A slight trip, a clutch at thin air and a sickening “pop”. Bits of glass fall to the ground as you drop to your knees and recover what you can. A single bolt of lightning illuminates the sky and the rain that begins to fall masks your tears and shattered pride. You’ve broken your screen, you idiot.
It’s a simple accident, and one that many others make on a daily basis. It also has the potential to be quite an expensive accident, particularly if you’re the owner of an iPhone 5. If you’ve just broken your screen, or happen to do so in the future then it pays to know what options you have open to you.
Here they all are, laid bare.
Option 1: AppleCare
Hooray! You bought AppleCare! That’s the best possible outcome, because the premium after-sales support package that will set you back around $100 comes with 2 extra years of warranty plus coverage for accidental damage. Many users are reporting that this cannot be purchased and activated without the phone being inspected first, which makes sense from Apple’s point of view.
It’s not all butterflies and daisies though, as you’ll have to pay for the privilege. Apple charges a $49 premium for accidental damage including a screen replacement. They also restrict this service to twice per the device’s lifespan, so if you break your screen twice you’d better hope you don’t go breaking anything else.
Whether Apple actually repairs your screen or not is another question that you won’t be able to answer until you step into their glass box of tricks. An article on CNET suggests that Apple can and will replace the iPhone 5’s screen in-store, whereas many have experienced the opposite – Apple swapping their phones out for refurbished (yet still perfectly functional) models.
I called up a local Apple store and was told that no screen replacements were made on the iPhone 5 and that units were instead swapped. This sort of activity is very common at the start of the product cycle, particularly for the iPhone 5 which used a brand new screen and chassis. We’re almost into the next cycle and Apple are still swapping phones here in Australia, though.
Cost: $99 for AppleCare, $49 for each replacement
Option 2: Get Apple To “Repair” It
So you didn’t buy AppleCare, and so you’ve not got any accidental damage cover. If you’ve recently purchased the device and still have a while left on your warranty period, Apple are probably the best people for the job. They’re also probably the most expensive people for the job, too.
I made a call to a local Apple store here in Melbourne and enquired what it would cost to replace an iPhone 5 screen that was not covered by AppleCare. I was told this would cost “anywhere up to” AU$280 (that’s US$276) to replace just the screen. This is assuming the rest of the phone is perfectly functional, but also taking on board that no screen will actually be replaced on your model – instead Apple will provide you with a refurbished model.
This is in-line with many quotes I have seen online for users unlucky enough to have broken their iPhone 5s, with anywhere from $220 to $300 quotes as the going rate for an Apple replacement stateside. According to Apple Australia, iPhone 4 owners will pay less at up to AU$180 (US$177) for a replacement and the iPhone 4S will run you around AU$230 (US$227). This might be cheaper but if you have an iPhone 4 or 4S your device might not even be under warranty any more.
In this instance you might want to consider the next, cheaper option.
Cost: Up to $300 for an iPhone 5, $230 for an iPhone 4S and $180 for an iPhone 4 (estimate).
Option 3: Pay Someone Else To Do It
If you own an older iPhone 4, 4S or you’ve otherwise voided the warranty on your iPhone 5 (at the time of writing it’s not been out for longer than the warranty lasts) then your other quick and easy fix involves a third-party repair service.
One thing to take note of are third-party replacement parts. When my girlfriend broke her 4S screen in November of last year the repair technician I used offered me official parts or third-party parts. While the third-party replacements were virtually half the price I was told there was a noticeable difference in response. If you’ve spent a couple of hundred dollars on what is essentially a luxury item, you don’t want to go putting inferior parts on it – so I’d always recommend you opt for official Apple replacements.
Unfortunately due to iPhone 5 parts still being scarce and expensive, these services are unlikely to be able to offer you much of a saving over an official Apple swap. In fact I’ve seen some quote more than $300, which is more than what Apple themselves seem to want. For the iPhone 4 or 4S it’s a different matter altogether, however.
I paid around AU$130 for my girlfriend’s replacement iPhone 4S screen which was ready within the hour and indistinguishable from a new iPhone. The price you will pay depends entirely on the business you approach, but I’d recommend shopping around for the best deal. It’s also advisable to choose a local place so you can pick the phone up yourself so you’re not without your device while the postman loses it.
Cost: Probably not worth it for the iPhone 5 due to cost of parts, around $100-$150 for the iPhone 4/4S depending on quality of parts.
Option 4: Do It Yourself
Arguably the trickiest option here and one that’s only right for those happy to open up their beloved device and void any remaining warranty. Depending on your model, this can either be remarkably easy or a bit of a drag. The iPhone 5 made it a lot easier to replace the display assembly but replacement parts are still very expensive at over $200 at least for the front construction. Remember – you cannot replace only the glass but you must replace the whole construction: glass, digitiser and LCD included. Some scam-artists on eBay will try to sell you just one of these items, but it is ultimately useless as the parts should be fused together.
If you were to buy this replacement iPhone 5 screen at around $220, you could save around $80 on the Apple cost by repairing an iPhone 5 yourself assuming your time is free. You can find detailed instructions here on iFixit, and these steps look very easy compared to doing the same on a 4S.
If you’re a dab hand with a Torx and aren’t scared of a challenge, you should be able to find a replacement Apple screen for your 4S at around $100, make sure you’re purchasing a genuine “Display Assembly” which refers to the whole kit rather than a piece of glass or just the LCD. iPhone 4 instructions are here and iPhone 4S instructions here, each taking around an hour and rated “Difficult” by the respective authors.
Cost: At least $200 for the iPhone 5 screen, $100-$150 for iPhone 4/4S genuine parts, plus time and know-how.
Option 5: Get Your Insurance To Cover It
Depending on your insurance – be it home contents, a mobile carrier bolt-on or even travel insurance, it’s probably worth checking if your policy covers accidental damage of small personal devices. From personal experience, insurance companies will make it as difficult as humanly possible to help you out here so you’ll largely be on your own. You’ll also need to pay a premium as well, but it might be worth replacing your phone with an insurance pay-out if it works out cheaper than what Apple are asking.
Call me jaded, but this is undoubtedly going to be the longest course of action as the insurance sector isn’t exactly celebrated for its punctual nature, nor it’s overly straightforward forms or processes. Before choosing this option consider past experience with your insurer, your premium and how long you can go without your phone.
Cost: Whatever your insurer’s premium happens to be and potentially weeks of waiting.
That’s it – which did you choose? How did you break your beloved? Have you got the balls do DIY iPhone screen repair? Let us know in the comments, below.