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Fixing a broken iPhone screen doesn't have to be a pain in the glass

That old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder: it couldn't be more true of the relationship that I have with my iPhone. It's become such an integral part of my life that I don't know how I ever managed to get by without it. Not since Fox cancelled "Arrested Development" have I missed something this much.

Two nights ago, I cracked the screen on my iPhone.

I was working out on the elliptical trainer and watching "Sanford and Son" clips on my iPhone, which was perched above the machine. As I reached over to it to choose the next related clip, the earphone cord snagged onto the arm pedal of the elliptical trainer.

T-minus two seconds before glass off.

2.00 seconds: Elliptical trainer's arm pedal snags onto earphone cord.

1.50 seconds: Earphone jack doesn't disengage from iPhone, and pulls iPhone down with it.

1.00 seconds: iPhone wobbles in the air as it makes its descent.

0.75 seconds: My right leg, straddled onto the elliptical trainer's plastic foot pedal, is on its upward path.

0.50 seconds: iPhone's screen and the right plastic foot pedal of the elliptical trainer meet at the apex of the pedal's upward movement.

0.25 seconds: iPhone goes air born once again.

0.00: Glass off!

Now, I've owned an iPhone (first generation iPhone and iPhone 3G) for nearly three years now. During that time, I've dropped it numerous times: sometimes on dance floors at nightclubs, sometimes while running, and other times while getting out of cabs. I've dropped it in many different ways. It's been through it all and survived many a fall, all without a case no less. This time, however, things were different. It's as if the iPhone was a football, and I tried to kick a field goal with it while wearing plastic shoes.

Cracked glass notwithstanding, my iPhone still worked: multitouch gestures were still recognized, and I could do everything I'd normally do. Except, of course, with a cracked display.

I had four choices: 1) bring my BlackBerry out of retirement (temporarily), 2) wait it out until the next generation iPhone is released and use a broken-glassed iPhone in the interim, 3) order parts and fix the iPhone myself, or 4) take it somewhere for repair.

Options one and two were definitely off the table. You can't expect me to drive an old Toyota Corolla after driving a Porsche 911 Turbo for nearly three years, and you can't expect me to drive a 911 Turbo with, well, a broken windshield. While I just as easily could have fixed the iPhone myself, this option requires me to order parts and wait for them to arrive. I had neither spare iPhone screens in my closet full of gadgets or the the patience to wait for parts. The only option, then, was to find someone local to repair it for me.

Since July 2009, Apple has offered repairs for damaged iPhone screens at its Apple Retail Stores. However, this may set you back a pretty penny: most reports indicate that Apple charges $199 for this repair. For this price, I'd be better off buying an iPhone 3GS at its AT&T subsidized price. As we're nearing the end of iPhone 3GS's product cycle, I wasn't willing to do this.

Alternatively, I could find a third party to do the repair for me. This is what I did, and this may be the best choice for many in a similar predicament. In this case, Craigslist is an excellent resource. A simple query for "iPhone cracked," "iPhone screen repair," or simply "iPhone repair" in the "for sale/wanted" section will likely provide you a solid list of places in your locale that can fix your iPhone's broken screen. Also, if you live in a major city, you'll likely have more options and more competitive pricing.

While some of these listings may be from retail stores, a good handful of them are people doing this to make money on the side. Although you'll want to do your due diligence in order to make sure that the vendors are reputable in either case, it would be wise to take extra precautions in the case of the latter. In other words, it's best to meet at a neutral place where people are plentiful, instead of meeting at a house. In my case, I met the person, a student at UC San Diego, at a local coffee shop. It took all of about 10 minutes.

As each generation of the iPhone is different, repair options and prices differ. The original iPhone housed the glass, digitizer, and LCD screen in the same assembly. In addition, repairing it is also more time consuming. As a result, finding a reasonable price, and a place for that matter, to repair the screen on the original iPhone is difficult. In my checks, a third party repair for the original iPhone will set you back at least $150.

In contrast, for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, the LCD is separate from the glass and digitizer assembly. There are two separate parts, the LCD itself and the glass/digitizer assembly, as opposed to a single assembly with three parts on the original iPhone. Disassembling and reassembling the iPhone 3G and 3GS is also easier than on the original iPhone. For me, I just needed to replace the glass and digitizer, and this came out to $60 (with OEM Apple parts too), and parts and labor were included in the price. This same repair for the iPhone 3GS usually comes in slightly higher, about $10 to $20 extra.

While cracking your iPhone's screen may hurt at first, the pain needn't last long or be too costly -- unless, of course, you have the original iPhone.



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iPhone

That old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder: it couldn't be more true of the relationship that I have with my iPhone. It's...