What to Do if Your iPhone Breaks

While the iPhone X went on sale this past Friday, many of us with older models can be thankful Apple still provides the best support among any of the phone manufacturers. In fact, that support is reason enough to consider purchasing an iPhone over most of its rivals.

Smartphones are more prone to damage than any other consumer tech product. We use them everywhere and under all sorts of conditions. Considering they’re made mostly of glass and aluminum, they’re easily damaged. And the newer phones, with their added complexity, are even more likely to need support.

Consider the new iPhone X. It’s the most complex of any smartphone ever built. iFixit, the company that’s known for teardowns and dissections of electronic products, bought an iPhone X when it first went on sale in Australia, and already has taken it apart and done their analysis.

While slightly more repairable than earlier iPhones, they found that “glass on front and back doubles the likelihood of drop damage—and if the back glass breaks, you’ll be removing every component and replacing the entire chassis.”

How likely is it to break? Cnet did a drop test and found that the glass back easily broke after a three-foot drop:

“The iPhone X can probably handle your everyday wear and tear, but dropping it without a case is out of the question. We learned it only takes one bad drop to break the glass on this phone. Even the stainless-steel frame is susceptible to damage,” they wrote.

So what happens if your iPhone becomes damaged, whether it’s an X or older model? Apple will replace your display for $129 or $169 for the iPhone 6 and Plus models respectively, and a whopping $279 for the new iPhone X.  If the rear glass on the X breaks, the cost of replacing it is $550!

While most insurance plans for electronics are rarely worthwhile and some are a ripoff, AppleCare+ is an exception and  I’d recommend it. It’s available regardless of where you bought your iPhone, as long as you sign up within 60 days of your purchase and your phone is still in good condition.

AppleCare+ extends coverage to two years from the original purchase date and allows up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a service fee of $29 for screen damage, or $99 for any other damage (such as the back of an iPhone X, which otherwise costs $550). AppleCare+ for the iPhone 8 costs $129. The iPhone 8 Plus is $149, while the iPhone X jumps to $199. It includes 24/7 priority access to Apple experts via chat or phone.

But even if you’re out of warranty or don’t have AppleCare, you can get free support by making an appointment with the Genius Bar at an Apple Store. Regardless of where you bought your phone or how old it is, you’ll be able to get good help. I’ve spent quite a bit of time observing the employees at the Genius Bar, often while waiting for my own repairs, and I’ve seen customer after customer treated with respect and most leave with some degree of satisfaction.

Apple will also replace an out of warranty product if the problem is design related, and many design-related causes are confidential to Apple, so it’s worth asking. I had an iPhone 6 replaced because it developed a slight bend and had a home button replaced because it lost its click years after the warranty expired. You can also escalate an issue to the store manager, who will often authorize a free repair or replacement.

Understand that every phone will eventually need to be repaired, even if not damaged. Its battery will wear out within a couple of years. After 500 recharges, it will have lost one-third to one-half its capacity. Apple can replace the battery for $79, often while you wait.

While all complex electronic products are subject to failure or damage with use, Apple is alone among all of the manufacturers to offer service at this level. It’s one reason why their customers are so loyal and willing to pay a little more.