(NEW YORK) — As millions of Americans damaged their smartphones, the cellphone repair industry reported $4 billion in revenue last year.
There are tons of repair options out there for fixing a cracked screen and ABC News’ Good Morning America teamed up with the technology gadget website, The Wirecutter, to see how some stacked up.
We looked at five options for fixing a phone:
1. Do-it-yourself kit
2. Manufacturer repair (Apple store)
3. Local repair/”mom and pop” shop
4. Mobile repair service that comes to you
5. Mall kiosk
There were four factors we considered:
4. Guarantee of workmanship
ABC’s Becky Worley had five iPhone 6s with cracked screens and brought one to each repair option without disclosing that she was a reporter from ABC News. The Wirecutter’s senior editor, Dan Frakes, examined all of Worley’s phones to evaluate the fixes. It was by no means scientific, but it does give a good indication of some factors to consider when weighing repair options.
Companies like iFixit and iCracked offer comprehensive kits that give you a replacement screen, attached cables, tools and detailed instructions for doing this job yourself. Many have YouTube channels with video tutorials. Worley read the booklet (44 steps), watched the video (45 minutes long) and commenced fixing the cracked screen. She was able to remove the screen from the bezel using the spudger tool provided and a lot of heat from her blow dryer, but after the first 30 minutes as she removed all the cable connectors that allow the glass from the phone to act as a touchscreen, camera, microphone and fingerprint sensor, Worley broke a cable. The microphone connector at the top of the screen was glued in and while she thought she had applied enough blow dryer heat, the paper-thin cable snapped as she tried to pry it out.
Worley’s take: To save $30, I would have broken a nearly $600 phone. If you know what you are doing, the do-it-yourself option is great, but for a novice like me it’s a big gamble.
Manufacturer (Apple store)
Time: 95 minutes
Worley made an appointment at the Apple store in Berkeley, California. It took the technician 95 minutes to fix the phone and cost $129. When Frakes reviewed the phones, he noticed that the home key was over sensitive and went into an accessibility mode when it shouldn’t. So Worley took it back to the Apple store (again with a Genius Bar appointment made online) and they acknowledged the sensitive home key and replaced the screen again for free. The phone worked perfectly after that.
Apple points us to its warranty online that states: “Do not open the Apple Product. Opening the Apple Product may cause damage that is not covered by this Warranty. Only Apple or an AASP should perform service on this Apple Product.”
Expert take: Frakes says if you have a phone that’s new — within six months of purchase — always take the phone back to the manufacturer or carrier for repair. “The parts are really hard to get for independent stores,” he said, “And they don’t have a lot of expertise.”
Local “Mom and pop” repair shop
Time: 35 minutes
Worley looked on Yelp to find the highest reviewed iPhone repair shop in her area. Technopia, a small electronics store in Walnut Creek, California, came up on top. The couple working in the store also fix VCRs, DVD players, and any of the hundreds of gadgets they had stacked on the shelves. They were fast and cheap: $105 and 35 minutes.
Expert take: Frakes inspected the phone and said it worked just fine and was a good repair. He says checking reviews and making sure a store has a guarantee of their work is key since not all independent repair shops have such high standards.
Mobile repair service: iCracked
Time: 38 minutes
Worley used nationwide chain iCracked to schedule an appointment for a repair technician to come to her house and fix the phone. They will come to an office, a coffee shop, or wherever you want to meet them. The technician was incredibly polite and communicative. (The company says they are all background checked for safety). She evaluated Worley’s phone and said it could be repaired. While Worley folded laundry, she fixed her phone in 38 minutes. The company says it guarantees the tech’s work if there are any problems. The technician checked in with me a few days later to make sure everything was working OK.
Expert take: While the phone worked fine, Frakes did notice that on the right side of the screen the new glass was raised a tiny bit above the phone’s bezel, creating an edge you didn’t feel in other parts of the phone. iCracked said it would replace the glass again if we wanted, but it also made a good point: When you drop a phone, you often ding or dent the frame of the phone while also cracking the glass. As soon as this happens it’s not in factory condition and there may be irregularities that happen in a repair.
Worley’s take: In my opinion, this was the most convenient way to get the phone fixed. If I had to repair a cracked screen for my own phone down the line I would choose the mobile service from a nationwide chain that guarantees their work and has good reviews.
Time: 22 minutes
In Worley’s local mall, there are two kiosks in the center aisles between shops that will fix your phone as you shop. This repair was the fastest at 22 minutes and fairly convenient if you are already there to shop, but we had some trouble with the quality of the repair.
Expert take: Frakes noticed that the phone popped and groaned when he put small amounts of pressure on the screen. “In fact, I just twisted it a little bit and it felt like it was about to pop out,” he told Worley.
Worley went back to the kiosk and asked them to check the phone and replace or repair the screen. The manager at the kiosk said the phone had not yet broken so he wouldn’t fix it and that Worley shouldn’t put pressure on the screen. When Worley asked about its warranty he said he would fix it if anything happened and not to worry about the 30 days it said on the receipt. When we called the kiosk after filming and identified ourselves as reporters from ABC News, employees said they would fix the phone.
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