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What to do with a broken iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen

Get it fixed by Apple... or don't.

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Oops, you did it again -- you dropped your iPhone 7 ($740.00 at Amazon.com) on the sidewalk and now the screen is a mess.

Good news: Apple's (sort of) got your back. Broken iPhone screens are so ridiculously common that the company has apparently decided they don't even need to charge that much for the repair -- because, you know, so many people are coming in with the problem that they're making money regardless. So here are your options for fixing (or not fixing) that broken iPhone 7 or 7 Plus ($894.99 at Amazon.com) screen:

Suck it up

A broken iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen isn't the end of the world. If the cracks in your screen are minimal and purely cosmetic, you may want to put off repairs until they're actually problematic. I suggest picking up a glass screen protector -- such as Ventev's ToughGlass for iPhone 7 or Case-Mate's Gilded Glass Screen Protector for iPhone 7 Plus -- to keep cracks from spreading (and to prevent any cuts as you slide your finger across the screen).

Get it fixed by Apple

The best option for getting your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen fixed: Apple.

If you have AppleCare+, a broken iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen will cost a mere $29 to fix. However, AppleCare+ costs $129 and only covers two broken screen incidents per device -- so your first broken screen will actually cost $158 (which is more than a broken screen replacement for an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus without AppleCare+), but if you break it a second time the cost-per-incident will go down to $93.50. To check if your device is covered by AppleCare+, go here and enter your iPhone serial number.

Without AppleCare+, the cost for fixing screen damage (and only screen damage) is still very reasonable: $129 for an iPhone 7 screen and $149 for an iPhone 7 Plus screen.

To get your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen fixed by Apple, you will need to take your phone into an Apple Store or send it into an Apple Repair Center. Sending a phone into an Apple Repair Center will cost $6.95 in shipping fees, and your phone will be returned to you approximately three to five business days after the Repair Center receives your device -- so this option could mean as much as a week without your phone. In-store screen repairs usually take about an hour to an hour and a half, but you will need to reserve a spot at the Genius Bar (and you may not be able to get a same-day reservation, depending on how busy your local store is).

Tips:

  • Take your phone in ASAP: If your phone has a single, hairline crack, Apple may consider the damage to be due to a manufacturing defect and may fix your phone for free. Apple techs will determine whether this is the case -- there's no guarantee that a broken screen, no matter how small the crack, will be considered a manufacturing defect instead of accidental damage.
  • Ask with kindness: You may be able to convince Apple techs to fix your phone for free -- even if you have more than one hairline crack -- especially if there are no other signs of drops or damage (only the screen is broken). Again, this is because Apple will fix screen breaks due to manufacturing defects for free -- but Apple techs are the ones who determine whether your break is due to a defect or an accident. Note that manufacturing defects are only covered if the device is under warranty -- so, within the first year without AppleCare+, or within two years with AppleCare+.
  • Back up your device: It's unlikely that anything will happen to your data during the repair, but it's better to be safe. Here's how to back up your device.
  • Have your Apple ID password ready: You will need to unlock your phone and turn off Find My iPhone before the techs will take your device. You'll need your Apple ID password to do this, so make sure you have it handy (this is especially important if you're taking someone else's phone in).

(Don't) get it fixed by a third-party repair shop

Apple's screen repair service is pretty cheap -- so cheap, in fact, that it probably doesn't make sense to go to a third-party repair shop unless you're in a pinch. For example, you don't live near an Apple Store and you can't bear to be without your phone for a week.

Most third-party repair services can't repair an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus screen for significantly less than $129 to $149, and any discount you'll get might not be worth the risk. Third-party repair services usually use third-party parts in their repairs -- and some of these parts may not be up to Apple's usual standard of excellence.

If you go to a bad third-party repair shop, you may end up with problems like a home button that no longer recognizes fingerprints... or a bricked iPhone. And if a third-party repair shop bricks your iPhone, not only will you void your phone's warranty, Apple may refuse to work on your phone at all. So, if you do decide to go with a third-party repair, make sure they offer a warranty on their service and any parts they replace.