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My date with iCracked on-site iPhone repair, part 2

How much does it cost for a tech to come to you, and is it worth it?

My iCracked tech met me at the local Starbucks, tools at the ready. Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

Broken iPhone? What could be easier than a local tech who comes to you and fixes the handset while you wait?

That's what I set out to learn after repair service iCracked announced a new app that would dispatch a tech to your home, office, or a public place. As I detailed in part one of my I expected to pay a higher-than-average price, but was intrigued by the convenience of a fast, on-site fix.

For the record, I live in metro Detroit. Your mileage can indeed vary depending on your location and how many techs work in your area. Indeed, if you're somewhat rural, there's no guarantee iCracked will be able to service you (on-site, anyway -- there's also a repair-by-mail option). What's more, different techs charge different rates, as they're all independent contractors. (They're also trained and certified by iCracked, which to me offers a peace of mind you don't get from the repair guy on Craigslist.)

Tap here to repair

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

The app asks a few key questions about your phone and the type of repair you need (screen, battery, etc.), then requests a name, phone number, and email address. However, it assumes that your iPhone is still functional, because if you enter a landline number, you won't receive the confirmation text messages. That's a potential hiccup iCracked needs to address.

Fortunately, I was using a different phone than the one that needed repair, and within moments I received a notification. It said the tech was "away," but included his name and phone number in case I wanted to reach out myself. I didn't have to: About 10 minutes later, I received a call from Nick, a friendly, upbeat guy who confirmed the details of my repair and suggested meeting at a local Starbucks. I could just as easily have had him come to my home or office, which would have saved me travel time.

Obviously I wanted a price quote first, and Nick told me the repair would cost $79 and take about an hour. That included parts, labor, his travel, and a 99-year warranty. "Sorry, I think you meant 90 days?" I asked. He repeated: 99 years. That's for anything related to the repair, of course, not any future clumsiness on my part. But, yeah, iCracked covers their service and replacement screens pretty much for life.

For sake of comparison, a local repair shop was willing to do the job for $70, but with only a three-month warranty. And I'd have to drive across town to get there.

As for the app, that was the end of its involvement. There's no way to get updates on the tech's status or monitor the request; it's pretty much the matchmaker and that's it. Still, it was undeniably convenient.

Coffee shop meets repair shop

Nick could have met me that same afternoon, but owing to my own schedule I put it off a couple days. He beat me to Starbucks by a full 20 minutes, as I learned via the text message informing me that my "tech has arrived."

Ripping into the guts of the iPhone. Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

After running a few quick diagnostics to make sure other aspects of the phone still worked (Home button, headphone jack, microphone, and so on), I signed off on the repair. Nick said I could take off or stick around, and of course I chose the latter to see how a pro does it. (I am a total iPhone repair amateur, as I learned last month.)

The entire experience couldn't have gone better. Nick was friendly, articulate, and fast: the broken iPhone 4 got a new screen in 45 minutes flat, and that was with me peppering him with a bunch of pesky questions almost the entire time. The replacement screen came with a matte-finish plastic protector already applied, a nice touch.

Fixed! Good as new. Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

Nick was also smart enough to tell me, during our initial phone conversation, to make sure the phone was fully charged and backed up before bringing it to him -- because you "just never know."

iCracked is not likely to be the least expensive repair option for your broken iPhone, though for an iPhone 4, at least, it's very competitive. By paying a little extra, you're getting the convenience of fast, on-site repair -- something you can take care of on your lunch hour. Like I said, your mileage may vary, but based on my experience, I highly recommend the service.