So you’ve broken your phone. You’re already completely stressed about it and to make matters even worse when you Googled “cell phone repair near me” you received back so many results that choice paralysis has taken a strong hold. With so many options out there, it can be an overwhelming chore to decide where to have your phone repaired. Do you just pick the closest one? The cheapest one?
That’s where this article comes in. We’ve broken down the main factors to consider when deciding on where to have your cell phone repaired to help you make an informed and confident decision.
First things first, pretty much all parts come from China, even the ones originally produced by the manufacturer. That being said, there are still many different levels of quality when it comes to repair parts. The quality of screen matters more than the charge port or back glass so we’ll discuss that here. However, these points can apply to most other parts as well.
There are three main types of parts when it comes to cell phone screen repairs.
These are the exact screens installed on an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy when it is originally manufactured (hence the name, Original Equipment Manufacturer). These parts are typically produced in China and are developed by Sharp, Samsung, or LG.
Quick aside here, even as fierce competitors, Samsung actually produces the displays for the new Apple iPhone X, XS, and XS Max phones.
This is the highest quality option. An OEM replacement screen will result in a phone that is nearly like it was when you purchased it. Notice that I used the word “nearly” and not “exactly”. This is because there are many other factors that come into play when a phone or other mobile device is repaired that we will discuss more below. OEM screens are also the most expensive option and are typically limited in availability. This is true most notably for Apple; the only way to have an OEM screen installed on an iPhone is to have the Apple Store or an authorized service center, such as BestBuy, perform the repair.
Refurbished screens are typically your best option when it comes to balancing quality and price but, in many cases, can be significantly more expensive than aftermarket options.
To explain what refurbished screens are, we need to take a minute to break down the core components of your phone’s display.
In most modern LCD and AMOLED displays there are three parts:
- The display - This is usually either an LCD or OLED display panel.
- The touch - Usually this is a digitizer that is built into the display or the top glass.
- The top glass - This is the part that you touch with your finger to use the device.
When it comes to the quality of the screen, the display component is the most important factor. There typically isn’t a significant amount of special technology built into the top glass that can’t be easily replicated.
All of that being said, a refurbished screen is an OEM screen where the top glass was previously damaged and then replaced. This means that the display portion of the screen is still OEM quality. As long as the screen was refurbished by a reputable refurbishing company, the quality is typically indistinguishable from an OEM display.
Aftermarket screens are the most prevalent, cost effective, and readily available parts for most devices. For each make and model of smartphone, aftermarket parts can typically be broken down into different quality types themselves. There are high quality aftermarket parts, low quality parts, and some in between.
Takeaway: Ask the shop what type of parts they use and decide what you care about the most. High quality aftermarket parts are usually the best quality to cost value.
Now that we know the different types and qualities of available parts, we can start considering what prices are fair. As with most service based industries, prices are typically a combination of part costs plus a labor charge. Labor charges vary between companies but the average tends to lie between $50 - $80 / hour. Smaller companies with minimal overhead or one-person-shops may be able to charge significantly less for labor. This may be a potential option if you’re strapped for cash but it’s important to consider the risks associated with these types of repair shops which we discuss in the Size and Time in Business section below.
So how do you determine a fair price?
Let’s say the aftermarket part for your phone costs $20 and the refurbished part costs double that ($40).
Shop A charges $50 for labor and uses aftermarket parts.
Shop B charges $50 for labor and uses refurbished parts.
So the cost to repair your device (parts and labor) at Shop A is $70. At Shop B it’s $90. Does that mean that Shop B is ripping people off? Absolutely not.
A good rule of thumb is to call each shop and ask what type of parts they use and to have them break down the price between parts and labor. It’s important to watch out for that one shop that charges significantly less than everyone else. In general, most shops using the same type of screen will offer roughly the same price due to the cost of parts. If a shop claims to use OEM parts yet charges less for the repair than other shops using aftermarket parts in the area, proceed with caution. Sales and special events aside, a price discrepancy like this may indicate inauthenticity, poor craftsmanship, lack of warranty, or hidden fees.
A company’s warranty is typically a good indication of how well they trust their own parts and abilities. A short or non-existent warranty is a sign to start calling other businesses. The industry standard for most cell phone repair businesses is a 90 day parts and labor warranty. Some companies (such as My Broken Phone) offer longer warranties that may last up to the lifetime of the device.
It’s important to remember that warranties are not insurance! There are few, if any repair shops that cover repeat damage to your device if you happen to drop and break it again.
Aside from the parts and labor coverage, the other main point to consider is how the repair shop handles accidental damage caused by their technicians during the repair. Be sure that the company has a policy in place to handle this type of situation. The last thing you want is to drop off an iPhone with a broken screen and receive back an iPhone that doesn’t turn on at all with no recourse. A good cell phone repair company will replace a device if they cause irreparable damage during the service.
Phone and electronics repair shops come in many different shapes and sizes. Due to the limited barriers to entry, almost anyone can start their own repair shop. That’s not to say, however, that everyone going into this business is able to stay open for a significant length of time. It’s important to take this into consideration when choosing a store to repair your cell phone. The last thing you want is to run into an issue with your repair in two months only to find out that the company that fixed your phone is now out of business. Choosing a company that has had a presence in your area for at least two years is typically a safe bet as this is how long it normally takes for a store to become profitable and stable.
A repair company’s size is also an important factor. If a shop is small, they may be able to offer lower prices due to decreased overhead (rent, staff, etc). However, this may also mean that they are unable to afford to remedy any issues that may arise during the repair. Phones are sensitive machines and accidents do happen; be sure that the store you choose can afford to replace your phone in a timely manner if they permanently damage it.
Small and/or new shops may also indicate a lack of experience (this is not always the case, of course). An inexperienced technician is more liable to make mistakes during the repair and to perform the service inadequately resulting in poor quality and warranty issues. Medium and large cell phone repair companies will typically have training programs in place to ensure your smartphone repair is completed to a high degree of quality.
A cell phone repair company’s capabilities determines what issues they are able to repair and what models they are able to service. Generally there are two levels of cell phone repair capabilities.
Basic repairs involve tearing down a device and replacing peripheral components such as a phone’s display, battery, or charging port. The majority of cell phone repair shops fall into this category.
Board-level, also known as micro-soldering, repairs involve tearing down a device and replacing board level components such as capacitors, filters, and IC chips. A shop that is capable in board-level repairs is naturally also capable in basic repairs. A common issue you may have heard of that requires board level repair is iPhone’s infamous “touch disease”.
Shops with extensive board-level capabilities are more likely to be proficient in correctly diagnosing and repairing uncommon issues with your device. If a shop that does not offer board-level repairs determines that your device is irreparable, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from a shop that can take a look at your motherboard using a microscope.
To choose a local cell phone repair company after you’ve dropped and broken your phone, you should take the following factors into account.
- Know the difference between the types of parts available and decide which best fits your needs.
- Ask the shop to break down their price into parts and labor. Be sure they are in-line with other shops in the area.
- Ask the shop to describe their warranty. It should cover parts, labor, and should be 90 days or longer. Ask how they handle accidental damage during the repair.
- Ensure the company has had a presence in your area for at least two years. Decide whether you prefer the security and cost trade offs when working with a small or one-person repair shop.
- Try to find a repair business that is capable in board-level repairs, even if you don’t know whether you need it or not.
Ultimately, choose the repair company that meets your specific needs for each item above as well as one that provides friendly customer service over the phone and in-person.