What really happens when your phone or iPad goes in for repair

If you were travelling back into work this morning then, if you’re on the train or Tube, I’ll bet you’ve seen someone using a broken phone. Phones, let’s admit, are expensive things. We already pay enough per month to buy the things, so the thought of paying even more for phone insurance can push things a bit too far.

Your gloriously shiny phone is probably constructed from glass and metals to give it a premium feel. So, even with a case it can end up face-down on the concrete and you’ll end up with a cracked screen. This is what I tend to see quite a lot of on public transport. People will continue trying to using their​ phones, even with hairline cracks or smashed corners.

It’s surprising how this happens really, because people are prepared to paying £500-£700 for a posh smartphone but if it gets dropped and develops a broken glass screen, they’ll hold off repairing it, even when it becomes difficult or annoying to use. Why? Well, strangely it’s cost.

Yes, that doesn’t make sense. You can spend hundreds of pounds buying the phone but the idea of paying a much smaller amount to repair it? That’s something many people don’t want to pay out for.

So, a friend had an iPad and they’re a very good example. The iPad had a broken screen on the lower-left corner. It also had a slightly wonky (but still working) home button. Trouble is, the way this particular glass frontage had shattered, it was cutting the fingers of those using it. They’d resorted to putting tape on the front after their daughter cut her finger using it.

Take that iPad to Apple to repair and it can cost £556.44 for an iPad Pro 12.9 inch out-of-warranty. Even this particular iPad 2 will cost you £246.44 with Apple to repair. The cheapest we found was the iPad mini repair, with Apple prepared to swap out the cracked or shattered glass for £196.44. Apple, unsurprisingly, want you to instead take out AppleCare+ to guard against these fees, but why does it cost quite so much?

Well, for a start, that’s Apple. I’m not going to pay £246.44 to replace the glass frontage on this iPad. That’s nuts, sorry Apple. I could buy another one off eBay for that.

So I’m going to send it to a local company instead. I’ve chosen iMend because their HQ is right around the corner. However, you don’t need to live close to them or post it off of you don’t want to. Instead, they’ll come out to your chosen location and repair your phone or iPad in front of you while you carry on your day. This is great if you’re a bit worried about the data on the device or you just want the repair done quickly at a time to suit you. The price? it’s £49.99 for this iPad.

What? You still think it’s expensive? Well, consider for a moment that the excess on a phone insurance policy alone could be that much and it’s actually quite competitive. It’s certainly way cheaper than Apple themselves, but if you still think this is a lot to pay, let’s take a look at the journey our iPad took. Let’s see the level of work involved “just” to swap the glass frontage and put a new button in.

I asked the people at iMend to let me know exactly what a screen swap actually entails. I sent it in rather than have them come to me, and this is what actually happens to your device during the repair process. In this case, it was a cracked screen and a wonky button, but they do a lot more than just a quick swap-out.

First, they receive the device into their repair centre and a pre-test is carried out to make sure all components are in fully working order. This is to ensure that there aren’t any other problems with the device apart from the one it was booked in for. Additional repairs may be needed, so this is the point at which the technicians would be in contact with the customer.

Here we can see the device’s LCD is working and the screen is simply just cracked…

The next stage is to heat the device using a heat pad for approximately 15-20 minutes. Some local repair shops may not do all of these steps, so it’s worth taking it to a professional repair centre like iMend. Why heat it? Well, it will warm the adhesive making the removal of the front panel easier. Technicians use a flat metal pry tool to slowly and carefully lift the screen away from the frame.

Once the glass screen has been prized apart, the home button will also be separated, ready to be re-fitted later on down the line. The LCD sits closely behind the front glass, so when prizing the glass away from the frame, the technician must be extremely careful.

Underneath the LCD here you can see the Battery, motherboard and many other internal components.

As well as removing that home button, the technicians also have to remove the home button connector. This connector is attached to the motherboard and basically makes it work. The flex is then connected to a new front glass as shown below.

New adhesive tape is then fitted to the frame of the iPad ready for the new front glass to be adhered.The LCD has also been removed to avoid any damage and to improve cleanliness.

The new front glass is fitted to the frame and the digitiser connector is plugged into the counterpart on the board.

The LCD is then reconnected to the motherboard and is reseated within the frame. This is then fixed in with 4 securing screws.

The LCD is then thoroughly cleaned, removing dust, glass and any fingerprints that might have dirtied up the screen during the process. This is cleaned with anti-static cleanroom wipes and a fine brush.

Now the front glass is adhered to the screen using the adhesive strips applied earlier. The technicians will again need to be very precise and careful so that the glass aligns with the home button and the camera.

Once the front glass is adhered to the frame, this is taped to the chassis. Taping the front glass down onto the frame allows the adhesive to set and prevents the frame from lifting during this process. The tape is then left on the device for roughly an an hour to make sure the front glass is secure.

Is that it? No, not yet. Finally it’s given a full QA test, where post-repair testing is performed via a specialist diagnostic system which will check that the repair was successful and will re-check that there’s no other problems on the device. A full analytical report will be returned.

So, after all that, it’s slightly more clear why it’s not a small amount to replace and repair the expensive gadgets we carry around. Testing, professional engineers and the correct apparatus and tools are needed for a proper job to be done. Sure, you might find that a guy on the market is offering to do it – sometimes for less – but will it be a quality, long-lasting repair?

Overall, it was very revealing to see what actually does happen behind the doors of the repair centre, and we’d like to thank iMend for inviting us in to see just how extensive the repair and testing process actually is.