Cell Phone Screen Repair: Do-It-Yourself or Hire a 3rd Party?

Starting in 2007, Apple changed the cell phone industry forever by releasing the iPhone. While it’s big, beautiful glass screen allowed users to do a lot more than just talk and text, it had one major enemy: Gravity. This new glass screen did not survive well when dropped. SquareTrade did a study in 2009 showing that 1 in 5 iPhones were broken by users through an accident.

The thing is, as long as the iPhone didn’t break, everyone loved it! This meant that all of Apple’s competitors had to start putting big, beautiful, glass touchscreens on their phones. The result has been many amazing new cell phones arriving to market the past few years. But along with all the great features, comes the drawback of much more fragile phones.

At JCD Repair, we know this first-hand because we have fixed thousands of broken cell phone screens and I can assure you it’s not just an iPhone problem. We see the entire line of Verizon Droid phones, the Samsung Galaxy S, the new MyTouch 4G, Motorola Atrix, and many more.

The question is, what to do if your cell phone screen breaks? A lot of people’s initial reaction is to go back to the store they bought it in and try to get it fixed or replaced. Unfortunately, all cell phone carriers consider a broken screen to be a non-warranty issue so they won’t replace your phone for free. If you’re lucky, they’ll at least tell you how to get your phone fixed through the manufacturer. Apple, HTC, and Motorola all offer non-warranty repairs that range from $75-$200 (plus shipping) depending on the phone. This option can be good but it tends to be expensive and can take 2-4 weeks.

Another option is buying a new phone. This is a horrible option. That iPhone 4 you just bought for $199 is going to cost you $499 or more to replace now that you’re under a two-year contract. So that brings us to the last two options: Try to fix the phone yourself or have a 3rd party fix it for you.

Do-It-Yourself Cell Phone Repair

If done right, this will be your least expensive option. If done wrong, this option can have you pulling your hair apart and then spending even more money than simply buying a new phone. If you’re confident you can do it, the necessary parts and tools can usually be found on Ebay and often there will be a video showing how to take the phone apart.

A quick warning about the repair videos. Most of them are done by companies trying to sell you parts. Because of this, they have an incentive to make the repair look simple. They often take the phone apart before hand, loosen the necessary adhesives, put the phone back together, and then redo the “repair” for the camera. Trust me, the phone will not pull apart as easily as they make it look. Also, you’ll notice that many of these videos stop as soon as the phone is taken apart and don’t show you how to put it back together again. The reassembly is often the hardest part.

That said, if you’re familiar with small electronics repair or just have a knack for fixing things, this can not only be an inexpensive route to go but even a little bit of fun. The big catch is that if you don’t do it right, you might go from a phone that still worked, but had an ugly crack in the glass, to a phone that doesn’t work at all anymore. We have seen more than one upset woman come into our shop with a phone that her boyfriend convinced her he could fix only to leave her with a phone that’s in pieces and not working at all. About half the time we can fix the damage, but the other half the phone is little more than a paperweight.

Hiring a 3rd Party Repair Shop

Make no mistake – I am very biased on this option. Let’s just get this disclaimer out in the open right away: I have a financial interest in people choosing to have us fix their phone. That said, I really do believe that for the vast majority of people, this is the best option. It’s a lot less expensive than a new phone, often less expensive and almost always a lot faster than a manufacturer repair, and, if it’s a reputable company doing the work, they will guarantee the repair will be done right.

I have personally fixed thousands of cell phones, and I can tell you that every single smartphone has something that makes the repair difficult. Our policy is to buy a broken phone and fix that before we start fixing that particular phone for customers. I do this personally and my business partner Tom, loves it when I call him with the verdict on a repair. It goes like this: “This repair isn’t too bad. It’s a lot like the Droid Incredible. There’s just this one thing that’s tricky…”

You see, every phone seems to have some small thing that makes it hard to fix. Take the iPhone 3GS as an example. There’s a little connector (labeled #3) that’s a real pain the first time you try to fix the phone. If you’re not careful, you can snap the connector off the motherboard and then the phone won’t power up anymore.

Then there’s the iPhone 4 screen repair which requires 26 tiny screws be removed. If that wasn’t enough, most of them are different kinds of screws and you have to remember exactly where each of them goes. If you don’t have a system for this, you won’t remember.

One of the trickiest repairs we do is the HTC Evo. That glass touchscreen is actually taped directly to the LCD. Removing the touchscreen without breaking the LCD requires the use of a heat gun, a very small flathead screwdriver, and an extreme amount of care. If you don’t do it right, you’ll be shelling out another $70 for a new LCD.

I could go on and on with this list but you get the picture. Every phone has something that makes it hard to fix and, if you don’t do it right, you could end up leaving your phone in a much worse state. In addition, you’ll have to do the research on where to get the part, buy it, wait for it, and then spend a good part of an evening trying to figure out how to fix your phone.

Going with a reputable 3rd party repair shop, like Jet City Device Repair, might cost you a bit more cash up front, but in the end, you may very likely find it to be a much better value than trying to figure it out yourself.

The Bottom Line

If you have experience with small electronics or really enjoy tinkering with things, buy the parts for your broken cell phone online, get some tiny tools, watch a good video of the repair, and give it a shot. You can save a lot of money and you might have some fun in the process.

However, if you prefer to spend your evenings making dinner or hanging out with friends, give us a call. We’ll take care of it for you for a lot less money than a new phone and it will get done quickly and properly.

7 thoughts on “Cell Phone Screen Repair: Do-It-Yourself or Hire a 3rd Party?

  1. Jessica Hopper says:

    I recently dropped my Droid Razr and the shattered the screen. The phone immediately powered off and has never come back on. When it is plugged into a power cable, the white light will blink once and that’s all it does. There is some data that I HAVE TO HAVE for a court case coming up and I desperately need to get the power and screen back up and working. I have an ins phone now (refurb) and I hate it. I have had more problems outta this phone than I ever had from the initial Droid that I broke. I have 15 days to return this one and get my $100 deductible back 🙂 it would be awesome if someone could get my phone back working properly!! Can you help??

  2. Thanks for the question, Jessica. Unfortunately, since we wrote this post, we have discontinued almost all phone repairs except for the Apple iPhone. The problem we had was getting high quality parts from suppliers at a reasonable price and in a reasonable time.

    So unfortunately we can’t help you out in this case but I know there are other companies out there that might. If you’re interested in a couple of companies we recommend from time-to-time, send us an email (use the contact us button) and we’ll get back to you .

  3. We are most definitely still fixing iPhone screens (about 20,000 of them in the last year) and I would most certainly recommend JCD Repair. We’re good at it, offer a 6 month warranty, have good pricing, and only use high quality parts.

    • We charge $79 for the iPhone 4 or 4S and currently charge $189 for the iPhone 5. That price will probably drop significantly in the next 2-3 weeks but I’m not 100% sure yet. We’re working on a new method to remove the glass that will significantly reduce the cost.

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