So you pull into a parking spot, take your seat belt off and start to get out of the car when you suddenly remember your phone is still on your lap. But it’s too late, the soft thud of your phone hitting the ground is a sound that I’m all too familiar with. Back when I used to own an iPhone, that exact scenario happened to me at the gas station. Fortunately, the phone was only a month and a half old so it was still covered under my credit card’s protection plan. I really lucked out but most people are not so fortunate.
If you’ve ever dropped your precious smart phone, it’s almost like slow motion watching the agonizing 3-4 foot drop happen in real time. The odds are, you’re going to pick up your phone and there’s going to be a nice sized spider crack on the front of the screen. For whatever reason, smartphones these days are very vulnerable to drops and this problem is magnified with iPhones. Some people can live with a cracked screen but I don’t think it’s very safe or aesthetically pleasing to have a giant crack taking up most of your screen. Who wants to be surfing the internet with a piece of broken glass in their finger? I usually joke that the spider crack app is the most popular one around since it seems like everyone’s broken their iPhone screen at one point or another.
I have a hunch(or maybe it’s more like a conspiracy theory) that Apple made their screens so weak on purpose so that consumers would be forced to buy replacement screens at a huge mark-up. It wouldn’t be the first time a mega-corporation did something like this. Luckily, you’ve got the PF Pro on your side to help you figure out what the best fix for a broken iPhone screen is.
The Cheapest Solution
The cheapest solution to a broken iPhone screen is probably the pre-emptive one: buy a solid case. But I know that most people(myself included) don’t like walking around with a 2 pound brick in their pocket. It kind of defeats the purpose of a portable device if the case is 2-3x as thick as the phone. But not only do I prefer the feel of my naked phone, I also think it looks way better without a case. The engineers at Apple and Samsung put a lot of work into their designs so why cover it up with some hideous case?
Some people are definitely more prone to drops than others. So if you consider yourself a little bit clumsy or even a lot, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a solid case like the Otterbox. If I had a kid with a smart phone, there’s no way I’d ever let him go without a case. These phones are just too fragile to be put in the hands of someone that’s likely to drop them. Buying a case after you drop your phone won’t do much good either, since you’ll be a lot more careful once you’ve broken it once.
The Do It Yourself Repair
I’ve been using a GS3 now for about a year and a half without a case and so far so good. I’ve dropped it short distances onto soft surfaces a couple times but the screen hasn’t cracked yet. If it does break, or if my fiancee’s iPhone 5 screen gets shattered, I’ll probably go the do it yourself route. I’m kind of curious to know what the inside of a phone looks like anyways and it seems like a pretty fun project. You have to be very careful though since it’s easy to screw up other things when your phone’s guts are exposed. There are lots of detailed instructional videos on Youtube if you need some help.
I found a very highly rated kit(4.5 stars) on Amazon for $90. That seems like a pretty fair price to me since it includes the screen, all the tools you’d need to take the screen off(apparently there are a lot of little tiny screws), some other miscellaneous items and instructions. The actual screens aren’t too expensive but it looks like a lot of the ancillary parts bring up the cost. You can probably get just the screen for a whole lot less but the ones I found on Amazon didn’t have very high reviews.
Craigslist or Yelp
If you’re not the do it yourself type, the next cheapest option is to find a respectable third party dealer that can do it for you. They’ll basically do the same thing as the kit above but charge you for their labor. Most repair guys charge in the $75-$125 range but you’ll need to verify their work somehow. Normally, I would go to Craigslist for something like this but I think Yelp might yield better results since you want someone who has a lot of positive reviews. I’d be very apprehensive to meet someone in the back of an alley to fix my iPhone since you’re ultimately on the hook if they screw up.
Look for someone with a small shop or a decent customer base so that you know they’ll stand behind their work. I went on Yelp and I was able to find several 5 star(multiple reviews) rated iPhone repair guys.
The Ripoff(I mean Apple) Store
I think it’s pretty wrong to charge customers $149 for a little piece of glass that was probably made in China for under a dollar, especially after you’ve already shelled out $700+ for the phone but that’s exactly what Apple does. Ok enough complaining, going to the Apple store is obviously the safest route since you won’t void your warranty by using a third party retailer and you’ll get a refurbished phone that is guaranteed to work. But it’s going to cost you a lot more. The Apple store is considerably more expensive than the other options so it’s up to you to decide what’s the best fit.
