How to fix the iPhone black screen of death

So a couple of weeks back I’m in the hospital with my wife who’s in labor and my iPhone freezes up. Of course it does, I’m a British expat in Detroit wanting to keep my family and friends back home up-to-date with the birth, especially my mom in Spain who’s waiting on news of her first grandchild. I could go to my wife’s phone but she doesn’t have the international calling plan, or the numbers of most of my friends and family here or overseas for that matter. Basically the screen went blank, like when it’s in standby mode, but I can’t wake it up. The weird thing is the phone seems to be fully functional, people are calling me (but I can’t answer cos I’m unable to “slide” to open), and in my desperate attempt to bring it back to life I even take a couple of photos (I can tell by the shutter sound produced). It’s actually extremely stressful to not have a working phone, especially at that moment in my life, and is a huge concern to me (obviously I have much bigger concerns but thankfully everything on that side of things is going very well). On any other day I’d be straight down the Apple store for a new handset, but obviously my wife in labor with my first born wasn’t just any day! Luckily I’d planned beyond the “my iPhone can do everything” mentality and had my laptop with me. So I synced the iPhone and then reset it from within iTunes, which restores it to original factory settings. That did the trick, the moment I reset the iPhone the Apple logo flashed on the screen, it then took about 20 minutes to restore and maybe another 20 to re-sync, and from that point on I haven’t experienced any signs that this is still an issue.

I think it might be to do with the fact that one night I added about 20 apps and I freaked the whole system out, I’d noticed a glitch or two here and there after I’d done that, now I think back maybe there were signs it was getting progressively worse. But in actual fact really I’d noticed it jump to black screen on the rare occasion ever since I first got the device, but it never actually locked, I would click the top button then the home button and the locked screen would appear. Coincidentally or not my iPhone was the last one in the store and they had to charge it when they first opened it (I guess they are normally pre-charged). I’ve googled it since and it seems to be a fairly common problem, and is actually referred to as the black screen of death (hence the title of this post).

Now that I’ve done the factory restore I feel like my iPhone is better than when it was new and I no longer experience even the odd glitch I’d seen since day one. If I get even a sniff of it happening again I’m straight back down the Apple store for a new handset, and maybe will end up doing that anyway before the warranty runs out just to be safe. I have a 16GB white iPhone 3G btw.

And finally, here’s an article I found with a couple of less drastic reset solutions in case you’re out and about, I guess I won’t know if any of them would have fixed my problem unless it happens again, which hopefully it won’t. From reading the comments I guess it is very common and some people are of the belief that you should give your iPhone a reboot every few days (just like my poor old PC).

28 Comments

  1. Richie wrote:

    @Jon yeah exactly that is a solution the article suggests. I guess the iPhone crashes a lot then and needs a little reboot every so often. Which is fair enough for an OS but it should be made more obvious.

  2. Jon wrote:

    I haven’t read the linked article, so maybe it suggests this, but I often give my iphone a hard reboot by holding down the menu and lock buttons together for about 10 seconds

  3. Anonymous wrote:

    I just had this same issue. The screem on my iPhone G3 went totally black. People were calling the phone and emails were coming in, but I couldn’t access them. I docked my phone and the screen came on again, but half an hour later it happened again. I did the two button reset mentioned by Jon and it fixed the problem.

  4. Anonymous wrote:

    okay so my phone screen went black but i was able to receive phone calls but could not answer them , and by doing what jon said on top i had my phone working in no time.

  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Whooo, big thanks to Jon! :D ☼CG

  6. Richie wrote:

    Seems like Jon has been quite helpful to a lot of people here, well done!

  7. Vera wrote:

    Hi Jon,

    I am a 64 year old woman and I love my I phone which I received as a B’Day present and was so sad when it went totally Black.. I was so sad… Thanks to Jon… It’s working again… Thanks so much …

    Ms V

  8. Richie wrote:

    LOL, well done Jon!

