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  • Personal Story: Why I Repaired a Broken iPhone Instead of Buying a New/Used One


    iPhones are expensive to buy new; even used, some people just seem to have very high expectations for resale values. I recently wanted to help a close friend of mine to get a new iPhone since she had been using an iPhone 4 for about two years, and because it's no longer a modern iPhone, I really wanted to help her get an iPhone 5, which can at least run iOS 8 and at least has a dual-core processor.

    So I was tasked with the goal of either finding a decently-priced used iPhone 5 somewhere online, or attempting to find a friend that upgraded to an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus that was willing to sell me one for cheap. Long story short, I didn't find any that were less than $200 or anywhere near affordable, so I needed a new plan.

    The first thing that I thought of is that when iPhones get destroyed in drops or parts on the phones stop working, people tend to care much less about them and their value and tend to just try to get rid of them so they can get a new one. My dad recently threw his on the ground because he got angry at his iPhone, so I asked him about it and I managed to swipe his broken and non-functioning iPhone 5 for free because he didn't want it anymore.

    The iPhone 5 I obtained from my dad had been destroyed after being tossed at the ground several times. None of the cameras worked anymore, the battery was shriveled from the falls and would cause overheating whenever you would try to charge it, and the display shattered. Since it was thrown at a tile floor, the aluminum uni-body was bent and distorted and had scuffs all over it. Not to mention, when I attempted to remove the Home Button from the display assembly, I ripped the Home Button ribbon cable, so that was another broken part. The whole thing just looked like a hopeless mess or was it?

    I decided that because I got this broken iPhone 5 for free, it might be worth trying to re-build. I ended up shopping on Ebay and I found a brand-new battery, front-facing camera assembly, rear-facing camera assembly, Home Button ribbon cable, and display, all for under $50 shipped to my door. Since the iPhone was a slate-gray iPhone 5, some sharpie permanent marker marks hid the scuffs and a pair of pliers unbent the iPhone's aluminum uni-body quite well.

    Now, my total investment in this iPhone was just $50, much lower than the cost of an iPhone 5 online for $200 and up.

    I decided to tinker with it for a while; it was very stressful with all of the different-sized little screws and hair-thin ribbon and coaxial cables, but when I finally had all the parts disassembled, I installed the new parts I ordered. After a little finger-crossing and good luck, the iPhone powered on again and everything worked the cameras, the Home Button, the display, and the battery no longer overheated.

    I ran the iPhone through a battery test via the Geekbench 3.3 iOS application, and I successfully drained the battery from 100% to 0% without any overheating. The same went for charging the device back up. I even tried gaming and other complex tasks, and the device still wouldn't overheat. I came to the conclusion that simply replacing the battery was enough to keep this iPhone at operating temperature. After all, when Lithium-Ion batteries get crumpled or bent, like this iPhone 5's battery did after being thrown at the floor, they tend to malfunction in dangerous ways.

    More tests showed that the iPhone's cameras were able to take pictures and record video, and that everything else I had replaced worked perfectly. Now, I've got an iPhone 5 with some battle scars that works like new and has plenty of life in it still for just $50 that I'll be able to give to my friend not too shabby, considering many used iPhones on Ebay for $200 or more also have scuffs and dents in them.

    So the moral to the story here is that if you were thinking about buying a used iPhone, but can't justify the cost, try seeing if any of your friends or family have any broken iPhones first that they would be willing to part with. It takes a little time, but trying to re-build your own iPhone can be incredibly cost-efficient and you can learn a lot about what makes your iPhone tick by doing it. I found guides like those on iFixit to be very helpful in taking apart an iPhone for the first time.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Personal Story: A Reason You Should Try Building Your Own iPhone Instead of Buying One started by Anthony Bouchard View original post
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. dmoore210's Avatar
      dmoore210 -
      I think you should replace the word "built" with "fixed a broken". Built I'm assuming you created some custom enclosure and pieced together parts from a bunch of different iphones. Not just ordering a new screen assembly and battery from ebay...
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by dmoore210 View Post
      I think you should replace the word "built" with "fixed a broken". Built I'm assuming you created some custom enclosure and pieced together parts from a bunch of different iphones. Not just ordering a new screen assembly and battery from ebay...
      Good idea. I went ahead and did that to eliminate some confusion.
    1. oldskoolsk8r's Avatar
      oldskoolsk8r -
      I fixed my 15 yr olds iPhone 4s which was mine a couple of years ago. The speaker and ringer stopped working on it, so I went to iFixit's website and bought the parts and tools and watched their videos on YouTube and repaired my sons 4s back to new for only about 20 bucks!
    1. Jozelito617's Avatar
      Jozelito617 -
      I'm working in iservice here in boston! We are cheaper than Apple ..'no wait every store is cheaper than apple lol.. We'll come on in guys!
    1. thazsar's Avatar
      thazsar -
      I just can't believe you got all those parts INCLUDING a display for $50!?!? That's crazy and awesome!!! [emoji109][emoji106]
    1. CZroe's Avatar
      CZroe -
      Quote Originally Posted by thazsar View Post
      I just can't believe you got all those parts INCLUDING a display for $50!?!? That's crazy and awesome!!! [emoji109][emoji106]
      Common knowledge. I've done hundreds and hundreds of iPhones and iPads at-cost for friends, family, coworkers, friends of friends/family/coworkers, family of coworkers, and the occasional odd-ball (word of mouth, random encounter, etc). Hardly anything has ever crossed the $30 mark.

