How to fix an unresponsive iPhone touchscreen

Although the touchscreen smartphones of today are much more fun and versatile than the button-laden monstrosities of yesteryear, they come with a big potential downside. If the touchscreen starts behaving oddly, or stops responding entirely, you’re left without any other ways to interact with you phone — and the best iPhones are no exception to this rule, even with all the other seemingly magical technology Apple has packed into them.

However, the good news is that a dodgy touchscreen doesn’t always indicate a failure in the hardware. More often than not, it’s actually the result of a software glitch, and there are some simple fixes you can try to get it up and running agin on your own — sometimes in no more than a couple of minutes.

We’ll cover some of the ways to fix an unresponsive iPhone touchscreen, from a simple restart all the way to the nuclear option of factory resetting your iPhone. If none of these work, then you can at least be confident you’ve tried everything you can before you reach out to Apple for professional help.

the phone power button doesnt turn my off anymore iphone 12 pro black screen

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Restart your iPhone

The first thing to try should be obvious: restart your iPhone.

Under the hood, your iPhone isn’t that much different from a Mac or Windows PC, and you may have already encountered problems with those devices that are solved by a simple reboot. The same is sometimes true with an iPhone. The steps for this are the same where you’re using the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max, the Touch ID-equipped iPhone SE (2022), or the 2013 iPhone 5s (although the side button will be the top button on some of the much older models).

Step 1: Press and hold the right-side button and either of the volume buttons until the Slide to power off control appears. If you’re using an older iPhone, such as a first-generation iPhone SE (2016) or an iPhone 5s or earlier model, that button will be on the top instead of the side.

Step 2: Drag the slider from left to right.

Step 3: Wait at least 30 seconds for your device to fully power down.

Step 4: Press and hold the button on the right side of your iPhone until you see the Apple logo appear.

Step 5: Your device will boot up and return to the lock screen after a few seconds.

Step 6: Depending on the model of your iPhone, swipe up or press the front home button and enter your passcode to unlock your device.

An iPhone lying on a wooden table.


Force restart your iPhone

Of course, if your touchscreen is acting up, you may not be able to move the power-off slider properly to shut down your iPhone. In this case, you’ll need to resort to a forced restart, which is basically like rebooting your iPhone without powering it down first.

Unlike simply powering down your iPhone, this process is a little bit different for iPhone models released prior to 2018.

How to force restart an iPhone 8, iPhone SE, or an iPhone with Face ID

  1. Press and quickly release the volume up button.
  2. Press and quickly release the volume down button.
  3. Press and hold the right-side button until the Apple logo appears.
  4. Release the side button.
  5. Your device should continue booting up and return to the lock screen after a few seconds.
  6. Swipe up or press the home button and enter your passcode to unlock your device.

How to force restart an iPhone 7

  1. Press and hold the volume down button and the right-side button at the same time until the Apple logo appears.
  2. Release both buttons.
  3. Your device should continue booting up and return to the lock screen after a few seconds.
  4. Press the home button and enter your passcode to unlock your device.

How to force restart an iPhone SE (2016) or an iPhone 6s or earlier model

  1. Press and hold the home button and the right-side or top-corner button at the same time until the Apple logo appears.
  2. Release both buttons.
  3. Your device should continue booting up and return to the lock screen after a few seconds.
  4. Press the home button and enter your passcode to unlock your device.

In many cases, restarting your iPhone will fix an unresponsive touchscreen, so this should be the first thing you try before attempting anything else.

The iPhone 14 Plus's screen.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Check your screen protector and clean your screen

Screen protectors are usually very thin these days and are designed to work well with modern smartphones. However, in some rare cases, they can affect the responsiveness of your iPhone’s touchscreen. As such, if you’re using a screen protector, you should check whether it’s been properly applied to your iPhone’s touchscreen. If it hasn’t, try removing and reapplying it or using a new protector if you have one available.

Even if your screen protector has been properly applied, it’s still a good idea to try removing it just to make sure it’s not getting in the way. If your iPhone’s touchscreen begins working properly after taking your screen protector off, you may want to consider forgoing a screen protector entirely or buying a thinner one from a reputable brand.

Dirt, dust, or moisture can also interfere with how the iPhone’s capacitative touchscreen works, and this is especially true if you’re using a screen protector that allows small particles to get trapped in between the protective glass or film and your iPhone’s screen. Try cleaning your screen — without a screen protector installed — by using a dry microfiber cloth until it looks as spotless as possible. If the touchscreen is working properly at that point, you can try reapplying your screen protector.

A blue iPhone 12 sits next to a lightning charger.


Disconnect wired accessories

It’s pretty uncommon these days, but we have encountered cases where connected accessories somehow get in the way of your touchscreen interactions. So, if you’re using wired headphones or even just a charger, try disconnecting those and seeing if your touchscreen begins working properly. Be sure to restart your iPhone after disconnecting the accessory to be certain you’ve covered all the bases.

