Let’s face it — smartphone screens are not indestructible. Maybe you’ve dropped your phone several times in the past with no damage. Then one day, the slightest tumble sends a spiderweb of cracks across your beautiful (and expensive) touchscreen. Yeah, yeah, you know you should’ve had a case or cover to protect your phone. But what’s a savvy consumer to do now?
Luckily for you, I’ve been down this path more times than I care to remember. Here are some lessons I learned along the way.
DIY Screen Replacement
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can order a replacement screen kit and prepare for surgery. I recommend doing some research before you dive into this project.
Tip: search for step-by-step instructions or an in-depth video on replacing the screen for your phone. Plenty of people have documented their experiences on YouTube or other sites, and this will help you decide if you can handle the job.
If you decide to DIY, most replacement screens can easily be found online. For my iPhone 5, a new screen costs less than $50 from most resellers. Pricing will vary depending on your phone model. Also, be sure the replacement kit includes any specialized tools you might need. Apple products require a “pentalobe” screwdriver that you won’t be able to find in stores.
Tip: read reviews before you purchase from a seller. If there are any defects with the replacement screen, other buyers have probably already discovered them. Not all screens are created equal. I’ve seen cheap replacement screens that have issues with color, brightness, and even the touch sensors!
Different phones require different skill levels. For example, replacing the screen on my iPhone 4 was a major headache. You practically have to remove every screw and component in the phone. Keeping up with all those tiny pieces and remembering how to reconstruct them was difficult. In total, I spent well over an hour on that job. In contrast, replacing the screen on my iPhone 5 was a breeze. After replacing that screen twice, I can complete the job in about 20 minutes.
Tip: work in a well lit space with a large, flat surface. As you remove screws and other components, lay them out carefully in a way that helps you remember where they belong in the phone.
Work slowly and carefully so you don’t damage any interior components of your phone or injure yourself on the broken glass. Follow the instructions carefully, and you should have a functional phone with a brand new screen in no time!
Professional Screen Replacement
Don’t think you’re up for the job? Need your phone fixed now? Smartphone repair shops have popped up all over the US in recent years. Search for a reputable shop in your area and make sure to read the reviews before you drop off your phone.
Tip: for privacy reasons, add a passcode to your phone before leaving it with any repair shop. You would be amazed at the amount of personal information you have stored in your phone.
Be prepared to pay quite a bit more for the repair than if you did the job yourself. Here in Washington, DC, I have paid upwards of $175 to have my iPhone 5 screen replaced. I paid for a rush service, so the repair was made in under 3 hours. If you’re in a bind and need your phone today, this is probably your best option.
Some repair shops offer a warranty on their work. If there are any issues with your replacement screen, you can bring it right back to the shop for another repair. Of course, the warranty won’t help if you drop your phone and crack the screen again.
In my experience, you probably won’t notice a difference in quality between a professional replacement and a DIY job. The screens I replaced myself worked just as well as the screens a pro technician installed.
When to Throw in the Towel
Sometimes it just isn’t worth the money and effort to replace your screen. If your phone is a much older model, the screen replacement might cost more than the phone is worth! In that situation, you may want to consider upgrading. If you can’t sell or trade in your old phone, consider recycling it at a phone or electronics recycling station. The environment will thank you!
Now that you’ve spent time and money replacing your screen, protect your investment with a high-quality cell phone case. In my opinion, the replacement screens never seem as durable as the originals. Your phone might be more prone to future damage, and an impact resistant case can help save you from future problems.
Have you had luck with replacing your smartphone screen? Tell us about it in the comments.