(Note: The prices may vary to get your screen replaced at the Apple store and some of the newer phones may not be available for repair in store just yet)
Readers, have you ever shattered your iPhone screen? What do you think are the best repair options: Otterbox, Do It Yourself Kit, Third Party Retailer or Apple Store?
-Harry @ PF Pro
Track All Your Accounts With Personal CapitalPersonal Capital lets you see all of your accounts in one convenient place. Sign up now for free.
Editor’s Note: If you buy a product from Amazon using one of my links I will get a small commission.
Thankfully I’ve never dropped my phone, but a decent amount of my friends have. They all have Otterbox cases now. I agree that they’re too bulky. My coworker has been dealing with a cracked screen since she doesn’t want to spend the $75 to have someone else fix it. I’m just now getting around to ordering a case for my Moto X that I’ve had for three months, just in case!
Harry Campbell says
Yea I’ve only dropped my phone once and of course the screen shattered. Now I’ve got an S3 though and it seems to be a bit tougher. I see so many people with shattered screens but they refuse to fix it haha. What’s the point of a $600 phone if you won’t spend $50-$75 to fix the screen?!
No Nonsense Landlord says
I have never broken my screen, but I have an Android, not an IPhone. I think they are plastic. And I only pay $200 max for my phone. Put the phone in a briefcase, it’s the same size as the otter box.
Rather than pay $90+ to fix an IPhone, switch to a Droid. Go with a no contract plan. $40, all you can eat, voice, text and web.
Harry Campbell says
Haha yea a briefcase would be better. I actually switched to the GS3 a couple years ago but my fiancee and half the smartphone users out there still use iPhones.
I think the no contract plans are the way to go too and I don’t know why so many people pay $150 for a monthly plan. I’m kind of a data slut so I’m glad I’m still on my AT&T family plan. $50 a month for my phone plus unlimited data and pretty much everything else.
If I ever go out on my own for some reason I’ll probably go no contract and spend $200-$300 on my phone. Nexus 5 is definitely the go to no-contract phone right now. It’s got the same specs as the GS4(except battery/memory are locked in) but it’s half the cost!
Brian @ Luke1428 says
The first purchase I made after my first iPhone (the 5th version) was an Otterbox. I had seen too many students at school crack their screens. I wasn’t going to spend that much on a phone and not protect it. My wife cracked her iPad screen and it eventually started distorting the image and quit working. We went through Apple to get a new iPad .
Harry Campbell says
Yea but now you have a phone inside of a tank 🙂
Bryce @ Save and Conquer says
If I had a broken iPhone, I’d take it to my brother who works at Apple. I know, however, that most people don’t have siblings who work at Apple. For those people, your suggestion to fix it yourself is a good one now that there are so many YouTube howto’s and kits available on Amazon.
Harry Campbell says
Haha well unfortunately my brother works in IT but not for Apple.
The glass Apple uses on the iPhone isn’t designed to break on impact. It’s simply unreasonable to expect any kind of glass to survive a 3-foot drop. To engineer the phones so that they could handle a drop like that would make them much larger and heavier.
Also, at least on the iPhone 4 and 5 models (including the S versions), you can’t replace only the glass. The digitizer and LCD screen are fused to the glass. It’s not “a little piece of glass that was probably made in China for under a dollar”. It’s a special piece of glass combined with electronics that was made in China for quite a bit more than a dollar. With markups and labor, it’s not unreasonable to pay $75 – $100 for the repair, though I do agree that Apple overcharges for this service.
Harry Campbell says
I’d have to disagree that it’s unreasonable to expect a phone to survive a 3 foot drop. I know for a fact that there are lots of high quality materials that would do just fine but I’m sure they are more costly. I’m not sure if GS3 uses different glass or the phone is just sturdier(since it’s plastic) but I rarely see people with cracked screens and I’ve dropped mine several times and no cracks 🙂
You’re probably right about the cost of the screen, I may have under exaggerated there but a lot of these companies make money on aftermarket products just like this. In my industry(aerospace) we sell components at a loss but we recoup our money and more when things like fittings and bolts have to be replaced. My last company charged $3,000 for an engine to pylon bolt haha. There’s no way it cost us anything close to that to manufacture.
Kenneth Gladman says
I have a galaxy and it has been really durable. It has really surprised me, I have dropped it many times thinking “oh boy it’s cracked for sure this time.” When I pick it up it’s been fine, small scratches here and there but overall good. Well yesterday it happened. I dropped it and the whole face was cracked, it was so sad.