A broken iPhone screen is a bummer, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have to buy a new iPhone or live with a cracked screen. The screen consists of three layers: the glass, the digitizer, and the LCD panel. In many cases, it's just the glass on top that's cracked. If the screen is unresponsive or the display looks skewed, the digitizer or LCD may be damaged as well.
Before you run out and spend a bundle on a brand new iPhone, consider your repair options. Depending on whether you're locked in on a carrier contract or not, it may end up being more cost effective to fix it. You might even be able do it yourself.
Fix the screen yourself
Fixing the screen yourself can be satisfying and save you the most money, but it requires lots of patience -- and there's the risk of possibly damaging your iPhone further. If your iPhone is already out of warranty, though, it might be worth a shot.
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Do-it-yourself kits are readily available on Amazon and eBay and cost anywhere from $20 to $50. Kits that feature just the glass cost even less. Kits are great because they include all the tools and instructions you need to perform the repair. If you prefer to buy the kit from a familiar and reputable place, iFixit is another option to consider. Kits from iFixit are typically a lot more expensive, but they include the entire screen assembly and provide a warranty. Some kits come with basic instructions, but there are a lot of good tutorials and videos online that walk you through fixing the iPhone 4/4s, iPhone 5/5s, and even the iPhone 6.
Replacing the screen involves removing a couple of screws, popping the display up using a suction cup tool, carefully removing the internal ribbon cables, then putting everything back together. It's also possible you'll need to transplant a few parts, including the speaker, front-facing camera, and home button. Replacing just the glass can be even more complicated and requires the use of a heat gun and a special glue. If you're not comfortable doing this yourself, you may be better off letting someone else do it.
Use a repair service
Using a repair service can take a lot of the anxiety out of getting your iPhone fixed. You may be able to find a local shop in your area to do it. In the San Francisco Bay Area, as just one example, there are a chain of stores called Mobile Kangaroo that fix iPhone screens.
You can also try an online service called iCracked. They offer both an in-home service and a mail-in service. The mail-in service is slightly cheaper than what you'd pay Apple to replace the screen. For example, an iPhone 5s screen repair costs about $120. Taking it to Apple costs $129. On the other hand, if you have an iPhone 4s, iCracked only charges about $80, versus $199 from Apple for out-of-warranty service. Your best bet is to ask around for quotes on your specific iPhone.
Let Apple fix it
The final option: You can also deal with Apple directly to fix your broken iPhone screen. If you have AppleCare+ coverage on your iPhone, you can get a replacement iPhone for $79, provided you haven't already used up your two incidents of accidental damage.
If you don't have AppleCare+, Apple charges $129 to repair the screen on an iPhone 6 Plus, 5s, 5c, and 5. The iPhone 6 costs $109. If Apple finds damage to your iPhone other than the screen, you may be charged an out-of-warranty cost. You can initiate a service request online or take your iPhone to an Apple store.
Tips for performing the repair yourself
- Keep careful track of screws and other small parts.
- Store screws in a small paper cup or stick them to tape so they don't roll away.
- If you use a heat gun or hair dryer to loosen the glass, move tools and parts out of the work space so nothing gets blown away
- Don't pull or rip parts aggressively; be gentle and be on guard against over-stressing internal components.