I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade my 16-year-old daughter's phone to an iPhone 3GS. I did it against my better judgment, as she is prone to accidents, frequent lost objects, and just about every other plague that haunts teenagers. I knew that something would eventually happen to that phone, but did I purchase AppleCare for it? No. I should have purchased AppleCare for that iPhone though because, after only four weeks of owning the device, she dropped it, shattering the digitizer. We all know what they say about hindsight.
When I looked into fixing her iPhone, I discovered that there are three clear choices:
- The Apple Genius Bar
- A phone repair service
Here's a look at the pros and the cons of each option; plus, I reveal which option I decided to go with and share the results of that choice. (Note: When the phone was dropped, the entire digitizer was shattered; to my amazement, the phone still worked. It was fairly obvious that the phone wouldn't last long in its current state, so reparation was an immediate necessity.)
Option 1: DIY
This was my gut-reaction choice. By nature I am a DIYer to the core, but I am also prone to conducting exhaustive research before I do just about anything. You can find iPhone digitizer replacement kits all over the web — even Amazon.com sells the trusty kits. A typical kit includes:
- Digitizer: Replacement "glass" for the phone.
- Adhesive: To mount the touch panel back together.
- Prying tools: To crack open the case.
- Screwdriver: To remove the screws.
- Pick: Help remove the digitizer
- Suction cup: Another aid to remove the digitizer.
The iPhone digitizer replacement kits are available in a wide range of prices — I've seen them for as cheap as $5.00 and as costly as $39.99; however, unless your kit includes metal prying tools, it's pretty much useless. Why? Taking apart an iPhone with plastic prying tools will almost always end in a broken tool and a frustrated DIYer. If you manage to get the case apart without breaking your tool, you also run the risk of cosmetic damages to the phone casing or the new digitizer.
I decided to avoid the frustration of the DIY kit. Even though I prefer this approach, I heard from too many people who went down that road that it most always ends badly.
Option 2: The Apple Genius Bar
For many iPhone owners, the most obvious choice is to take your device to the Apple Genius Bar. Although it's more costly than the other options (you will pay around $199.00 for this service), it is also the safest route. The Genius Bar will guarantee the results of this service. If something happens to your phone in the process, you will not have to fret about purchasing a new phone.
The first appointment we could have gotten for The Genius Bar would have been over a week out (by the way, you have to make the appointment online), which meant that (unless we were okay with our child running the risk of further damaging her phone) our daughter would be without her phone for a week. We decided that is not an option, unless it's for a punishment. On to option number three!
Option 3: A phone repair service
These repair services come in many forms. Most of them are online services, where you ship your phone off and hope it is returned to you in one piece and working. This was looking like the best option until I realized that I couldn't find reviews for any of these services.
I was about settle on some guy in NY who had been written up in The Times when my wife heard about a local shop that had been replacing digitizers on iPhones for a while. Once I had a firsthand, glowing review of the owner's services, I gave him a call and discovered his shop (S & P Cell Phone Repair in Crestwood, KY) is one of the few certified repair shops in the United States for the iPhone. Although I was unable to verify this claim, the price of $105.00 for a guaranteed repair sounded fair.
So, with no appointment necessary, we took the phone to the shop and 20 minutes later, we had a like-new device back in our child's hand.
If you want to go on the cheap, you have ridiculously steady hands, and you can get the non-plastic pry tools, I suggest trying the DIY route. If you don't trust your hands, can only find plastic tools, and don't mind a possible waiting period, go with The Genius Bar. Or, if you don't trust the DIY method, have a distaste for The Genius Bar (or waiting), and know of a local shop that can do the repair, go with that option. I cannot recommend a mail-in service because there are too many variables and not enough trustworthy reviews of those services.
If you cracked your iPhone digitizer, how did you fix it? If you tried an online service, what was your experience?
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.