Repairing Your Own Cell Phone – Harder Than it Looks

I obviously have a vested interest in people not trying to repair their own phones but rather having a professional do it for them. But that doesn’t make what I’m about to tell you any less true:

Fixing your own phone is harder than the online videos make it look.

Not only that, but if you mess it up, you may end up with a phone that is beyond repair for even the professionals. I’m speaking to you here with more than just my financial interest in mind. I really do think that for most people, having a professional repair your phone is the best, cheapest, and least frustrating way to go.

The philosophy of that last sentence comes from experience. I’ve had more than a few people show up at our office with a phone that, the day before just had a cracked screen and now has a busted LCD, a torn ribbon cable or two, and the new touchscreen still isn’t installed.

A big part of this belief in the ease of a self-repair comes from watching the online videos of the repair. I’ve seen a lot of those videos, and I can tell you for a fact that the phones their “fixing” in those videos have already been pulled apart and then reassembled to make the video go more smoothly.

The reason? Those videos are usually made by the companies selling the individual parts and they have a vested interest in making the repair look as easy as possible to do. If they can convince you it’s pretty simple to do, then you’ll buy the part from them and give it a shot.

Beware: When you go to pull your phone apart, it will not just separate the way they do in those videos. In addition, they conveniently end all of the videos at the point where the phone is pulled apart. They don’t continue and show you how to reassemble the whole thing. Trust me when I say that putting the phone back together is often far harder than pulling it apart.

One example of this is the iPhone 4. Doing a screen repair on the iPhone 4 requires removing about 25 screws and almost all of them are of different sizes. You need a system for tracking which parts go where or it will take you forever to put things back together.

Or consider the Motorola Atrix. Getting the cracked screen off of an Atrix is pretty easy. However, getting the new touchscreen on is unbelievably difficult the first time you do it – the connector is only about 1/2 inch long and doesn’t fit through the hole it is supposed to go through without some serious effort. The online repair videos conveniently leave that step out.

Then there are phones like the HTC Evo or MyTouch 4G that have the front glass taped directly to the LCD underneath (the LCD is what displays your phone’s picture and in most cases is working perfectly even with a cracked touchscreen glass). If you watch the YouTube videos for these repairs, they just wave a hair dryer over the cracked glass and it pops right off the LCD. No problem, right? Wrong! The only reason it comes off so easy in the videos is because they’ve already pulled the glass off, put it back on, and then take it off again for the camera. If you’re not extremely careful doing the real life repair, it’s pretty easy to break the LCD while removing the glass and then you’re going to be out another $50-$75 replacing that part, too.

And don’t even get me started on the difference in parts quality online…

There’s no doubt that it’s possible to fix your cell phone yourself. You can buy the parts and tools off Ebay (or some other site) and then find a good repair video online. If you’re handy with electronics or just out for a challenge, this will not only save you some money, but could be kind of fun. But for most people, it’s going to be frustrating, tedious, kind of scary, and may very well end up costing you more money than if you’d had someone else fix it for you right away.

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