What to do with a broken iPhone 6S/6S Plus screen

Your options for replacing -- or not replacing -- a shattered iPhone screen.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal Freelance Writer
Sarah is a freelance writer and CNET How To blogger. Her main focus is Windows, but she also covers everything from mobile tech to video games to DIY hardware projects. She likes to press buttons and see what happens, so don't let her near any control panels.
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
5 min read
Whoops. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

The iPhone 6S is made of metal and glass -- mostly glass. So it's probably only a matter of time before you drop it on the concrete and end up with a shattered screen (unless you happen to be rocking an ultra-protective Ballistic case, or something).

Assuming you don't have month-to-month phone insurance, what do you do now? Here are your options.

Get it replaced by Apple

Getting your screen replaced by Apple is easy and surprisingly cheap -- possibly even free, depending on the type of damage and whether you're still under warranty.

Apple charges $129 (plus tax) to fix a broken iPhone 6S screen and $149 (plus tax) to fix a broken iPhone 6S Plus screen. You'll pay $109 for a broken iPhone 6 screen and $129 for a broken iPhone 6S screen. If you can't get to an Apple store, you can mail your device in to Apple for a shipping fee of $6.95.

If you purchased AppleCare+ ($99 for two years) for your device, you'll only have to pay $99 for a screen repair for both the 6S and the 6S Plus. The 6 and 6 Plus will cost $79. But be warned that AppleCare+ only covers two incidents of accidental damage.

Finally, if your phone is still under warranty and the crack in your screen is just a hairline (single line) crack, Apple may replace your screen for free, because in certain cases it considers hairline cracks (without any obvious sign of drop impact) to be indicative of defective glass. You can check your warranty status on Apple's website.

If you're going to have someone else fix your device, Apple is probably your best choice: the repair is inexpensive and won't void your warranty (in fact, Apple will extend your warranty from that day by 90 days). Plus, if you can get into an Apple store, you may be able to convince the Genius Bar to fix your phone for free (even if there's more than one hairline crack). Assuming you can make a timely Genius Bar appointment, it takes Apple about an one hour to replace your screen.

The main drawback to Apple's repair service is that if you're not near an Apple store, you'll need to send your phone in for service, which will take three to five days -- who wants to go almost a week without their iPhone?

Get it replaced by a third party

You don't have to go to Apple to get your screen repaired, but going anywhere else will void your warranty (and trust me, Apple can tell if a non-Apple employee has opened up your phone). But if you're out of warranty anyway, there's no shortage of third-party Apple repair places eager to get their hands on your shattered screen.

When you're shopping around for a good repair company, there are a few questions you'll want to ask before handing over your device:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What type of warranty do you offer?

Because this third-party company will be voiding your Apple warranty, you want to make sure they'll stand behind their work and parts -- the last thing you want is a crack-free but defective screen.

Now that Apple is replacing screens for under $150, it's difficult for third-party vendors to compete, price-wise. I called a few local repair stores around Los Angeles and got quotes ranging from $100 to $250 for a broken iPhone 6S screen. The main benefit of going to a third party is time. Many will be able to repair your phone in under an hour, and some will even come to your home or office to pick up the device.

Replace it yourself? Think again.

You can find glass replacement kits cost between $10 and $25 online and they include new glass, a suction cup tool for removing your screen, pentalobe and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and prying tools.

If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. Replacing the glass is much more difficult than replacing the entire touchscreen, because you will need to separate the glass from the touchscreen and then glue the new piece of glass onto the old touchscreen. That's something you should leave to professionals.

A touchscreen replacement kit -- which includes much more than just the glass, but is theoretically easier to install -- is priced between $100 and $150, so you might as well take your phone to Apple or a professional to do the work. We haven't tested these replacement parts ourselves and do not recommend it.

Plus, with the DIY approach, you will void your warranty and have nobody but yourself to blame if something goes wrong.

According to microsoldering expert Jessa Burdett of iPad Rehab, "one could sooner learn to microsolder components smaller than a human hair on an iPhone motherboard than successfully complete a glass-only screen replacement on an iPhone 6."

Replacing the screen will cost you as much, if not more, than simply taking your device to the Apple store.

Deal with it

If you're really short on cash, and taking apart your iPhone 6S scares you, you can also just opt to...live with a broken screen.

It won't look pretty, but you don't need to replace your screen when it cracks, especially if the cracks are around the edges of the screen and don't interfere with actually using the phone. If you have one or two large cracks that run across the screen, I suggest looking into a glass screen protector such as Tech Armor's Edge to Edge HD Clear Ballistic Glass screen protector ($20) or Zagg's glass screen protector ($40) so you don't cut your fingers as you swipe. (If your screen is absolutely shattered, a glass screen protector will keep you from getting cut, but your phone may still be unusable.)

Editors' note: This was originally published on March 24, 2015, and has been updated to reflect repair pricing and details for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. The post has since been updated to add more clarification that CNET does not recommend you use a kit to replace your iPhone's screen.