It’s alarmingly easy to break your smartphone. Drop it and you could end up with a cracked or shattered screen. If it falls in the toilet or you spill a drink on it then it could be lights out. Physical buttons can get stuck, chipped, or just worn out. Well-used headphone jacks might stop recognizing that cable. A scratched or cracked camera lens can spell the end of good photos. A lot can go wrong.
None of these things is cause to throw that smartphone away. There’s a lively trade in broken smartphones and that’s because people in the know about repairs can snap them up for low prices, fix them cheaply, and sell them on for big profits. Even if you are getting rid of your phone, you could make more by fixing it up first than it’s going to cost you to do.
Check your coverage first
If you encounter a defect that you didn’t cause and your smartphone is still under warranty then you may be able to go back to your retailer and get the manufacturer to fix it for free. It’s also possible that you have some form of coverage as part of your home insurance, credit card, or bank account. Some of you will have pulled the trigger on extended warranties or smartphone insurance.
Take a look and see what the deductible is before you put in a claim. Sometimes the amount you’re expected to pay will actually exceed the cost of repairing it yourself or even going to a good repair service.
Fix it yourself
If you’re out of warranty or the damage isn’t covered then you might think about trying to fix it yourself. Before you begin, be aware that you’re almost certainly going to void your warranty by attempting a self-repair.
You’re almost certainly going to void your warranty by attempting a self-repair.
The best place to go is definitely iFixit where you’ll find an excellent set of step-by-step tutorials with instructions on the exact tools you need. The quality of the repair guides does vary, but there are some really excellent examples, especially for the most popular smartphones on the market.
YouTube is another obvious place to look for tutorial videos you can follow, and you’ll find lots of guides and a very helpful community at XDA Developers forum.
Getting tools and parts
Before you start you will need to secure the correct tools. Some manufacturers deliberately make strange fixings to discourage self-repair. If you don’t use the correct tools there’s a good chance you’re going to end up doing some damage. Make sure that you have a clean workspace with everything you need to do the repair before you start.
Sometimes the iFixit tutorials will include links to buy the necessary parts or tools, though you’ll often get a better deal by shopping around. You can find reliable parts and tools at eTech Parts.
Amazon and eBay have lots of cheap repair kits and parts on offer. You have to be careful about the parts because there are some low cost options that might be shoddy quality. Do a bit of reading about what you need before you start and check the reputations of sellers and the reviews of specific kits and parts before you buy.
A word of warning
It can be tough forcing smartphone components apart. The inside of most smartphones is messy and confusing. Sometimes it will feel like you’re going to break parts if you press any harder and sometimes you will break something. Some smartphones are much easier to take apart and fix than others. Certain repairs are not worth the bother of attempting and there are parts and tools that you simply can’t get at a reasonable price.
You can generally find out how difficult it will be by checking the online guides and discussions. Consider the risk that you’ll botch the job, factor in your research, your tools and parts, and the time you are going to spend on it. A lot of people will be more comfortable getting someone else to do it. An experienced repair expert will know where to get the right parts, they’ll have the right tools, and they’ll be able to do the repair quickly and efficiently.
Hire someone or use a service
If you want the job done right it might be better to use a reputable repair service. They can still be cheaper than the deductible on an insurance claim in some cases. They’re also likely to be faster.
There are lots of big name chains that will do in-store repairs while you wait or within the day and you’ll find various online services where you can send your smartphone and get the fixed handset sent back to you within a week.
RadioShack just started offering in-store repairs for smartphones and tablets and they have another service where you drop the phone off in-store and they return it to your door within 72 hours. You’ll also find a repair service via Geek Squad at Best Buy, and there are a number of chains like Cellairis.
Small, independent shops will often give you a better quality of service.
You may not have time to drop into a repair shop, or maybe you don’t want to send your phone away. A service called iCracked offers an interesting alternative where you get a free quote for the repair and then the technician comes and meets you. Some repairs they’ll do on the spot, or if it’s going to take longer then they’ll take your device and return it later.
Most decent places have at least one decent repair shop. Small, independent shops will often give you a better quality of service and a better price than the big chains.
Don’t just focus on the price. Make sure that you ask what warranty is offered with the repair. The longer, the better, as you don’t want to have to pay out again if the repair fails or the fault reoccurs.
Official repairs are best
It’s always worth checking with your retailer, carrier, or manufacturer as well. Generally, if you’re outside the warranty period, they’ll charge the most for repairs and they’ll take the longest, but there are exceptions. You never know until you ask.
Shop around, get quotes, check reviews and reputations, and then make an informed decision. You might just find that your broken smartphone is easier and cheaper to repair than you thought.
One final word of warning we have to mention concerns your privacy. If you’re going to send your phone away or leave it in the repair shop for a few days then you should really consider making a complete back up and wiping your phone so there’s no private files or sensitive information left. It’s a hassle, but it’s the only way to be sure that someone won’t get their hands on your photos or emails.
Got any recommendations or horror stories? Tell us about your DIY smartphone repairs and repair shop experiences in the comments.