"I've had more than a few people show up at our office with an iPhone that, the day before just had a cracked screen," says McCormick, "By the time their done with their 'Repair', the phone has a busted LCD, a torn ribbon cable or two, and the new touchscreen still isn't installed."
A big part of this belief in the ease of a self-repair comes from watching the online videos on the subject. Almost all of those videos use a phone that has already been pulled apart and then reassembled before being "repaired" again.
The reason? Those videos are usually made by the companies selling the individual parts and they have a vested interest in making the repair look as easy as possible. If they can convince you it's pretty simple to do, then you'll buy the part from them and give it a shot. To that end, a disassembled and reassembled phone is a lot easier to fix for the camera.
Beware: When you go to pull your own phone apart, it will not just separate the way they do in those videos. In addition, those videos conveniently end at the point where the phone is pulled apart. They don't continue and show you how to reassemble the whole thing. This is too bad because putting the phone back together is often far harder than pulling it apart.
"Consider the Motorola Atrix," says Mr. McCormick. "Getting the cracked screen off an Atrix is pretty easy. However, getting the new touchscreen on is unbelievably difficult the first time you do it. The connector is only about 1/2 inch long and doesn't fit through the hole it is supposed to go through without some serious effort. The online repair videos conveniently leave that step out."
Then there are phones like the HTC Evo or MyTouch 4G that have the front glass taped directly to the LCD underneath (the LCD is what displays your phone's picture and in most cases is working perfectly even with a cracked touchscreen glass). If you watch the YouTube videos for these repairs, they wave a hair dryer over the cracked glass and it pops right off the LCD. The only reason it comes off so easy in the videos is because they've already pulled the glass off, put it back on, and then take it off again for the camera. If you're not extremely careful doing the real life repair, it's pretty easy to break the LCD while removing the glass and then you're going to be out another $50-$75 replacing that part, too.
There's no doubt that it's possible to fix your cell phone yourself. You can buy the parts and tools off Ebay (or some other site) and then find a good repair video online. If you're handy with electronics or just out for a challenge, this will not only save you some money, but could be kind of fun. But for most people, it's going to be frustrating, tedious, kind of scary, and may very well end up costing more money than if they had had someone else fix it initially.
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Jet City Device repair is a Seattle based cell phone repair company offering repairs for the iPhone, Android Phones, and more. In-person repairs available in Chicago and Seattle. Mail-in services nationwide. For details see: http://www.jcdrepair.com