Getting data off of an iPhone with a broken screen
June 22, 2020 11:54 AM   Subscribe

How can I interact with an old iPhone with a broken screen to get data off of it?

Welp, my wife's iPhone SE got wet and now the screen will not turn on or (as far as I can tell) respond to touches. The device still rings when you call it, but I can't plug it into a computer and get data off of it -- I think because I need to enter the passcode before it will recognize it. iCloud isn't turned on for photos (/facepalm) so there's a lot of stuff on there we'd want to get off before replacing it.

What options are there? My first thought is that maybe there's some kind of KVM we could use with a lightning cable. I know there are ways to hook up external monitors for example, but I'm not seeing a good way to control it at the same time. And presumably bluetooth is out because we'd need to interact with the device to make the initial connection.
posted by rouftop to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me I'd start with one of those 3rd party phone screen repair businesses. A few months back I dropped my iPhone SE in a parking lot and it got run over; the screen was toast, but I googled "iPhone screen repair" and found a shop that provides that service. The phone still had to be replaced but they fixed it well enough to interact with it enough to get that done. They should be equipped to help you solve this problem one way or another and it's not a service that would require too much unsafe interaction.
posted by bleep at 12:13 PM on June 22, 2020

Can't you use TouchID to authenticate the phone for synching to your computer?
posted by slkinsey at 12:21 PM on June 22, 2020

Here's a pretty good rundown of your options. You might be out of luck entirely since the screen doesn't work.

Apparently plugging in a mouse won't work without an accessibility setting, and using a keyboard used to work but now won't, because cops were using that loophole to brute-force peoples' passcodes.
posted by neckro23 at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2020

Can't you simply connect it to your laptop or PC, fire up iTunes, and back it up? Then restore the backup to your replacement? You shouldn't lose any music, data or photos and you don't need to unlock the phone to back it up; I just plugged mine in and backed it up in iTunes without ever unlocking it as a test, worked fine.

It's true that you can't navigate to the photos folder in Windows Explorer without unlocking it, but taking a backup seems to not care that it's locked. At least on my iPhone X; you said yours was older so YMMV.
posted by SquidLips at 9:28 PM on June 22, 2020

This happened to me and nothing with connecting it to my computer worked because it all depended on interacting with the screen. I took it to Verizon to transfer all the data and that wouldn’t work since I hadn’t backed it up. I ended up getting the screen repaired at a local shop for about $60 and it was worth it for me! Still using my old iPhone (and have backed up photos to the cloud.)
posted by buttonedup at 6:08 AM on June 23, 2020

Without typing in the code there isn’t anyone (you, Apple, the FBI, the NSA, the Chinese equivalent of the FBI/NSA, etc.) can do to get into the phone, by design.

The comment up stream about backing it up is from someone who likely hasn’t updated in some time, since their phone is still in the state where other people (like the cops) can just back up their phone and get at the information.

Fixing the screen is going to the best route toward.
posted by sideshow at 12:06 AM on June 24, 2020

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