  9. Gloriana wrote:

    My iphone has sound- but it has no picture at all… it doesnt respond to the home button or the botton on top reboot, it rings if someone calls me or text me but the screen is black, what can i do?

  10. Richie wrote:

    Hi Gloriana, yes that exactly the symptons of the black screen of death. As Jon says, give my iphone a hard reboot by holding down the menu and lock buttons together for about 10 seconds. Good luck!

  11. Amanda wrote:

    My iphone 4 went black but no sound like you all had. It does show up in itunes. I tried to do a restore and at the end of it, it says: The iphone “amanda’s iphone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred.

    I don’t know what to do? And of course I am out of town and I need my phone! Help?

  12. Amanda wrote:

    Finally got it back on with the hard reset. I hope it stays on!

  13. Nafees wrote:

    i followed the steps described in the article. but still facing the problem. help me out plz.

  14. Rik wrote:

    Only gave my phone the hard boot by holding home and power for 10 seconda but probleme staya. Can happen miltiple times a day. Its abrand new iphone 4s. But i’m now on holiday.i’ll try recetting him by syncinf with itunes but i’m affraid its an hardware probleme.
    I’ll keep you up to date.

  15. Anthony wrote:

    I have the same issue, exept on an iPod Touch. The computer wont even recognize it is plugged in,and it just is a black screen doing nothing. (jailbroken…) So i cant restore it. ok. so i look online for solutions. well holding sleep and home for 15 sec. doesnt work. Doing the same thing while plugged in doesnt work (and no it isnt just dead) and i even tried putting it in recovery/dfu mode. Nope. Help?

  16. Richie wrote:

    Sounds like it could just be that your battery is drained. Try leaving it to charge for a really long time, it might eventually switch itself on.

  17. Anthony wrote:

    ok, its been on charge for more than 12 hours, any other ideas? still doesnt work.

  18. Richie wrote:

    Sorry I can’t help. Maybe the battery’s just dead.

  19. MAGGIE wrote:

    woo hoo!!!! LIFE IS GOOD AGAIN! BUT WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

  20. Ok so my iPhone just got the black screen of death when I was in the hospital earlier visiting my dad! Freaky!!! iPhone’s and hospitals are not good together. I was on my way to get it checked and after reading this article decided to press the home and power button for a few seconds and the iPhone logo came on!! Woohoo!! Thanks!

    Btw my phone had the black screen, and when I true calling there was dial tone by I couldnt hear a thing. Now it’s all good. No idea what went wrong.

    Will live another day. Phew!

  21. Shanny wrote:

    hello there can some one tell me why my iphone 3g turns on fine dose all the sound and recognises to itunes but nothing comes up on the screen its just black and wont let me upgrade to 4.2 as it will get stuck in dfu @:/

  22. Ashleigh wrote:

    My iPhone 4 screen went black and i dont know what to do. I did the restart by holding the lock button and menu button i still cant see anything i can answer my calls but cant see nothing help please

  23. Deb wrote:

    Thanks so much for this – was despairing after a straightforward screen replacement. Cheers!

  24. Nikki wrote:

    Wow! This was a great help
    Couldn’t get my phone to start and was thinking I’d be off to the Apple store – thanks to you I didn’t need too
    Cheers
    Nike

  25. laura wrote:

    after a screen replacement, my iphone worked but that night my screen went black. what can I do to fix the situation? I held down the botton that everyone told me to, but it blinks on for a second and goes off. There is sound

  26. amber wrote:

    My iphone 3g still dnt work

  27. Benji wrote:

    Well done, thank you so much for saving my phone’s life!!!

  28. Karen Jones wrote:

    You are a genius!! My daughters phone had the Black Death screen and we were panicking this morning trying to figure out where to take it to get fixed. We certainly aren’t going to buy her a new iPhone (which I’m sure she would love). I decided to search online for the issue and found your solution. Can I only say how grateful I am that you posted this information. Her phone is back to normal now. Thank you so much!! One happy mama.

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