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Fix Your Cracked Smartphone Without Breaking Your Budget

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Calls drop, and so do smartphones. If yours got cracked or wet and you're still months away from being eligible for an upgrade and don't want to fork over hundreds of dollars for a new phone, don't despair. Repair.

There's a wide selection of relatively inexpensive do-it-yourself repair kits available on the Internet. But before you get started, consider these tips from Matt McCormick, who owns JCD Repair, which did over $1 million worth of smartphone, iPad, and iPod repairs last year. McCormick, who got his start repairing his own smartphone, says to buy a kit that includes all the tools you'll need. It will save you time and money compared with buying the kit contents individually, he says.

First, be sure to get the right parts. "An iPhone 4 screen for an AT&T phone is different than one for an iPhone 4 on Verizon," he says. "The same goes for the Galaxy S phones -- they might all look alike online but they aren't." He also suggests watching how-to videos on YouTube, including at least one by an amateur, showing not only how to repair the phone, but how to put the phone back together, too, before attempting to make the repair. "This is often the hardest part of a repair," McCormick says. He points out that most of these videos are designed to sell parts and, therefore, have an incentive to make the process look easier than it is.

As for ease of repair, here's McCormick's take on it: "The older iPhone 3G and 3GS are both fairly easy to fix if you buy the entire assembly -- glass, LCD, and frame." He says the Galaxy S and Note series smartphones are also fairly simple, but can be expensive, to repair, ranging from $75 to $225.

"Likewise, the iPhone 5 repair is fairly simple, but in this case the entire screen assembly is essential and quite expensive, usually $150 to $200," he says.

McCormick says that repairing the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S is trickier. "You have to take the entire phone apart to replace the screen," he says. "That's 26 screws -- many are different shapes and sizes -- and a lot of components to keep track of."

"There is a much less expensive option for the Samsung phones and iPhone 5 if just the front glass is cracked," McCormick says. You can purchase a piece of glass for $5 to $20 and then separate the cracked glass from the LCD. But if not done right, he warns, "the LCD will crack."

--Written by S.Z. Berg, author of College on the Cheap, for MainStreet

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