SO YOU DROPPED & CRACKED YOUR IPHONE/IPOD SCREEN... NOW WHAT?
NEWSFLASH: iPhone & iPod Touch screens are fragile!
Alright... that might not be very shocking news, and it may seem hideously obvious to everyone. But at the same time, even though we all know that these devices are far from indestructible, there are probably thousands of iPhones, iPods, and iPads dropped and shattered each and every day.
I get calls, emails, and text messages several times per week from distraught iDevice owners who have dropped their gadgets, run over them with cars, or given them a slam dunk in the toilet, and they want to know what to do.
In this post, I'm going to tell you everything that I've learned over the past years of fixing Apple products, and give you a good idea of what you are up against with each different type of break or malfunction.
I CRACKED MY IPHONE SCREEN
If you own an iPhone 4 or 4S and you dropped & shattered your screen, chances are your repair won't be too costly. Even though your LCD is still working, you've got to replace the LCD and glass front because they are glued together. That front glass is actually 2 thin pieces of glass glued together. One is the digitizer, and one is the outer glass.
If you're lucky, all you did was damage the glass. But I've seen cases where the drop was so bad that the IC board gets shorted out. One of the biggest bummers when this occurs is that your backlight coil can burn out. I've written a complete blog post about that problem, so check it out. But if this is the case, you can throw your iPhone 4/S in the trash can because it is useless.
I've also seen damage occur to the vibration motor. This is also a cheap fix. The part only costs $5 on eBay, and you don't have to disassemble the entire phone to get it in. You might be able to do this yourself.
If you drop your phone just right, you can dislodge or break your WiFi antenna. There's nothing more frustrating than getting a repaired iPhone back and finding out days later that you have no WiFi reception. Check it immediately. It's an intriquite piece of the hardware, and will malfuction if improperly reinstalled.
Another casualty that comes with dropping the phone could be damage to the home button or power button. When someone brings one of these to me, I send them elsewhere. It's just not worth the time to tear down the phone to replace either of these unless you do this for a living.
Lastly, I've seen dock connector damage when people drop their iPhone while it's plugged in for recharging. This requires replacing the dock connector cable, and it can be somewhat of a pain if you don't have experience tearing down an iPhone.
You can expect to pay $50 to $75 labor to do any of these fixes at an authorized or non-authorized repair shop. Or you can try it yourself. I don't recommend tearing an iPhone apart to anyone, period. The only way I would recommend you trying a fix is if you don't mind risking tearing up your phone beyond repair. Keep that in mind.
I CRACKED MY IPOD TOUCH
The iPod Touch is repairable. I've done a few dozen, and I can give you this advice first and foremost: If you own a 2nd or 3rd generation iPod Touch, chunk it in the trash. If you have a 4th or 5th generation iPod Touch, it is probably worth fixing... to an extent.
The iPod Touch 4th generation device is fairly durable, but dropping it in the right way will shatter the display. Like the iPhone 4/S, the LCD and digitizer screen are glued together. You can order replacements seperately, but you can't pull them apart unless you have an expensive chemical separation kit.
Removing the old screen requires heating it up with a heat gun to soften the glue and pry it out, because it's not secured by screws. Getting the old screen unplugged from the motherboard is also a daunting task, and so is plugging in the replacement.
When gluing and setting in the new screen, you can destroy the LCD panel if you put even the slightest pressure on the wrong part. It's seriously sensitive. Only seasoned veterans or trained techs should even try this.
Replacing the battery on an iPod Touch 4th or 5th generation device is doable. It will cost as much labor as a screen replacement, because you have to gut the device to get to the battery. Same holds true for the dock connector if you have damaged it.
With the iPod Touch, you have much less of a chance of damaging the WiFi antenna because it is a ribbon cable that is soldered into the motherboard. But if you accidentally tear it off during the repair, count on adding more frustrating time to fix this. The replacement is not easy.
Lastly, watch out for rookie repair artists who snatch out the mainboard metal cover and rip out the volume control ribbons, and the tiny connector wires to the speaker. There's a ton of glue underneath the metal cover, and everything gets stuck to it. If you don't know what you are doing, you can easily rip these out and cause yourself needless frustration in trying to piece the wires or ribbons back together.
Expect to pay $40 to $75 labor when you see a tech about a screen replacement or battery replacement for an iPod Touch device. You can order replacement screens for as low as $20 on eBay, but you have to watch for shady suppliers.
