Retrieving photos from my phone with a broken screen?
August 9, 2022 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to get my files/photos off my Pixel 3 phone with a recently-broken screen and a very iffy USB-C port? The screen responds to touch to answer calls, and the phone is functional (will vibrate and receive calls), but has no display at all. Luckily I do have my photos auto-uploading to Google Photos already but only in storage saver quality - is there a way to pull the original quality versions off my phone through Google Photos, or some other way?

The screen repair cost is high enough that considering the phone's age and other issues it makes more sense to get a new phone, but I'm sad about losing all the original quality photos. I don't care much about whatever other files are on the phone, though bonus if I could get those too somehow.

I can't get them through the cable because 1) I can't see to enable the file transfer and 2) the connection doesn't work well at all and I always have to fiddle with the cord forever before I see the charging symbol showing that it's connected. (I've been using a wireless charger for a long time because the charging port is so finicky). I've ordered a newer pixel with the "transfer cable" thing but my understanding is that this won't work either, for the same reasons.

I tried to screencast to the TV (chromecast) by tapping the screen in what should have been the right sequence based on my partner's phone (conveniently also a pixel 3), but it didn't work. Also, the phone has now managed to call 9-1-1 twice without even touching anything (!!!) so I'm reluctant to mess around too much with tapping on the screen randomly.

I feel like there should be a way to access the photos remotely through my Google account (via my desktop) or otherwise maybe remotely install an app that can do it, but I can't figure out how to do it. Is this possible?
posted by randomnity to Technology (6 answers total)
Best answer: Possible, but sounds like there's damage to the digitizer, and that causes additional problems.

If your phone had been paired to a PC before (perhaps paired is the wrong word, more like... DEBUG setup before, basically, enable dev mode, connect to PC, and it'll established a RSA key secured connection with that PC only, THEN with debug active, there are lots of things you can do.

But without it, trying to set that up blind is virtually impossible.

Hypothetically it may be possible the ADB (android debug bridge) to it and copy it off, restore it to another Pixel 3 to retrieve the contents (back up the other Pixel 3 first), then restore the "donor" Pixel 3. However, I don't think it's going to be possible to ADB to it WITHOUT being able to see the phone screen.
posted by kschang at 9:52 AM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: Some theoretical possibilities...

Could you use Google Assistant to enable the Talkback screen reader, and from there use your phone using text to speech? I'm not sure of the state of Talkback in an older Google Pixel, but hopefully the Android updates will make it at least somewhat comparable.
posted by Alensin at 9:58 AM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: I agree that it makes sense to get a new phone, but consider the screen fix as the cost of retrieving your photos, not as the value vis a vis using the phone going forward. Maybe you can recover the cost of fixing the screen (and no more) by selling it after it is fixed or trading it in. If it costs $50 to fix the screen and you can get $50 or any value for it after it is working again, that might be worth the hassle in order to get your full res pictures. With the phone as is, you will get $0 for it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: I have a multiport dongle / adapter (this) into which I plug monitors, USB drives, mouse etc. I normally use this with my laptop. It's USB-C.

However, if I plug it into my Samsung S20, it immediately recognizes it and the phone's screen is displayed on my monitors, the mouse works etc. I just tried it and it required me to press (on phone) "Accept" to use Samsung's Dex -- which yours won't have of course. It looks like the Pixel 3 does support HDMI, so you likely won't even have to press Accept.

On mine, the mouse and keyboard on my dongle just work as-is. Then you should be able to use your phone and move files to a USB drive or cloud service.
posted by NailsTheCat at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on your settings, you may already have "Original Quality" of all photos uploaded before January 31, 2022 (unless you later compressed them to save space). The "storage saver" option is also pretty high-quality, it only compresses images that are over 16mb. So those "storage saver" images should be good for almost all on-screen applications, and good for printing up to about 4x6. They won't be good for large-format printing, though.
posted by agentofselection at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2022

Best answer: If you work with a local repair place, perhaps you can get a discount on the repair, where they just plug in a screen without fully reassembling the phone, and then keep the screen afterwards -- this seems like it would significantly reduce the amount of work required as well as the parts cost.
posted by alexei at 6:16 PM on August 9, 2022

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