      I laughed when I saw this thinking this wasn't newsworthy but, well, I guess there are others like yourself.
    1. caitsith2's Avatar
      caitsith2 -
      I got my dad's old iphone 4s, (which he accidentally froze in harsh -30 weather) and repaired it. The battery and speaker outright failed, and the dock connector had some intermittent issues. He had in the meanwhile paid out the remainder of his contract (This was still back in the day of 3 year contracts), and upgraded to an iphone 6.

      Definitely worthwhile to repair an iphone.
    1. evilp8ntballer7's Avatar
      evilp8ntballer7 -
      Often times it is easy to mess up a repair on your own if you don't know what you are doing. You can always bring your devices to Wires Computing or send them in to get fixed. iPhone Repair Burlington VT Computer Repair - Computer Electronics Repair
    1. vinaygoel2000's Avatar
      vinaygoel2000 -
      ᑕOᑌᒪᗪ I ᗩᔕK ᗩᒪᒪ TᕼE ᗷᖇᗩᐯE TIᑎKEᖇEᖇᔕ ᕼOᗯ ᗰᑌᑕᕼ TIᗰE ᗪIᗪ IT TᗩKE ᖴᖇOᗰ ᗯᕼEᑎ YOᑌ ᔕTᗩᖇTEᗪ TᕼIᑎKIᑎG ᗩᗷOᑌT ᖇEᑭᗩIᖇIᑎG ᗩ ᑭᕼOᑎE TO ᗩᑕTᑌᗩᒪᒪY ᗷEIᑎG ᑕOᗰᑭᒪETE. I'ᗰ ᑎOT ᗷEIᑎG ᔕᗩᖇᑕᗩᔕTIᑕ ᗩT ᗩᒪᒪ ᗩᑎᗪ GIᐯE KᑌᗪOᔕ. I ᒍᑌᔕT ᗯᗩᑎᑎᗩ ᖴIᑎᗪ OᑌT Iᖴ I ᕼᗩᐯE TᕼᗩT ᗰᑌᑕᕼ ᑭᗩTIEᑎᑕE. TIᗰE Iᔕ ᗩᑎ IᗰᑭOᖇTᗩᑎT ᖴᗩᑕTOᖇ TᕼᗩTᔕ ᗰIᔕᔕIᑎG ᖴᖇOᗰ TᕼE GᖇEᗩT ᗩᖇTIᑕᒪE. [emoji106][emoji106][emoji106]
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by vinaygoel2000 View Post
      ᑕOᑌᒪᗪ I ᗩᔕK ᗩᒪᒪ TᕼE ᗷᖇᗩᐯE TIᑎKEᖇEᖇᔕ ᕼOᗯ ᗰᑌᑕᕼ TIᗰE ᗪIᗪ IT TᗩKE ᖴᖇOᗰ ᗯᕼEᑎ YOᑌ ᔕTᗩᖇTEᗪ TᕼIᑎKIᑎG ᗩᗷOᑌT ᖇEᑭᗩIᖇIᑎG ᗩ ᑭᕼOᑎE TO ᗩᑕTᑌᗩᒪᒪY ᗷEIᑎG ᑕOᗰᑭᒪETE. I'ᗰ ᑎOT ᗷEIᑎG ᔕᗩᖇᑕᗩᔕTIᑕ ᗩT ᗩᒪᒪ ᗩᑎᗪ GIᐯE KᑌᗪOᔕ. I ᒍᑌᔕT ᗯᗩᑎᑎᗩ ᖴIᑎᗪ OᑌT Iᖴ I ᕼᗩᐯE TᕼᗩT ᗰᑌᑕᕼ ᑭᗩTIEᑎᑕE. TIᗰE Iᔕ ᗩᑎ IᗰᑭOᖇTᗩᑎT ᖴᗩᑕTOᖇ TᕼᗩTᔕ ᗰIᔕᔕIᑎG ᖴᖇOᗰ TᕼE GᖇEᗩT ᗩᖇTIᑕᒪE. [emoji106][emoji106][emoji106]
      I had the iPhone apart and back together again within a day. It was just waiting for the parts to ship that took a while. I think maybe 3 hours tops for all the parts I needed to replace and it was up and running again.

