ZTE Blade Disassembly
Aug. 22, 2011
I recently went swimming in a beautiful lake on Lismore with my phone, a ZTE Blade/Orange San Francisco, in my back pocket. Later diagnostics seemed to imply that, despite the completely dead screen, the rest of the phone still worked. I purchased another broken Blade on eBay, ripped the screen out of it and put it in place of my broken one. Voila! Working phone. As a celebration, and in the hope that others may be able to do the same, here's a disassembly guide.
I'm going to assume that if you're following along, you know that you will be voiding warrantees and potentially breaking your phone. Keep the screws safe, and try not to rub your feet on the ground too much while you're touching the inside of the device.
It's also probably important to note at this point that I lost the volume buttons for one of the Blades, and the ones that I didn't lose are attached to the phone I used to take these photos.
I want my phone to be in pieces
The first thing you'll need to do is stick your fingernails into the little gap on the bottom of the phone and remove the back case. If you've not done this before, it will resist a fair amount, but you won't break anything by pulling too hard, so don't be afraid of giving it some.
Take the battery out and then remove the eight screws holding the back half of the case on. The one on the top right probably has a tamper-evident sticker over it - be sure you want to do this before you break it.
With all the screws removed, you can pull the back of the case off. It will resist even more than the back cover did, so show no mercy. If you have something plastic to lever it apart with, use that, otherwise use your fingernails. Screwdrivers and coins will gouge the plastic. Be careful around the volume buttons.
The full glory of the ZTE Blade should now lie before you. The main board has a lot of stuff connecting it to the phone, so in order to remove it you're going to have to unplug a lot of ZIF connectors. They're a bit finicky, but you should be able to get your fingernails under the flaps to push them open. The flaps don't resist all that much. The connector holding the wide black ribbon on the left is the most awkward of the bunch - you may have to lift the SIM/SD board up a little in order to get the flap into the release position.
There's also a cable plugged into the bottom right of the board that runs down the side of the phone to the board underneath the buttons that sit below the screen. It should just pull out. Your phone should now look like this.
Before you lift the main board off, you will also have to detach the volume button membrane from the metal plate they are attached to. I messed this bit up, and my volume up button doesn't work any more, so be careful - take it slow and make sure you take both layers off at once.
There is one more cable attaching the main board to the screen below, but it's underneath. Carefully lift the board up from the bottom edge until you can get at it, and release it like the other ones. The board should now be separate.
The screen should now just lift out, leaving the digitiser and the buttons underneath.
There is more you can separate - the screen part can come apart in ways not documented here and the SIM/SD board can be removed from the main board. This is just as far as I needed to get to replace the part that was broken in mine.
To reassemble, you should just be able to do this whole thing backwards and end up with a functioning phone. There are a couple of things that might catch you out if you're in a hurry, though, so make sure you remember to put all the buttons back in where you found them, reconnect that sneaky ribbon underneath the board, and pull all the ribbons out from under the board before you put the volume button membrane sticker back on.
All of these photos can be viewed in gallery form here.
Did I miss anything? Please, get in touch with any corrections or clarifications.