Take away an iPhone's screen, and you've lost almost all ability to interact with it. The same goes for inability to see anything on your screen. Even if touch is working, it's hard to know what your touch is doing without an image to accompany it. So, if your iPhone is stuck in this state, where do you start?
Before undertaking any of the more time-consuming solutions below, these are a few fundamentals to get you going.
- Perform a force restart. This could clear any minor software hiccups. Be mindful that this process varies slightly by model.
- Plug your device in. It may have dimmed the display automatically due to low battery levels. This also prompts the phone to boot, on the off chance that it was simply powered off, or the battery depleted.
- Relocate to a space with lower ambient light to verify the display is actually black rather than at minimum brightness. If you can see the display is dim, but cannot adjust the brightness, or auto brightness is not working properly, this can indicate an issue with your Ambient Light Sensor Fault.
- Connect your device to a computer. Different behaviors in iTunes can indicate different underlying issues.
- If it is detected, but asks about permission for the computer "access to information" on your iPhone, you're on the right track. This confirms your device is on and functioning properly despite the lack of image.
- If it is detected, but only prompts for update or restore, you're likely to have a firmware issue. Skip to the Firmware Corruption section.
- If it isn't detected at all, this could be a bigger issue. You may want to look into the iPhone Won't Turn On troubleshooting page in addition to this one.
It is rare for an iPhone to develop issues producing an image because of a software issue. But an iPhone in Direct Firmware Upgrade mode, or DFU mode, manifests with no image on the screen, only the backlight may be on. This could point to an issue with firmware.
- Connect the iPhone to a computer to see if it can be recognized. If it is in DFU mode, iTunes or Finder will indicate that there is an "Issue with the device," but it will only offer a restore option. The "Update" button will be grayed out.
- Click “Restore” to reinstall the firmware and Operating System. This will erase all the data on your device. Be sure you have a backup before processing a restore.
- If restore fails with an error message, document it. Now might be a good time to visit the Answers forum, where you can get more personalized help. Be sure to mention the error message in your question!
Ambient Light Sensor Fault
Along with the front-facing camera, a host of other sensors populate the top edge of the display. The Ambient Light Sensor, or ALS, is responsible for setting the screen’s auto brightness. The screen may not be black, just dim.
- Working in a dark environment can help if your screen brightness is low. Shine a flashlight at the display to check for signs of image, even if the screen isn’t lit. Check at a few angles to confirm glare isn’t preventing you from seeing an image. If you still cannot see anything on screen, skip ahead to the Screen Disconnect section.
- You can verify your sensor is faulty by turning auto brightness on and covering the top portion of the phone with your hand. If the brightness changes, the ALS is working properly.
- This option can be found in Settings > Accessibility > Display and Text Size. It will be green if it is enabled.
- In older versions of iOS, this setting may also appear in "Display and Brightness" from the main Settings menu.
- The cable assembly containing the ALS is mounted to the display. In iPhone models with Touch ID, this cable will also contain the front facing camera and receiver speaker. In iPhone models which feature Face ID, the camera is mounted in the housing. The iPhone 13 further offloaded housing the receiver speaker into the chassis
- If you find any signs of liquid entry along the top edge, the ALS is commonly the first thing hit. Check for patina on any of the metal components along the top Replace this sensor cable if you're at all suspicious.
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 13 Pro
Especially after a hefty drop, the connection between the board and the screen can sever. It is uncommon, but still worth giving a try. It follows the old troubleshooting monicker of simply unplug and plug it back in anything giving you issue.
- Break out the tool set, open up your phone, and reseat any display-related connectors.
- Reference the iPhone Guides page to learn how to open your specific model.
Although most display failures seem obvious, even without visible damage, the display may not work properly due to something amiss internally. Cracks in glass can also be difficult to detect until the light catches them.
- Look closely at your display for signs of a break. Changing your viewing angle may help catch small hairline cracks.
- Use a paper clip to eject the SIM tray. Shine a light into the slot to check the liquid contact indicator—it will be pink or red if it has touched liquid. This sticker is on the underside of the display, so it can be tricky to spot. Liquid damage to the display can cause this failure.
- If you see this has been triggered, be extra mindful to check for any signs of liquid exposure inside the phone.
- Check internal cables for signs of tears or other damage. If you aren’t certain which ones are linked to the display, refer to the Display Replacement Guide.
- If you find damage, or software fixes have not made a difference, replace the display.
Damaged Backlight Components
On iPhones with LCD-type displays (the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and earlier, all iPhone SE models, the iPhone XR, and the iPhone 11), the screen's ability to illuminate is separate from its ability to produce an image.
- Check to see if there is an image on your display when shining a flashlight at it. This is best done during boot, when the Apple logo is on screen, due to the high contrast.
- If your backlight is out without any previous repair work, or signs of liquid damage, a new display is the likeliest cure.
- Already changed the display, or the issue occurred after a repair? Forgetting to unplug the battery before replacing parts can cause this issue. Check for signs of heat on the board, especially around the display connectors. It may have melted the foam sticker, charred the board itself, or smell burnt.
- If this looks like your issue, this is a prime candidate for finding someone who can microsolder, since it will require replacing parts on the board itself. Any good board repair shop will have experience in backlight issues. Even if your local shop doesn’t do board level work, they may know someone who does!
- If you cannot find a shop to do this work, or you cannot do it yourself, replacing the logic board is your only option.
Logic Board Malfunction
The logic board is the hub for the vast majority of an iPhone's functionality. Any number of the small components on the board may have failed or become damaged and is a safe assumption of cause if nothing else on this page has worked.
- Check for obvious signs of a board issue—burned or cracked components, liquid residue, corrosion, or bend. If there are signs of liquid, the iPhone Liquid Damage Guide might help.
- Replacing the logic board is often the most practical solution for a DIYer whose board has failed.
- Contrary to popular belief, the board itself can be repaired. However, it requires specialized tools and microsoldering know-how. If you’re feeling curious, and want to know more about getting into micro soldering, here’s some good reading and some good watching to get you started.