When to repair your cell phone, when to replace it

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If you're like most people, your cell phone is within reach at all times – morning, noon and night.  But with all that usage, your phone is more likely to suffer some damage.  But when does it pay to repair your phone instead of replacing it?

Elias Quintana relies on his cell phone to help with his day-to-day activities, but it's been a little tricky lately with a broken screen.

"Within the same week it happened. One day I dropped it getting out of the car and the next day I dropped it in my apartment and then the day after that I dropped it outside somewhere," he said.

"Cell phones today have become a lifeline for most of us," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "We carry them with us wherever we go which means they are likely to get dropped, dropped in the water, broken, and many times people think they automatically need replaced, but they can be repaired. It's something you should check out to see whether it's cost-efficient."

According to Angie's List, repair typically costs a fraction of what you would pay to replace your smartphone – a new one can run about $500 when not subsidized by a phone carrier.

A common repair such as a cracked screen can often be fixed for less than $100.  But sometimes fixing just isn't cost effective – like paying to replace your phone's motherboard.

"We're seeing more and more companies that will do cell phone repair, but the key here is finding someone who specializes in the make and model of your type of phone so that they have the right expertise," explained Hicks.

The best thing you can do to avoid repair or replacement costs? Take care of your phone.

"Investing $100 or $50 in a high quality case is going to be the best thing for you," said Chris Barclay, who does cell phone repair work.  "A lot of people don't want the bulk of it, or they don't like the color of it, and that's not the purpose of the case. The case is to protect your investment so you don't have to come see me."

If you have phone insurance, be sure to read and understand exactly what it covers. 

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a cellphone repair company

  • How much? Repair typically costs a fraction of the replacement cost of a new smartphone, which often runs $500 or so when not subsidized by a phone carrier. Be sure the estimate includes costs for labor and parts before you sign off on anything.
  • Is there a guarantee? Does the work come with a guarantee? How long is the guarantee? Make sure you have all the details in writing.
  • Match the item to the technician: Finding the right repair shop for your device depends on the experience and specialty of the shop. Look for a repair shop that specializes in the kind of item you need fixed. You want someone who is knowledgeable about your device.

Angie's List Tips: Taking care of your phone

  • Protect it: Invest in a high quality phone case. Check the company's warranty. Some offer a lifetime warranty on their cases so if your device breaks while in their product, they will replace the device for you.
  • Keep away from water: Avoid putting your phone on a table that has condensation. Do not take your phone in the bathroom or out on a boat, pool, etc.
  • Avoid heat: Keep your phone out of the sun and from heat sources like your stove/oven, furnace, chimney, lamps, etc.

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