      I did break a GPS logic board cable while re-installing it, so I have to install a new one. I ordered that this weekend to put it in and fix it. It doesn't affect the performance of the device unless you try to get turn-by-turn navigation working.
    1. tihomirbg's Avatar
      tihomirbg -
      Delete
    1. tihomirbg's Avatar
      tihomirbg -
      Good reading- I am big on dyi especially when they are successful. Good job
      One question, you said you got the parts from eBay. We know how much fake stuff is on eBay, how did you know the parts you got were oem genuine parts- not some wanna be apple replacement parts?
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by tihomirbg View Post
      Good reading- I am big on dyi especially when they are successful. Good job
      One question, you said you got the parts from eBay. We know how much fake stuff is on eBay, how did you know the parts you got were oem genuine parts- not some wanna be apple replacement parts?
      Most of the time in the pictures you can see the part numbers or specs printed on the parts. I compared them to the ones that I removed from my broken phone and took a risk because they were just $3-9 each.

      For example, on the battery I looked to make sure that the battery had the same mAh. I also looked to make sure the cameras looked exactly the same, albeit they didn't have any part numbers that I could see.
    1. tihomirbg's Avatar
      tihomirbg -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      Most of the time in the pictures you can see the part numbers or specs printed on the parts. I compared them to the ones that I removed from my broken phone and took a risk because they were just $3-9 each.

      For example, on the battery I looked to make sure that the battery had the same mAh. I also looked to make sure the cameras looked exactly the same, albeit they didn't have any part numbers that I could see.
      Got ya, that makes sense. I will be changing the battery and the home button on a iPhone 5 but will be getting parts from ifixit. Maybe I should look on eBay first.
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by tihomirbg View Post
      Got ya, that makes sense. I will be changing the battery and the home button on a iPhone 5 but will be getting parts from ifixit. Maybe I should look on eBay first.
      I would definitely look on Ebay first. You are going to save a lot of money there instead of paying full-on retail for replacement parts.
    1. sheltons.iphone's Avatar
      sheltons.iphone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      I had the iPhone apart and back together again within a day. It was just waiting for the parts to ship that took a while. I think maybe 3 hours tops for all the parts I needed to replace and it was up and running again.

      I did break a GPS logic board cable while re-installing it, so I have to install a new one. I ordered that this weekend to put it in and fix it. It doesn't affect the performance of the device unless you try to get turn-by-turn navigation working.
      So that $50 you invested on fixing the iPhone 5 would cost $110 if you made $20/hr or more likely $200 by the time you add in all the eBay search time. If it took you a day, you spent more than it was worth.

      Now add the gps you have to buy and replace and time to do that and you're at your $200 you refused to pay initially.
    1. vinaygoel2000's Avatar
      vinaygoel2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by sheltons.iphone View Post
      So that $50 you invested on fixing the iPhone 5 would cost $110 if you made $20/hr or more likely $200 by the time you add in all the eBay search time. If it took you a day, you spent more than it was worth.

      Now add the gps you have to buy and replace and time to do that and you're at your $200 you refused to pay initially.
      I'm sure he repaired the phone in his free time when he wasn't getting paid $20/hr or more. Or are you trying to tell me you work 24 hours a day?
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by sheltons.iphone View Post
      So that $50 you invested on fixing the iPhone 5 would cost $110 if you made $20/hr or more likely $200 by the time you add in all the eBay search time. If it took you a day, you spent more than it was worth.

      Now add the gps you have to buy and replace and time to do that and you're at your $200 you refused to pay initially.
      There weren't any labor costs involved. It was built on my free time as a hobby for a friend, so instead of paying $200, I have $53 of my wealth invested.

      Now I have another $147 to put towards Jeep parts!