fancy technical words that mask the truth.

Common Conditions for iPhone LCD Screen Assemblies and Parts

I scanned my inbox, Alibaba, eBay and Amazon for various sellers of iPhone LCD screens to get the most common terminology used in sellers’ offerings. I’ll list some of the most common terms used in product offerings below.

  • Original
  • OEM
  • Grade A Copy
  • High Copy
  • High Copy Grade A
  • Grade A
  • Grade A+
  • Grade AAA
  • Original Replacement

Seem familiar? I’m sure!

Notice how each and every word or term has a “positive” tone to. If there is a “Grade A” and “Grade A+,” shouldn’t there be a “Grade B” or “Grade A-” in the suppliers condition criteria? Probably, but you won’t ever see it. In grade school we went from an A to a B, not from an A to an “Almost Perfect.” Simply understand that as condition goes up or down, you’ll simply see a different “positive” word used causing more confusion to the condition you’re actually purchasing.    Terms like the above are mainly used to define one major component or part of the LCD screen rather than the word applying to all of the parts that make up an LCD assembly.

Using Price to Gauge LCD Suppliers Condition

You get what you pay for. Most LCD suppliers are going to be in the same neighborhood in pricing. If you see a price that is significantly lower than another suppliers offering, you’re going to be giving up one of the following:

  • Amount of truly new parts on the assembly.
  • The quality of the reclaimed and refurbished parts.
  • The quality of the manufacturer’s work.
  • The companies service in regards to sales, shipping, ease of returns and duration of warranty.

Let’s take an example of a suppliers offering for the iPhone 5 and dissect the probability of what we’re actually purchasing based on their advertised condition.

Item Price Description Real LCD? LCD Condition Real Digitizer? Digitizer Condition
1 $55.50 High Copy Grade A No – Fake New Fake No New – Lowest Quality
2 $62.10 High Copy Grade AA Yes Refurbished No New – Low to Better Quality
3 $72.80 Original Yes Refurbished Yes New – Higher Quality
4 $84.20 Original with Small Parts Yes Refurbished Yes New – Best Quality

So if you went to buy the cheapest LCD screen from your supplier and asked “Are these new?,” they would most likely respond with “Yes.” In the example of Item #1, the LCD is new, but it’s a fake LCD that was made for the sole purpose of shaving cost. It will sacrifice something (if not a little bit of everything), including DPI and resolution, color brightness and quality of workmanship.

Know What to Ask Your LCD Screen Supplier before Purchasing

Asking very specific questions is half the battle when purchasing LCD screens from your supplier. The other half of the battle is getting an honest answer. Be very specific in the questions that you ask. I always try to use some common knowledge questions that don’t involve any of the terms used in conditions to eliminate any discrepancies in the answers you’ll receive. You should ask the following for questions specifically for all three major components of a typical LCD screen.

  1. LCD  Is the LCD screen manufactured by the same company that I would find on brand new in box phone that I purchased from an authorized Apple store
  2. LCD – If yes to above, ask specifically “Is this LCD part brand new or refurbished from reclaimed old parts?
  3. Digitizer  Is the Touch Panel manufactured by the same company that I would find on brand new in box phone that I purchased from an authorized Apple store?
  4. Digitizer  Is the Touch Panel new or refurbished, or reclaimed from old parts?
  • Ask the same question in regards to the other spare parts, especially if the assembly you’re buying has working components such as earpiece, home buttons, etc.
  • Most supplier sales reps are trained with sales pitch lines to get past such specific questions. Make sure you’re getting a response that’s specific.
  • Even after I get a “Yes” answer, I’ll follow up with “So if I bought a brand new in box sealed iPhone from Apple.com, the part I’m asking about would be 100% identical with no differences in quality or condition?”
  • Most are great sales reps, but they won’t lie if you ask such specific questions.

         The truth is: most buyers think they are getting a new LCD screen when in fact 95% of the LCD screens for iPhone 4/4S/5/5S/5C/6 are refurbished. The LCD screens that you purchase simply very in the quality of the refurbishing process.

         Toshiba and Sharpe are the only one who made LCD screens for Apple iPhone and have not manufactured new one for over a year. Those that they did manufacture were made for authorized service centers and over the counter replacements phones for post-paid carrier Asurion insurance customers only.

         As of today's date, most LCD screens buyer are purchasing assembly anywhere from 18$ to 26$. A true new original would cost over 30$ and actually be a bit hard to find. if you are buying for under 30$, you are definitely buying a refurbished/reclaimed LCD screen.

How Replaced LCD Screen Condition Differ from Selling Broken LCD Screen Condition

When buying LCD screens and selling your broken LCD screens, many of the same terms are used, yet the industry treats these condition terms differently. Mainly, “Original” and “Non-Original” are used, yet the terminology of these conditions is different in regards to buying good screens and selling your bad ones.

  • Original – Never refurbished or reclaimed before. Example: if a retail customer bought a new iPhone 5 directly from Apple and it came to them brand new in the box, they cracked the screen, took it to your repair shop and you removed the screen to replace it; this LCD screen is original. Since the phone was opened and used as brand new in the box from official channels, the original (or FIRST) LCD screen that was on the phone has never been replaced.  "original" doesn't mean fake or real, it simply means the broken LCD screen is the original part that was on the phone when purchased new.
  • Non-Original – The LCD screen has been refurbished or reclaimed from a broken LCD screen assembly at least one time. Non-Original does not mean fake. Illustrated below.

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                             Life Cycle of Original vs Non-Original iPhone LCD Screen

It can definitely start to get confusing when the same buying and selling words mean different things for the same product at a different stage in it’s lifecycle. When selling your smashed, cracked, damaged and broken iPhone and Android LCD screen assemblies, it’s usually best to translate “Original” and “Non-Original” to “Never Repaired or Refurbished” or “Has been Repaired or Refurbished” for easier understanding.