While our experience suggests this is more likely to happen with older Lightning accessories due to the unique way Apple’s proprietary Lightning port works, we can’t say for sure that the USB-C port on the new iPhone 15 models is immune to problems in this area, so it’s worth a try even if you’re using an industry-standard USB-C accessory like a charger or external storage device.

If your device’s touchscreen begins working after any such accessory is removed, then it’s likely you’ve found the culprit. Try replacing the accessory with an alternative to see if things improve. However, if you experience touchscreen problems when any accessory is connected to the Lightning or USB-C port, regardless of type, then there’s likely a deeper problem that will require one of the software or hardware fixes in the following sections — or may even require that you contact Apple to get your hardware serviced or replaced.

Someone holding the iPhone 15 Pro Max outside.

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Update your iPhone

If your iPhone touchscreen still isn’t responding after trying the steps above, the next thing to do is update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS. If you can interact with your iPhone well enough to get into the Settings app, then tapping General > Software Update is the fastest and easiest way to do this. Otherwise, you’ll have to connect to a Mac or a Windows PC running iTunes.

Step 1: Connect your device to your computer.

Step 2: If you’re running macOS Catalina 10.15 (or higher), launch Finder.
If you’re running macOS Mojave 10.14 (or earlier) or Windows, launch iTunes.

Step 3: If you can unlock your iPhone to get to the home screen — which may be possible using Face ID or Touch ID even if your touchscreen isn’t responding — and you’ve connected your iPhone to this computer before, then it should appear in the sidebar in Finder or iTunes. From here, you can select your iPhone in the sidebar and select the Update button in Finder or iTunes to download and install the latest iOS update.

Step 4: If you haven’t used your iPhone with this computer, you’ll see a prompt on your iPhone to “Trust” this computer that you’ll need to tap on to confirm. If your touchscreen is responsive enough, then you may be able to tap on that to confirm, and then continue with the step above to update your iPhone.

However, if your touchscreen isn’t working at all, then you won’t be able to confirm the trust prompt, and your Mac or Windows PC will have no way of communicating with your iPhone normally. Instead, you’ll need to put your iPhone in “Recovery” mode first. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Ensure your iPhone is connected to your computer.
  2. If you’re running Windows or macOS 10.14 or earlier, ensure iTunes is running.
  3. Force restart your iPhone using the steps in the section above appropriate for your specific model.
  4. Instead of seeing the Apple logo during the force restart, you should see a recovery mode screen appear on your iPhone.
  5. A window should pop up on your computer telling you that an iPhone in recovery mode has been detected.
  6. Select Update from that window to begin downloading and installing the latest iOS version.
Someone holding an iPhone 14, showing the Lock Screen.

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Factory reset your iPhone

If updating your iPhone doesn’t resolve any software-related issues that could be causing your iPhone’s touchscreen to freeze, then the final option you can try is restoring your iPhone back to factory settings.

This will erase everything on your iPhone, returning it to its original out-of-the-box state. It’s the best way to confirm that the problem you’re encountering is actually hardware and not software, but of course, you’ll lose everything on your iPhone unless you already have a backup, or you’re able to make a new one.

If you’re using iCloud Backups, you should already have an automatic backup made sometime in the last 24 hours — as long as your iPhone was connected to Wi-Fi and plugged in at some point during that time. Otherwise, you’ll have to try making a new backup to your Mac or PC.

Unfortunately, if your touchscreen is completely unresponsive, you’ll only be able to do this if you’ve previously connected your iPhone to your computer. Otherwise, your iPhone will prompt you to “Trust” what it sees as an unknown computer, and you won’t be able to confirm that security prompt to grant access to the data on your iPhone.

Nevertheless, even if you can’t get a recent backup, you may still want to go ahead and perform a factory reset anyway. Depending on the apps you use and the kind of data on your iPhone, a backup may not be as critical since your important data may already be stored in other cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Photo Library, or Google Photos. However, we don’t recommend assuming this is the case — make a backup if at all possible, and be prepared to lose at least some of your data if you choose to proceed with a factory reset without a backup.

To restore your iPhone back to factory settings, follow the three steps outlined in the section above, but in this case, click Restore at the end of the process rather than Update.

When your iPhone finishes the restore process, go through the initial setup without restoring your data from a backup. By setting your device up as a new iPhone you’ll be able to confirm that the touchscreen is working properly. Once you’re satisfied, you can restore your backup by factoring resetting it again and choosing to restore your backup during the setup process.

A man checks his phone in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Contact Apple

Factory resetting your iPhone may be a heavy-handed option, so it could be worth contacting Apple Support instead — especially if you don’t have a backup. This is likely a safer final resort than factory resetting your iPhone since Apple may be able to fix the issue — which could be hardware-related — without having to erase your iPhone.

Just keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. If your iPhone has a serious hardware problem, Apple may swap it out with a replacement unit, and it will be up to you to restore your data onto the new iPhone; Apple has no more power to back up your iPhone than you do, as the company takes your privacy and security very seriously, so even its own technicians and engineers can’t override the trusted computer prompt to get at your data.

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Courtesy by: Digital Trends

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