Android phone screen displays but is unresponsive, can't shut down phone; are there any short term workarounds?

At some point during the day, the touchscreen response on my Android phone failed. Or more precisely, most of the screen became noticeably darker (though still displaying everything) and stopped responding to touch. Some time ago, a similar failure occurred, although that time I was aware of some possible exposure to moisture that might have caused it. That time, the problem resolved itself after a day or two, and I’m hoping the same will be true this time. As things stand, I can’t even shut off the disabled phone, because I can’t swipe the unlock pattern.

I have a spare phone (same model, no contract) which I’d like to use at least to listen to downloaded audio content, browsing the internet or listening to Youtube, when I have a wifi connection, etc. But I need to be able to use the 128G external storage card currently in the disabled phone.

Meanwhile, the immediate issue is that I can’t even turn off the disabled device, because to do so requires an unlock pattern which, with the screen not working, I can’t enter. (Stupid me for setting it up like that.) Nor can I go into settings to disable Bluetooth, because I can’t get past the lock screen. So this means the disabled phone is hogging Bluetooth, and I can’t use my headsets with any other devices. (Or at least not while the disabled phone is anywhere near.)

Is there a way to unpair a Bluetooth headset without access to the connected device screen (Both of mine are Sony WI-C400s.) That would be one major hurdle cleared, because then I could use another device.

And assuming there’s no way I can get the disabled phone powered down, other than by waiting for the battery to run down, what would happen if I popped the SIM and external storage cards while the phone is running? I don’t think this will shut the phone down, but at least I could use that external card in another device.

So to sum up, there are three basic questions:

  1. How can I shut down a phone when the screen’s not responding? Is there a Windows app that allows you to control an Android device via a USB connection, including the ability to enter unlock patterns, and absent any prior pairing of the phone and the computer?

  2. Assuming the phone can’t be shut down, what will happen if I pop the SIM and external storage cards while it’s powered on? Will it shut down the phone? Will it damage the phone? (I think the answer to both of those is no, but I wanted to run it by the community.

  3. Is there any way to unpair a Bluetooth headset with a device, without being able to use the screen of that device? Is there a way to factory reset the headsets? In my case, this would be the same as unpairing, because I always rename my headsets when I pair them (e.g. “WI-C400 New White”, “WI-C400 Old White”, etc.)

Phones usually have some sort of forced shutdown action you can do by holding some combination of the physical buttons - sometimes just the power button for about 30 seconds, sometimes it can be a combination of power and button volumes at once or in some order. You didn’t list a specific model as far as I can see, so you’d probably have to google “[phone model] force shutdown” or “force power off”

As far as the bluetooth issue, can’t you just tell the other device they’re paired with to connect to that headset? I would think the new bluetooth request would supersede the old connection. When I’m listening to something on my earphones and I get into my car and start it, the car takes over the bluetooth connection and starts playing it on my speakers.

Is there a reason you can’t just take the battery out? I don’t use Android but I thought that was one of their advantages, swappable batteries.

Not possible with more recent Android phones, based on my experience in the last few years with Samsung and LG.

That hasn’t been true for years.

Nothing. That’s the completely normal way to do it.

The SIM card, sure. But you’re supposed to unmount the SD card before removing it—or, yes, turn off the device.

That said, there is not a huge risk of damage if you do just pull out the SD card. It will most likely be fine, same as pulling out a USB stick in Windows. But it’s not guaranteed.

To the OP:
Most likely all you have to do to force a restart/reset is to press and hold the power button until the device shuts off or restarts. You shouldn’t have to hold it for more than 30 seconds, as @SenorBeef mentions, but it might be less than that.

I never have. No reason for it to be an issue if the phone isn’t actively writing to the card at that moment.

There is (a program called ADB), but unfortunately it requires enabling debug mode on the device, which requires entering the unlock code and going into settings.

It’s possible to plug in an ordinary desktop mouse to the phone. You’ll need a converter from USB-A (the mouse connector) to micro USB or USB-C, though. It’ll show up with a regular mouse cursor.

As others suggested, I’d try holding down the power button for several seconds.

I had the same problem when my daughter washed my phone for me. I wanted to shut it down asap so that it wouldn’t kill itself, but there is no way to do that. A restart is not what you want. Nothing you can do - it killed itself alright. Sim card and microSD were fine though.

I did pop the SIM card, and the phone is still running, but fortunately it isn’t “hogging Bluetooth” as I thought it would. I’ve had the experience of the car stereo and my headset “fighting” over my phone if I forget to turn off the headset before I start the car. It’s odd because you hear the sound coming out of the car speakers in starts and stutters, which continues even after the headset is turned off. But when the car stereo is connected with the phone, it automatically resumes playing whatever you were listening to most recently, while headsets don’t.

The dark area of the screen is slowly shrinking, but it would be great if I could get to the settings to enable mobile hotspot; then that way I’d at least have internet when away from wifi.

Well, I spoke to soon. I changed headsets a few minutes ago* and now the disabled phone is hogging Bluetooth.

*I wear headsets almost all the time. What I like about the Sony WI-C400 is that when not actively listening to it, I can take the buds out of my ears and the unit will still stay securely around your neck. This way I don’t misplace them, the cats don’t get them, and I have them handy when needed.

On my current and previous phones, both Pixels, I can pull down the shade even when the screen is locked. I can tap the Bluetooth button to turn it off or on, without unlocking. There’s also a power button there I can tap to shut down or restart. Depending on what part of the screen is unresponsive, you might be able to tap those, even if you can’t unlock.

And that is because you cannot be sure the data has been completely written to the card if you tell it to save then immediately yank it out. It’s not an electrical current issue. This was more of an issue with slow-write media like floppy disks than the data storage methods we have now.

Were you able to power the phone down with a long press on the physical power button: 30-60 seconds?

If not, what model phone is it?

I can pull down the shade and tap the Bluetooth icon, but then I’m challenged to unlock the screen. Strangely enough, of all the various settings icons on the shade not all of them require authentication. But the Bluetooth one does.

Bluetooth has a tie-in to the security authentication system in Android.

So it makes some sense that changes to Blutooth status may require authentication, just like other unlock-related settings.

ETA: Is there a reason you haven’t done the forced reboot? It’s perfectly routine and almost always the first response to a balky Android device.

The screen has a physical problem due to water exposure; I remember now how and when that happened, but we needn’t digress on that. So the forced reboot works fine, but doesn’t solve the immediate problem of getting this phone powered down, or its Bluetooth disabled.

I’ve seen and tried various instructions online to do a forced shutdown, some even for this OEM and model, but all I’ve gotten is a normal restart.

What model is it? There should be a way to force it to reboot into the bootloader to re-flash the SW. Then you can power it down if it is an option or let the battery discharge. In either case, it won’t activate Bluetooth.

Would wrapping the phone in aluminum foil disrupt the Bluetooth?