Broken iPod Touch: Repair or replace?

So your precious iPod kissed the pavement, shattering its screen. Are you better off buying a replacement, or can it be repaired?

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
CBS Interactive


Is there a worse feeling than seeing your iPod Touch smack the ground and hearing the unmistakable crack of glass?

Just one: picking up the iPod and realizing the screen is shattered top-to-bottom. That was one expensive attack of gravity.

This happened to my daughter not long ago, resulting in a fourth-gen iPod Touch that, remarkably, still worked, but really wasn't usable anymore owing to the spider web of cracked glass.

As the household cheapskate, I figured it would be cheaper to repair the unit than buy a new one. After all, a current 32GB iPod Touch sells new for $299 and refurbished one for $249.

Sure enough, a quick check of eBay revealed "4th-gen iPod Touch glass digitizer touchscreens" for as little as $12 -- repair tools included. Sold!

Heh, heh, too bad for the suckers paying $70, $80, even $100 to have their iPods fixed by professionals. I can operate a screwdriver; how hard could the job be?

Before I could find out, I discovered that I'd wasted $12. Although only the Touch's glass was broken, the 4th-gen model is designed in such a way that it's permanently adhered to the LCD beneath it. Even though the latter was still functioning, some online research revealed that it's close to impossible to replace just the glass. Crud.

(As I understand it, and as detailed in Donald Bell's story on fixing a cracked iPod Touch screen, earlier-generation models weren't like this. You could replace just the glass.)

So then I went shopping for a replacement "LCD screen digitizer assembly" (i.e. the whole kit and kaboodle) -- and found one (again on Ebay) for around $26 shipped. Still a bargain compared with hiring a pro and paying a huge markup for the parts.

When that kit arrived, I watched a couple YouTube videos demonstrating the screen-replacement process. They made it look fairly easy, but it's not -- especially if the screen is really busted up, which mine was. I ended up removing a lot of individual shards of glass before finally getting the main assembly pried loose.

From there I discovered that a lighted, freestanding magnifying glass is a must. The iPod Touch, a miracle of modern engineering, is packed with tiny components, including screws that are downright molecular.

It took me nearly 2 hours of careful, painstaking work to disassemble the unit, connect the new screen, and put it together again -- only to discover that something didn't work right. The screen lit up, but with only a blank white image.

Was it defective? Had I shorted something out? Torn one of the paper-thin ribbon cables? There was no way to know. All I had to show for my work was a lot of frustration and a disappointed daughter.

Moral of the story: Unless you're really adept with tiny electronics, it probably makes sense to pay a pro to handle the repair. That said, I found a couple shops in my area that were willing to do the labor for $20-30 if I supplied the part. Given what I paid on Ebay for the replacement LCD, that would get me out the door for around $55 -- maybe less.

Of course, even if you pay a service like DigiExpress or Rapid Repair upwards of $100 for the parts and service, it's still quite a bit less than the price of a new iPod.

Have you ever attempted an iPod or iPhone screen repair on your own? If so, how did it go?