How to use and backup iPhone with Broken Screen

selective focus photo of iPhone balance on brick pavement

The Apple iPhone is arguably the epitome of smartphone technology. As a pioneer and constant innovator, Apple has come a long way since they launched the very first iPhone way back in 2007. Today, the iPhone is an icon of innovation, connectivity, and technology designed to cater to the needs of the modern consumer – be them creatives, professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and more.

However, despite its popularity, the Apple iPhone, and its various models and variants, is not a perfect device – in fact, far from it. Apple iPhones have amassed a huge following all around the world for the elegance and ingenuity that goes into both the hardware and the software that make up the device, but with its high price tag and the several design decisions that seem like they were conceived to take advantage of users and milk them for even more money, it’s definitely not without its flaws. One of the most common issues with Apple iPhones – and one that’s been with the brand since the very beginning – is how fragile the device is, and how easily it can break and become unusable.

If you’ve ever dropped your iPhone – heard that heart-stopping shatter of a broken screen – only to pick it up and find that it no longer responds to your touch inputs, then you’re a victim – but not one without hope. Fortunately, particularly in later iPhone models, Apple has made strides – not massive ones, but they’re there and it’s evident – in making their product more resilient to breakage. Even with a broken screen and an unresponsive touch interface, there may still be a way for you to use your device (with a little help) or back it up so you don’t lose anything when you transition to a new and hopefully unbroken iPhone.

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Can I Still Use My iPhone if the Screen is Broken?

The short answer is: maybe.

If it’s just the screen that’s broken, then chances are everything else – the internals, the hardware, any stored information, and most of its functionality – remain intact. Depending on what’s damaged, your iPhone and its broken screen might still be working perfectly, apart from the fact that you can’t see what’s going on or you have to deal with an unresponsive touch screen.

Then again, a broken screen could also mean a lot of other problems that could have occurred at the time of breakage. Apple’s hardware is designed with precision and efficiency, and a drop – especially one that was hard enough to break your screen – could have jogged loose other important parts or even broken something entirely inside the phone.

Image from Apple Support

How to Enter Your Passcode on a Broken iPhone Screen

If you’re iPhone has a broken screen – but isn’t totally broken – then all you need to do is unlock it to make sure you don’t lose access to everything that’s stored on it, from photos to contacts to apps and more. But how do you put in your passcode if the screen is broken? Here’s how:

Use Face ID

One of the most common methods used to unlock iPhones with broken screens. If you own an Apple iPhone X or later model (iPhone 11 and its variants, or the iPhone 12 and its variants), then you’re in luck because you’ll be able to unlock your phone – functional touchscreen or not – with your face, provided that you camera lens isn’t broken, too.

Use Touch ID

Another ever-popular and convenient method to unlock your iPhone, you can use Touch ID in place of your passcode in the event that your screen is broken. Touch ID is available on most iPhone models released since 2015, from the iPhone 5S through the iPhone 8 and later. To use Touch ID, you’ll have to make sure you set it up prior to having your phone broken, but once you do, it’s as simple as using your fingerprint to unlock your phone in lieu of a passcode.

Use VoiceOver

Another way to open your phone when you can’t input your passcode manually is to use Apple’s VoiceOver feature. Although it won’t help you out directly, VoiceOver lets you navigate your iPhone even if the screen is completely broken, allowing you to use it effectively with an external keyboard.

Use Siri

You can use Apple’s trusty virtual assistant Siri to get the job one in case of a broken screen. Siri won’t be able to do everything for you, but if your screen is shot to heck, then you’ll at least be able to access your settings and get Siri to turn things on for you – things like VoiceOver.

Use an external keyboard

One of the most common ways to restore access to an iPhone with a broken screen or non-functioning touch screen is to connect your device to an external keyboard. If you have a Bluetooth keyboard already set up beforehand, then you can use that easily using VoiceOver or Siri. If you haven’t, though, you’ll need to use a USB keyboard with the lightning jack and connect it to your phone directly.

Image from Apple Support

How to Backup Your iPhone

Once you have access to your broken iPhone, you no longer have to worry about the loss of data that typically comes with breaking a phone. As long as you can access your iPhone using the method shown above, you’ll be able to backup everything – your photos, videos, locally-stored files, apps, contacts, and more – either onto the cloud or onto your computer for quick-and-easy restores down the line, like when you get a new iPhone. Follow these steps to backup your iPhone and minimize your losses.

Method 1 Set up an iCloud Backup using a Keyboard

With this method, you’ll be able set up an iCloud backup by connecting a keyboard to your phone and using in-built accessibility features to counter the fact that you don’t have a working screen. Here’s how:

Unlock Your Phone

You can do this using the methods mentioned above, using Touch ID or Face ID or using a connected keyboard.

Enable VoiceOver

You can enable VoiceOver easily by long-pressing the Home button on your iPhone, activating Siri, and then asking Siri to enable VoiceOver. If your screen is barely functioning or not functioning at all, enabling VoiceOver will provide you with readouts of any menu option you’re navigating through so you can go by hearing instead of sight to get where you want to go.

Connect Your Keyboard to Your Phone

Once you’ve accessed your iPhone, you can connect your USB to Lightning adapter cable to your iPhone and then subsequently connect your USB keyboard.

Open iCloud Settings

Once you have your keyboard set up, head on over to iCloud settings. You can do so easily by reaching out to ever-reliable Siri. Long-press the Home button, activate Siri, and ask to open iCloud settings.

Navigate to iCloud Backup

If your screen is so broken that you can’t see what’s going on at this point, then now’s the time you’re going to see VoiceOver do its magic. The iCloud Settings screen has a ton of items listed on it, so to navigate to iCloud Backup, use your external keyboard, press the Right cursor key, and then listen to the VoiceOver do its thing. Once you hear it call out “iCloud Backup”, then you’re on the right track. Hit Ctrl+Alt+Space or Ctrl+Option+Space (on Mac Keyboards) to go inside the iCloud Backup settings page.

Activate Back Up Now

Once you’re in iCloud Backup, navigate to the Backup Now option by using the Right cursor key, listening to the VoiceOver, and hitting Ctrl+Alt+Space or Ctrl+Option+Space again to activate it. Your iPhone will now start backing up all of your files, photos, and stored data onto your iCloud for safe storage and convenient retrieval.

Method 2 Migrate Data to a new iPhone

If you’re replacing your phone instead of replacing your broken screen, you’ll be able to use your old iPhone to migrate all of your data directly without having to use any kind of backup. As long as both iPhones are running iOS 12.4 or more recent versions of iOS, you’ll have the option to use Bluetooth to migrate all of your data onto your new iPhone during the setup.

Final Thoughts

Dropping an iPhone and breaking that beautiful display can be a heartbreaking thing, but fortunately, you won’t have to also deal with the loss of data that sometimes ensues after. As long as your iPhone isn’t entirely broken – maybe the screen cracked or shattered, but the internals are all in one piece – then you won’t have lost anything but a pretty screen to look at and of course your touch control, but your data is safe and ready to be backed up for future use. We hope this guide helped you do some damage control on your broken iPhone – after all you can always buy a new phone but there are some things – like photos, contact numbers, personal notes, and more – that you store on your phone that are absolutely irreplaceable.

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