Apple surprised us last year when it announced a new self-service repair program that would allow iPhone owners to replace their own broken screens, aging batteries, and other key components.

At this point, the program is limited to the iPhone 12 and 13 families. If you're thinking that this will allow you to fix your own screen, you might want to take a closer look at the other service options available. Apple's new Self Service Repair program is not for the faint of heart or wallet.

Unless you have AppleCare+, you will need to pay between $229 and $329 to have your screen replaced at an Apple Store. The amount depends on whether or not you own an Apple product.

Person fixing an open iPhone with tool on a blue table.

The cost is more reasonable for older models. If you want to get the screen replaced for less than the price of an Apple product, you can get it for $199. The Wayback Machine drops to $129 if you set it to an Apple device.

This assumes your screen is the only thing that has been damaged on your phone. If there is anything else wrong, you will pay more. If you're walking into an Apple Store, expect these "out-of-warranty prices" because a damaged screen is never covered by a manufacturer's warranty. Apple Authorized Service Providers don't have to follow Apple's repair pricing, so they can charge different rates.

Apple’s Self-Service Repair option

Apple's self-service repair program is a breath of fresh air at these prices. Shouldn't it be cheaper to repair your screen on your own? You would think that Apple would want to make the process as easy as possible to ensure that you have everything you need to do the job properly, but in fact it is more difficult than visiting an Apple Store.

For one thing, genuine Apple parts are not cheap. A display bundle that includes a replacement screen and all of the pieces that go with it costs $270. You will get a $33.60 credit after returning your old display to Apple, but it's only $10 less than having Apple repair it for you. The out-of-pocket cost is still $236.35.

If you're already a do-it-yourselfer, a total savings of $42.65 isn't too bad. You will probably want to avail yourself of Apple's repair toolkit, which the company is happy to rent to you for an extra $49 per week, plus a deposit held on your credit card for the replacement cost.

The kit comes in two separate cases and is 20 inches wide by 47 inches high when stacked. You won't be able to use the same kit to repair additional phones for friends or family if they all use the same iPhone.

Two large black cases open showing a variety of repair tools in Apple's Self-Service Repair Kit

It's almost as if Apple doesn't really want you to repair your own phone, but what could possibly be its motivation? Apple doesn't want its customers to hurt themselves by trying to fix their own phones without the proper tools and genuine Apple parts.

Independent repair providers

The screen replacement costs from most AASPs are the same as what Apple charges. Smaller local and regional AASPs may charge $10 to $20 less than larger national ones, depending on the model and other factors.

To be approved by Apple, AASPs must follow strict requirements. This includes regular training and certifications for repair technicians, but even things like laying out their business in a way that is consistent with the Apple brand drives up their costs.

Apple introduced a new program for Independent Repair Providers that will allow smaller repair shops to get their hands on genuine Apple parts without jumping through the hoops required to become a full AASP. The Independent Repair Provider Program has been described as somewhat burdensome, but Apple still has the right to conduct surprise inspections for small businesses.

An iPhone being repaired.

IRPs pay the same prices for genuine Apple parts and the necessary tools that AASPs do, and it's not much less than what Apple charges in its Self-service repair store. A survey of about a dozen IRPs across the U.S. revealed that the cost of screen repair for the 12 and 13 models is between $225 and $300. Some IRPs are more expensive than Apple, most often located far from an Apple Store or AASP.

The program is not worth it from a profitability point of view according to some of the IRPs I have spoken with. Many have only remained in the program hoping to use repairs to bring in new customers.

Other third-party repair shops

If you are willing to look for an unauthorized repair shop that isn't part of Apple's repair program, you can save a lot of money. Apple isn't lying when it says genuine Apple parts work better for screen and battery replacements. There are dangers to using substandard parts, but not all unauthorized parts fit into this category.

Many repair shops will take screens and batteries from unserviceable phones. Despite being used, these are still genuine Apple parts, and there's no reason they can't be used to repair another iPhone if the shop is honest about it. There are networks of repair shops that work together to trade in these types of replacement parts.

The gray market for genuine iPhone screens and batteries has been created by Apple's repair costs. The parts are legitimate, but the sources aren't. Unauthorized repair shops can offer screen replacement prices significantly below those found in the AASP and IRP market by using these methods. In my research, I found that the median price for a screen replacement for the 12th generation of the device was $200, although some shops offered it for as little as $120.

Apple has made it more difficult to use non-genuine parts to try and prevent this dealing. The service technician needs to pair the new component with the old one to replace a battery, screen, or camera system. If you don't do that, the iPhone will alert you every time it has a genuine Apple part, and Face ID may fail completely.

AppleCare+ and other protection programs

It's a good case for buying AppleCare+ if you have high repair costs. It will cover you for two incidents of accidental damage every year for a deductible of only $29 per incident for a screen replacement or other types of damage.

Unless you are accident prone, you are mostly paying for peace of mind with most insurance plans.

Two years of AppleCare+ costs $199 for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro models, or $149 for the iPhone 11, iPhone 12, or iPhone 13. It's easy to see how AppleCare+ is a bargain if you break your screen even once.

You are mostly paying for peace of mind here, unless you are accident prone. Apple is hoping that you don't break your screen while you are betting that you will break it at least once. AppleCare+ isn't the only option. Most carriers will let you take your phone to an Apple Store for the same level of service you get with AppleCare+ if you have a protection plan.

Independent insurance programs like Squaretrade may offer better options for your needs. If you want to save money on other types of damage, some companies will charge a fixed deductible regardless of the type of repair. They may offer different types of coverage. It is worth shopping around to see what is available. Repairs under these programs are still conducted by an Apple Store or Authorized Apple Service Provider, either of which will reimburse you for the cost of the out-of-warranty repairs.

What is the lesson here? If you break the screen on your phone, you will probably wish you had AppleCare+ or a similar extended warranty. Unless you are very handy with some rented spanners, you should not attempt to repair it yourself.

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