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Replacing a cracked iPhone screen yourself is cheap—but challenging

Replacing a cracked iPhone screen yourself is cheap—but challenging

So you cracked your iPhone screen. A quick Web search can turn up a host of do-it-yourself kits to replace it, most priced a lot lower than what repair shops charge. Yet many people may prefer to leave the job to the pros, we found in an informal test.

Can you really replace an iPhone screen yourself? Yes, based on our test; we replaced screens with multiple samples of a kit we bought from Amazon.com for $30—which is on the low side for such kits, we found. But would you really want to? Maybe not, based on the experiences of Consumer Reports staffers at geekiness levels ranging from extreme to nonexistent, who tackled the job on a sorry stack of damaged iPhone 4s and 4Ses.

Our test wasn’t exhaustive and aimed only to get a sense of what the repair experience is like. We ordered seven of the kits and gave each to a staffer, along with the tools needed to use them. Those included a 30-minute tutorial video from iCracked.com, one of many you’ll find online that guide you through the replacement process. Consumer Reports engineer Bernie Deitrick stayed on the sidelines to help in case panic set in.

Shopping for a new phone? Check our cell phone buying guide and Ratings.

As you might expect, it took numerous steps to remove and replace the screen, and lots of small and fragile parts were involved. And even the tech-savviest volunteers required about an hour and a half to replace a cracked screen. The technically challenged labored away for much longer (see our video above), and most or all needed frequent hand-holding from Bernie.

In the end, the crew repaired five iPhones using seven replacement screens. One screen was defective, and one was broken during the repair process.

Bottom line: Replacing an iPhone screen yourself can save you some money, but the savings might be as little as $50 or so. And the finicky and lengthy process isn’t for everyone.

You can avoid repair dilemmas entirely by buying Apple’s extended warranty, called AppleCare+, which includes replacing screens damaged by accidents. But given its cost ($99 for the plan, plus $49 each time the screen cracks and the phone is replaced), we don’t think AppleCare + offers great value for many people. It is, however, a better buy for the iPhone 5 than for older iPhones, since professional replacement of an iPhone 5 screen can easily cost $250—several times more than you’ll pay to get a pro to replace your iPhone 4 or 4S screen.

If you crack the screen on your Android phone, some DIY kits are available for popular models. They’re far less numerous than those for iPhones, though, and you’ll find fewer instructional videos.

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