Repair Your Smartphone And Tablet (Part 2)

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Smashed screens

Most smartphones and tablets have glass screens and some, including the iPhone 4 and Nexus 4, have glass rear panels that, while toughened, are still quite easily broken. Dropping a phone can dislodge components or cause other internal problems that throw up errors or lead to a complete failure. Again, manufacturers will fix this kind of damage for a fee, but a third-party repair costs less. The prices start at about $45 to replace the rear glass on an iPhone 4 and go up to $150 or so to replace the front glass on a third-generation iPad. For a Nexus 4 display, Simply Fixit charges $195, while a replacement screen for the Kindle Fire HD costs $172 – which is still cheaper than Amazon’s won charge.

If you would rather not do either, the third option is to buy the parts and do the job yourself. This might sound difficult, but in many cases repairs are surprisingly simple once you have built up the courage to attempt them. Even so, for any repair that requires dismantling a device, it is possible to do more serious damage than you aim to fix, so we would only advise trying these yourself if you’re certain that the original problem is not covered by a warranty or accidental-damage insurance.

DIY repairs to smashed glass may not be as difficult as you fear

DIY repairs to smashed glass may not be as difficult as you fear

There are so many phones and tablets and so many ways to break them that it’s impossible for us to cover every method here, but the best place to start is usually to search on a site like iFixit for the relevant repair manual – there’s often an instruction video, too. Once you’ve found instructions for the repair assuming that one is possible – you can buy the necessary parts and tools from the same site, or try searching on Amazon. The parts and tools needed for common repairs are often bundled together in a pack that cost far less than even an unofficial repair.

For example, a kit to replace the rear glass on an iPhone 4 is less than $9 on Amazon, a saving of $180 on Apple’s fixed-price repair service. The job is actually pretty simple. You need to remove two screws, then pop off the phone’s entire back cover and replace it with the new one, which shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Some repairs are far harder than this, such as replacing eth front glass on the iPhone 4, which involves almost completely dismantling it and reassembling it, and is likely to take an hour or two of fiddly work.

Again, this is where iFixit comes in handy. For example the website shows that replacing a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2’s display requires a heat gun or powerful hairdryer. It’s a tricky job, but with the parts costing around $48 from eBay, there are big savings to be made from a DIY repair. An official Samsung repair center will often charge more for the same job (we were quoted $300 to replace a Galaxy Tab 2’s screen), though Samsung says customers should call for a tailored quote for a list of authorized service centers.

The iFixit website has guides on repairing dozens of smartphones and tablets

The iFixit website has guides on repairing dozens of smartphones and tablets

Replace the battery

One common problem with portable devices is that battery life deteriorates with age. It’s possible to buy a new smartphone battery for around $15, and fitting it might be as simple as popping off the phone’s plastic back. Obviously, it’s more of a job if the phone doesn’t have a simple pop-off cover. On the iPhone 3GS, for example, you’ll need to unscrew and remove the front screen and the motherboard to access the phone’s battery. This is glued to the rear lid and needs to be carefully prized free. The tools and battery together cost around $13.5 from Amazon, while Apple charges $82.5 for the same repair in store.

Buying a dedicated device toolkit won’t cost much and will make repairs easier

Buying a dedicated device toolkit won’t cost much and will make repairs easier

As we have seen, the difficulty of repairs varies greatly, so make sure you understand what you are in for before you buy tools or parts for a job that you can’t do. For example, the battery in the iPad 2 is welded to the case, so replacing it is best left to an expert. It pays to ensure you have the right parts and tools before getting started. They’re cheap, easily bought online and could prevent damage. Also, work with the help of a desk lamp or another good light source. Use an upturned mouse mat or something similar to provide a non-slip, non-scratch work surface, and use small containers to store removed parts.

Active tip

For less clear-cut smartphone and tablet problems, follow the manufacturer’s troubleshooting advice before deciding if there’s a fault. A simple factory reset will cure many ills. Once you’re sure, search for the symptoms online to see it other users know a non-invasive fix –finding one will save both time and money.

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