iPhone battery replacement: DIY or hire a pro?

Find out the costs, pros and cons of both options.

Phones
fd-fd-apple-smart-battery-case-for-iphone-6-and-6s-09.jpg

Your iPhone 6 is probably losing juice pretty quick, and a battery case like this isn't always convenient.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So you have an aging iPhone that's perfectly fine except for one thing: the battery. These days you're lucky to make it to midafternoon before the power gives out. A common dilemma.

Alas, all phone batteries lose capacity over time. You'll probably first start to notice it after a year, then really notice it after 18 months. Once it gets intolerable, you have only a few options:

  1. Buy a new phone
  2. Start using a battery case
  3. Replace the battery

Buying a new phone seems ridiculous, especially given the price. And the last few iPhone models have afforded little more than small boosts in speed and camera quality -- hardly compelling reasons to upgrade, in my opinion. (And maybe you don't want to give up your headphone jack.)

A battery case can help, but it'll add bulk and weight to your phone while forcing you to switch from Lightning cables to Micro-USB. Both are hassles.

That leaves replacing the battery, which is not an easy solution. But it's the best one, because a new battery will effectively buy your iPhone another couple years of useful service. The only question is whether to do the job yourself or seek out a pro.

But first: Check the warranty

Because replacing the battery involves cracking open the iPhone, it's only logical to ask: Won't this void my warranty? If the phone is more than a year old, the warranty has already expired -- unless you purchased an extended AppleCare+ plan, in which case you may be entitled to a free battery replacement from Apple.

But assuming you're post-coverage, it doesn't matter if you go DIY or third party. However, if you hire a service or shop to replace the battery, you may receive a warranty on that repair -- something you won't get if you do the work yourself.

The DIY option

A kit like this one will cost you anywhere from $10-$30.

Scanditech

How hard can it be to replace an iPhone battery? Remove some screws, open up the case, take out the old battery, plug in the new one and you're done, right?

Right. Except those screws are tiny. The case is hard to get open. Inside, you have to remove a bunch more screws and some fragile ribbon cables just to get to the battery. Which is glued in place. Then you have to do it all in reverse.

If you've never ventured inside an iPhone before, this can be some nerve-wracking surgery. It helps to have video-tutorial guidance (see below), but trust me when I say it's easy to make a mistake. And if you flub along the way, you'll brick your phone.

The DIY option, however, is definitely the cheapest -- even if it only saves you about $20. Replacement battery kits are available from Amazon, eBay and countless other sources, most of them priced anywhere from $10-$30. Personally, I recommend spending a few dollars more to buy from a reputable (and customer-reviewed) vendor on Amazon.

For example, this iPhone 6 Plus battery kit sells for $30 and looks very similar to what you can find on eBay for about $11, but comes with detailed instructions (both print and video), a one-year warranty and customer support (via email). Of particular interest, it has a 4.5-star rating from over 100 customers, suggesting that a huge majority of buyers were successful in their installation attempt and happy with the result.

Although this and similar kits come with the tools you need, I definitely recommend adding a tabletop magnifying lamp to the mix. For my aging eyes, at least, it greatly simplifies working with the iPhone's tiny screws and cables.

As for the battery itself, it's a crap-shoot: Ideally you want something that's "genuine OEM," but it's hard to be certain what you're getting. That's all the more reason to spend a little extra and go with a rated vendor.

Go pro

Hire iCracked and a tech will come to you.

Rick Broida/CNET

Straight to the math: It'll likely cost you anywhere from $50-$80 to hire a shop or service to replace your iPhone battery. That can be a hard pill to swallow knowing that DIY kits cost as little as $10, but I'll make the case it's money well spent.

For starters, these folks are experienced with this kind of repair. They know what they're doing. You're also likely to get the benefit of some kind of warranty. Side-benefit: They're probably using reliable batteries so there's less chance you'll actually need that warranty.

Apple offers a battery replacement service that costs $79 for any iPhone model -- a competitive price, and arguably your best option given that no company is better at servicing iPhones. However, there's one catch: You'll have to be without your phone for at least a few days. Apple estimates three to five business days if you ship it and "up to five business days" if you bring it to an Apple Authorized Service Provider. (If you've tried either of these options, hit the comments and let us know how long it actually took.)

Few users are likely to want to wait that long, which leaves either a local phone repair shop or a service like iCracked, which I evaluated a couple years back. Although I used it for screen repair, the company offers battery replacement as well. The big benefit: iCracked dispatches a tech to pretty much any location you like -- home, office, the local Starbucks, wherever. And the repair will probably take no more than an hour.

Similarly, if there's a phone-repair shop near you, it probably offers same-day battery replacement. Pricing tends to vary depending on the age and model of your phone. Based on the quotes I received, you should expect to pay around $50-$70 for anything in the iPhone 6($319.99 at Amazon Marketplace) family.

That may seem high for something as small and inexpensive as a battery, but it's still considerably less than buying a new phone.

What are your thoughts when it comes to battery replacement? Think it's smarter to save money and do it yourself, or would you only trust a pro to handle something as important as your phone? Share your experiences in the comments!

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