I CRACKED MY IPAD SCREEN
If you dropped your iPad, let's hope it's not a first generation model. If it is, save the trouble and chunk that piece of glass in the trash. iPads are not any harder to fix than iPhones, and the parts seem to be fairly reasonable. Labor costs should be about the same as the phones.
As with the other devices, you can run into problems damaging the ribbon connectors to the volume controls, and you can also damage the WiFi antenna if you're not careful. You want to double check that the WiFi and volume controls are working after a repair, especially if you're dealing with a non-certified repair artist.
WATER DAMAGE - WHAT YOU'RE UP AGAINST
If you drop your iPhone or iPod into water, you better act fast, and pray hard. The damage that can occur can be irreversible. Whatever you do, if you drop your device into water, don't turn it on to check to see if it works. This will cause you to potentially short out the IC board and render it useless.
The first thing you should do is shake it off, and then do a rice bag treatment. Take a Ziploc bag and fill it with rice (that's dry rice for those that aren't very bright). Put it in a microwave oven and heat it up for a couple of minutes, or long enough to get it hot. Then put your device in the bag and zip it up. Leave it in the bag for 24 hours, and the rice will absorb the excess moisture.
If you're lucky, it might work when you turn it on the next day. If it doesn't, you're probably looking at buying a new device. Why? Because you've probably shorted out the board. One of the possible things that can happen is shorting out the backlight coil.
If you turn on the device and see a non-lit dark ghost image of the display when you hold it under a bright light, you're toast. Replacing the backlight coil is very tricky, and can only be done by a good technitian. But it will not last. Whatever part of the board that shorted out the backlight coil will still be damaged, and it will short out again in due time.
My advice for water damage is to stay away from water with your device. Keep in mind that 30% of smartphones and iPods are dropped in the toilet. I'll let you figure out why that happens, and you can use common sense to avoid that possibility.
THE COST OF PARTS
The one good thing about fragile breakable Apple devices is that the repair parts can be bought for reasonable prices. The older the device, the cheaper the repair parts will be. If you buy your device brand new and break it within the first few months, expect to be gigged when you order repair parts.
Pricing on parts for newer devices always starts out high as the sky, and then they drop at a fairly fast rate. This happens because of the simple laws of supply and demand. As more devices are broken over time, the replacement part manufacturers will sell at higher volumes, which will lower the price.
This all boils down to one thing: Be extremely careful if you're buying a new device, and put it in a good case. Don't opt for the cheap rubber-only cases. They may keep your device looking good, but they won't guard against a drop to concrete or a hard surface.
It really amazes me how many times I see people cracking a new iPhone or iPad within the first month of buying the device for this very reason. If you're going to blow several hundred bucks on an iDevice, you better plan on protecting your investment with a good case and an insurance plan for breakage.
If you want to order replacement parts on your own, you can get them on eBay and Amazon. Don't worry about trying to find suppliers by doing a Google search. All of the reputable suppliers are going to be listed on one or both of these sites. In my recent experience, the best prices for parts can be found on eBay.
If you chose to own an Apple device, protect it. Get a good case. Additionally, I strongly recommend paying for an insurance or replacement plan and not taking any chances. I usually recommend against spending the extra money on extended warranties and breakage insurance, but this is something you better do if you don't want to break the bank.
Keep in mind that when you buy a new iPhone or iPad with a wireless plan, you're only giving a down payment for the device. Just because you paid $200 for that new iPhone doens't mean that it's going to be replaceable for the same amount of money.
A new iPhone is worth $600 to $750, and your 2-year wireless agreement has the rest of the cost of the device built in to your monthly payments. That iPhone or iPad is like an expensive laptop computer crammed into a micro-sized device. It is an intriquite, expensive computer that you cannot take chances on protecting.
For repairs, it is best to use an Apple-certified repair technitian that puts a warranty on their work. You can save money by using a non-certified repair tech, but you will void your warranty with Apple if your device has a malfuntion that isn't related to damage that you have caused. That's a real consideration.
And for goodness sake, don't take an Apple device apart unless you're okay with damaging it beyond repair. I am a non-certified repair artist, and I learned the ins and outs of repairing these things by tearing them up. That's the best way to learn if you're not taking a training course on repair procedures.
Knowledge is power, and I hope you've learned from my experience. Apple makes great products, but they are fragile as fine china, and it is worth taking every precaution to protect your investment!
The iFubar Specialist