How to Use a Phone with a Cracked Screen and Recover Your Data

By | December 31, 2021

Staring at the cracked phone screen, you might think the device is now useless. In some cases, you’re right but that doesn’t mean you still can’t use it. Other devices can be connected, data can be recovered, and you may still be able to use the hardware keys.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to deal with a broken smartphone display, these handy tips will put your mind at ease.

Broken Phone Display

Broken smartphone display? This is a big problem. Over the years, smartphone manufacturers have removed hardware interface options to save space and cost. The result is a device that can only interact with you via the touch screen.

So, what happens when the screen is broken? Several “broken screen” scenarios can be described:

  • Small crack on the screen
  • Cracks on the screen, some lost pictures
  • Cracked, lost touch
  • Crack with loss of touch and loss of image
  • A seemingly perfect screen, no gaps, but no touch sensitivity

Each will have an impact on how you use your phone. However, neither of them causes you to be unable to use the device at all.

Of course, the practical solution for smartphones with broken screens is to fix them. However, several issues can prevent this, from lack of warranty to unavailable spare parts.

The section below will walk you through the options to access your phone even if the touchscreen display is broken. With the access achieved, you will be able to recover data from the device.

Use Your Phone With Keyboard and Mouse

The display is on and you can see at least most of the screen, but can’t use it? The answer here may be to connect a keyboard and mouse.

You have different options here, depending on your smartphone platform.

Connecting Keyboard and Mouse to Android

Your phone should accept USB devices via USB OTG support, although previous Android devices didn’t need to support this. To use this you will need a USB OTG cable adapter.

Two types are available: USB Type-C and Micro USB, each with a standard USB input port. Good choices are the Cable OT-6-inch L-Shaped USB-to-Micro-USB Cable OTG or the Cable Matters 6-inch USB-to-USB-C OTG Cable.

Be careful choosing the correct USB OTG adapter for your phone.

Don’t have a USB keyboard? While Bluetooth devices are supported by Android, for a new connection you will need to access the Settings screen. This will not be possible if the touch screen is not working. For existing Bluetooth keyboard pairs, however, it should be fine.

What if the display is completely off? The best option here is to connect an external display to your Android device.

Use Keyboard or Mouse with iPhone

The only way to connect a keyboard to your iPhone is via Bluetooth. As mentioned above, if the device is not already paired, it will be difficult. Fortunately, connect a Bluetooth keyboard to iOS very easy, which probably makes the solution easier.

Control Your Phone Remotely

Remote control apps and services can help when accessing a phone with a broken screen.

Access Android With Airdroid Remotely

Several remote access apps are available for Android, but the first thing you should pay attention to is AirDroid.

Again, note that this is not possible if AirDroid is not already installed and set up. However, if you can get the USB keyboard working and set up AirDroid, remote access should be possible. You can also use AirDroid to move data from Android to your PC.

Access Long distance to iPhone

iOS devices can be accessed remotely. You have two options here: use a remote administration tool via macOS or connect via VNC. The latter option is only available via Jailbreak, and as with Bluetooth, this can only be done with a working display. It’s also risky, as jailbreaking can void your warranty and introduce security vulnerabilities. (Read How to Remote Control Your iPhone From Your Computer)

Can Your Phone’s Hardware Keys Help

In some rare cases, especially on older Android devices, you may be able to control the device using the buttons. When Android was first released it shipped with seven or eight hardware buttons for interface options. Much of this has been replaced by movement.

However, apart from using a broken phone as a camera (hardware shutter button is impossible to lose), options are limited.

Broken Phone Screen? It’s Time to Back Up Your Data

Now you have to make an option to access your broken phone:

  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • Bluetooth keyboard and mouse
  • Remote access from PC

But what happens next. Should you continue using your phone through this method? Well no of course not for the long term. Instead, you should be looking to recover data from your device.

The easiest way to do this is to connect your phone to your computer via the supplied cable. Browse devices such as USB drives, copy data. However, it is not always that simple. Fortunately, Android and iOS owners can count on a backup of their devices.

For Android users, backups can be made at Settings > System > Advanced > Backup. If you have taken steps to save calendar events and contacts to your online account, this will also be supported. When you switch to a new phone, if you log into it with the same account, your data will be restored.

On iOS, you can back up iPhone to your computer (via iTunes), or to iCloud. Both are good options, though of course you may need to pay for iCloud if your backups are beyond free capacity. iCloud backup can be started at Settings > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Rollback on a new iPhone by selecting Restore from iCloud Backup in the settings screen. (Read How to Backup and Restore Your iPhone, iPad, Data to iCloud and iTunes)

In addition to these two backup options, it’s best to rely on a cloud storage sync service like Dropbox. This provides an additional layer of protection in case other backups and archives fail.