How (Not) to Fix a Cracked Phone Screen

·Special Contributor, Yahoo! Tech

Sooner or later, it’s going to happen to you: You’ll drop your phone. You’ll hear that awful crack at impact. And yep – the glass will be shattered. So after you’re done howling and cursing, what do you do? Try to fix it yourself? Use a mail-in service or a local shop? And which option is worth the cost?

According to a recent poll from the British company MobileInsurance, over a quarter of all iPhone screens are broken. Granted, the firm has a vested interest in producing a scary result, but they did survey thousands of people. And I won’t tell you how many phones I’ve personally broken in my time. So the danger is real and significant.

[Related: True/False – Never Sell Your Old Phone]

In this day and age, you’d think the repair would be easy, but it’s not. These screens are more than just glass; they are capacitive touch screens that connect to the brains of your phone. As a result, none of the repair options are particularly cheap.

Option 1 – The Apple Store ($150-$200)
If you have a cracked iPhone, the Apple store will replace for $49 – if you bought their AppleCare insurance plan. If not, it’ll cost for between $150 and $200. Ouch. And this isn’t necessarily a reason to buy AppleCare; AppleCare for iPhone costs $99 up front. And you’d still have to fork out another $49 for the actual repair. One upside, repairing with Apple means your warranty will still be intact. Any of the following options will void your warranty.

Option 2 – The Local Fix ($75-$200)
Especially if you live in an urban area or college town, you probably have a few choices here. In addition to repair shops, you can now find little kiosks in the mall that will fix your phone. You drop it off, go run some errands, come back, and it’s fixed. There’s even a growing business of mobile screen repair guys who will come to your house or workplace. And in my area, there are freelancers who work at back tables in cafes and restaurants. I took my broken iPhone 4S to a local shop called Mobile Kangaroo, and the repair guy (who goes by the name of Sci-fi Wolfbrother – I kid you not) fixed it in about 15 minutes, for $75. The guy at the Chinese restaurant across the street might have done the job for $70, but he was booked with appointments until the next day.

Older phones like the iPhone 3 & 4 or the Sprint Evo cost about $75 dollars to fix, depending on the shop. Newer phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5 cost a lot more – like $150-200.

Option 3 – Mail-in
You might save a few bucks by mailing your phone into an internet repair service, but factor in that you’ll be without a phone for a few days and the local options become much more appealing.

Option 4 – Do It Yourself ($20-$60)
Do-it-yourself kits cost between 20 and 60 dollars, and if you’re super geeky, you might just think this’ll be a deal. I promise you, it’s not. I’m good at fixing things, I understand electronics, and I was hopeful as I started the process with another broken phone… But first off, the kit I got contained no instructions. Second, the directions I found online neglected to note until too late that not all of the dozens of microscopic screws are the same size. Third, the prying tool in the kit broke. An hour and a half later, I gave up – this is SO not worth it.

And I’m not alone in this feeling. Reading comments online about the process, this seems like a very risky proposition. In the end I took this phone back to Sci-Fi Wolfbrother, and he fixed it – in about 15 minutes.

Effect on Warranty
Whether you use a repair service or replace the screen yourself, the Apple store will no longer work on your iPhone if you take it in for a repair. You basically void the warranty. Other manufacturers may have similar policies.

So the best option of all is to keep those screens from cracking in the first place. A rubber case or – even better – a clear screen protector can help.

[Related: Does Your Screen Really Need a Screen Protector?]