Broken smartphones are a pitfall that few of us can avoid.
Whether it’s a smashed screen or faulty battery, chances are you’ve had to get your handset fixed at some point.
However, repairs for smartphones are something of a murky area, one where warranties and insurance come into play and manufacturers often hold all of the cards.
As Apple’s ‘Error 53’ glitch showed, customers who turn to third-party repair shops can even find their phones become completely unusable as a result.
The good news is that if you’ve got a broken smartphone, we’re here to help.
Read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about third-party repairs and whether you should take the risk.
Know your warranty
Accidental damage is not covered by standard warranties for smartphones. This includes very common problems such as cracked screens and water damage.
If the error is the fault of the manufacturer, such as a software failure, then you can get your phone repaired for free.
If not, you’ll have to stump up for someone to repair damage of your own making.
Warranties and third party repair shops
The rule on this is pretty simple. Both Apple and Samsung say that using an unofficial third-party repair shop invalidates your warranty.
LG asks that you head to its website and request a repair directly, rather than telling you which suppliers will fix your device for you.
Whoever your device is made by, using an unofficial repairer means that you may have a much bigger problem further down the line.
Even if it’s the fault of the manufacturer, you’re not covered at all and will have to pay for any repairs yourself.
Apple’s warranty lasts 12 months, while Samsung and LG’s last 24.
Third party shops seem cheaper. But are they really?
Repairing smartphones direct with manufacturers is a costly business.
This was thrown into sharp relief earlier in early 2016 when iPhone owners who had replaced their Touch ID fingerprint scanners via third parties found their phones were subsequently rendered unusable by an Apple software update.
Apple relaxed its policy a little on that occasion, after it was accused of deliberately leaving users without a phone that worked and unreasonably insisting that customers use its own repair services.
However, Apple did have a valid point about faulty Touch ID sensors being open to security breaches when fixed by third parties.
That said, the sheer cost of replacing a Touch ID sensor with Apple is enough to put anyone off.
Touch ID repairs cost up to £256.44 if you use Apple’s official repairs centre and don’t have its AppleCare+ insurance.
Go to a high street repair shop or online repair centre and that price falls to as low as £40.
However, because Touch ID is tied to an iPhone’s chipset for security reasons, the fingerprint scanner won’t work once it’s replaced by an unofficial third party.
That means you won't be able to use the Apple Pay contactless payments service to pay for goods and services and will have to use a passcode to open up your iPhone.
Cheap parts can come with a high price
There’s another big reason not to go to your independent high street repair shop: cheap parts. You can pick up a cheap Touch ID sensor for as little as £6 on Amazon.
This part will not be tested to anywhere near the standard which Apple uses and will likely end up being faulty after a few months use.
The same goes for everything from screens to batteries.
Going direct isn’t cheap, but at least you’re getting the proper materials rather than ones from unscrupulous suppliers looking to turn a quick profit.
Some third parties do source top quality components, including Fone Angels and Geek Squad, which pledges that it only uses genuine Apple parts.
And perhaps more importantly, Geek Squad is an Apple-accredited repairer and for most other major brands too.
As we'll see in the next section, that means you've got much more redress if something goes wrong and won't invalidate your warranty by using them.
The key here is to do a lot of research before deciding who to go with.
Official third party repair services
Some repair shops and services are accredited with smartphone-makers.
That means they can conduct certain repairs without invalidating your warranty, often at a lower cost.
Geek Squad will repair all iPhone screens using official Apple parts rather than cheap knock-offs, with a 90-day guarantee thrown in for good measure.
That's not all, though. Geek Squad is often significantly cheaper than going directly to Apple too.
Its screen repairs cost £89.
Without AppleCare+, going directly to Apple is a more costly proposition.
iPhone SE, iPhone 5/5s/5c screen fixes costs £106.44, the same as for iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s.
iPhone 6s Plus screen repairs come in at £126.44. Only iPhone 6 screen repairs are cheaper, at £86.44.
Even if you have AppleCare+, you’ll need to pay excess starting at £55, and that after paying £79 for two years of cover.
Apple even limits you to two repairs for accidental damage during the cover period.
Geek Squad is also an approved partner for Samsung, Huawei, LG, Sony and HTC, all of which will charge far more for fixes if you go to them directly.
If your phone is already out of warranty and the repair is minor, then services such as Fone Angels or iMend are also worth looking into.
Check your insurance
Considering smartphones these days can cost upwards of £600 SIM–free and over £50 a month on contract, it pays to get some kind of insurance.
While AppleCare+ isn’t the greatest deal out there, mobile insurance is often included with bank accounts. Halifax’s Ultimate Reward Account is just one example.
Protect Your Bubble offers cover starting from £6.99 a month, covering cracked screens, water damage and mechanical breakdowns.
That may sound costly, but it’s cheaper than having to go to Apple or Samsung every time your phone slips from your hand onto a hard surface.
Get a case or cover
Far be it for us to be facetious, but often accidents happen when phones don’t have sufficient protection.
Most top–end phones are still very fragile, so why not wrap up your handset in a case?
It doesn’t have to be a rugged one, even Apple’s silicon effort will do. Just something to ensure you minimise damage if you drop your phone.