If you have an iPhone 4 and you want to swap out the standard Apple black or white backplate for something more colorful — like red or blue — it can be a challenge to find the best, high quality parts. Backplate swaps especially are an easy DIY project, but you want to pay careful attention to the supplier, the materials they're using, the specific model of iPhone 4 you're ordering for (AT&T/GSM is different than Verizon/Sprint/CDMA), and that you have all the tools you need for the job.
Only order iPhone 4 parts from a reputable supplier
As tempting as it can be to order colored parts on eBay or Amazon because of the low price tag, keep in mind that it'll cost you more to replace your iPhone 4 if faulty parts cause something to go wrong. Spending a couple extra bucks for parts that are high quality and backed with a warranty is always your best bet.
Not to say there aren't some reputable sellers on both websites. Just make sure you're reading comments and customer reviews. If you see negative ones that should be a red flag and you should steer away from that seller altogether.
The best place to get colored or replacement parts is from a supplier that specializes in iPhone or iPad repair.
Some suppliers only sell colored parts to businesses and repair shops. If you plan on ordering colored parts from a repair center or online supplier in the form of a DIY kit, don't be afraid to ask them who they get their parts from and if they back them with a warranty. If they are hesitant to give you that information, I'd probably find somewhere else to order them.
What to look for when buying colored parts
Several websites offer a variety of DIY color kits. There are certain things you're going to want to look for before ordering so you're sure you get the best parts you can.
If you are DIY replacing a back panel, you'll want to make sure you pay close attention to the following when buying parts.
- Make sure the back is made of glass and not plastic.
- Order the correct back replacement as GSM and CDMA backs are different. The hinges are placed differently and they are not interchangeable. This goes for both a back and a front assembly.
- Check the screw holes on back replacements and make sure they are assembled from metal. These should ALWAYS be metal, not plastic as shown in the picture above. It's much higher quality and decreases the chance that they will strip over time. The back I've pictured above with plastic screw holes was stripped after removing the screws only 2-3 times.
- Watch out for aluminum or brushed metal backs. They can mess with your reception.
Front assembly checklist
If you're swapping out or repairing an iPhone 4 screen, you'll definitely want to make sure your parts are high quality as you'll be ordering a whole new digitizer and LCD assembly.
- Just as with the back, the brackets "are" different for CDMA and GSM models. Make sure you're ordering the correct part.
- There are brackets that run along both sides of the assembly. These should be made of metal, not plastic. You have to screw these down with washers and plastic is brittle and normally too thick. You'll have issues getting the screen to sit flush.
- Check sensors and make sure they look how they're supposed to. A good guide is that any colored parts should have visible sensors similar to the stock white iPhone 4. If they look different than that, don't buy them.
What to look for after you have your parts
Once you receive your colored replacement parts you'll want to check all of the following before attempting a full-color swap or any modification.
Check the sensors and cables on the front digitizer assembly. A good way to gauge the quality of colored parts is to examine the cables and sensors on your stock digitizer assembly to the new parts. Make sure they feel similar in thickness and that the sensors are located in the same spots. It is common that replacement fronts won't come with the plastic front-facing camera ring or the speaker mesh. That's okay. You'll just remove them from your stock assembly and place them on your colored assembly.
Also, check the back panel for blemishes on the lens cover. Run your finger over it and make sure it sits flush with the glass backing. This is a common problem with many knocks offs. They are either scratched or don't sit flush. This will affect image quality greatly. Most quality parts will come with a plastic protector on the inside and outside of the glass panel to protect the lens.
Even though colored iPhone parts aren't available from Apple doesn't mean you can't find good ones if you know what you're looking for. The ones I order for my clients are just as good as the OEM parts Apple uses in most regards. I just made sure I chose wisely when selecting a supplier.
As long as you do the same, you'll be sporting a colored iPhone that should serve you well for a long time to come. If you're considering a color swap and need detailed walkthroughs on how to replace your front assembly, rear panel, and home button, be sure to check out our other DIY guides.