How to fix a broken iPad screen

Jackie Dove/Digital Trends

No matter what we do to protect our sensitive devices, accidents still manage to happen. Of those accidents, a cracked screen is one of the most common. But, what can you do to fix your iPad if this happens to you?

Whether you choose to go through the manufacturer, a third-party repair center, or you make the repairs yourself, we’ll walk you through your different options if you break your iPad’s screen.

Working out which iPad components are broken

The iPad features several levels of components, some or all of which can get damaged in a drop: A glass panel, digitizer (or touchscreen), and an LCD. The glass panel is the top layer, the digitizer touchscreen sits right underneath it, while the LCD is beneath the digitizer. When you drop your iPad, the top glass may crack sending a spider web pattern of sharp little shards covering the front of your device. Underneath the glass, the digitizer or touchscreen, which is fused to the top layer of glass, holds an electrical force that responds to tap and swipe gestures you use to control the screen. The underlying LCD displays the images and content on the screen. If you drop your iPad but are still able to operate it, view content, and use the touchscreen, chances are that only the top glass was damaged. If you are unable to use gestures or see content, then the touchscreen and LCD are also damaged.

Here are some options for fixing damage to your iPad screen.

Call on Apple

The first thing to do when you’re faced with a cracked or broken iPad screen is to find out what Apple can do and how much it will cost for the iPad maker to fix its product. Even if your iPad is still under the original one-year limited warranty, accidental damage from your cat nudging it off the kitchen table onto your stone floor at precisely the wrong angle is not covered. Apple — which markets some of the most expensive devices on the planet — also charges an arm and a leg to fix them.

Just how expensive depends on the model –unless you were prescient enough to purchase an extended AppleCare Plus warranty for $99, which covers accidental iPad screen damage among many other things for two years.

This is Apple’s cost breakdown for repairing a broken iPad screen without the extended warranty:

  • iPad mini, iPad mini 2: $199
  • iPad, iPad 2, iPad Air, iPad 5th generation: $249
  • iPad 3rd generation, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4, iPad mini (5th generation), iPad Air 2: $299
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Air (3rd generation): $379
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch: $449
  • iPad Pro 11-inch: $499
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation): $599
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation): $649

Yikes!

The cost of such an accident under an AppleCare+ policy, by contrast, is $49 per incident, with a limit of two incidents. That extra $99 doesn’t seem so bad, right about now. You can order a temporary replacement iPad with Apple’s Express Replacement Service, even before you turn over your cracked device to Apple.

When you send your damaged tablet to Apple to fix, it could take the company three to five business days to send you a temporary replacement. If you have to mail it to Apple, then add a $6.95 shipping fee — or you can tote it to the nearest Apple Store and drop it off for free. You will also be responsible for any applicable taxes.

If you want Apple to fix your broken tablet, you can start a repair request directly from the Apple website. Apple notes that, “If the issue with your iPad was caused by severe damage from an accident or from abuse, you might have to pay the full replacement value.” Despite all that, having Apple fix your broken iPad screen, or replace it, is probably the best option if you can afford it because your fixed iPad is guaranteed to be new or equal to new.  

While Apple’s automatic one-year limited warranty doesn’t cover accidental damage, some tiny cracks on the screen could be judged as flaws or defects in some cases. It can’t hurt to pop over to a local Apple store to find out if that’s covered. While, ideally, your iPad should be in perfect condition, if the cracks are small enough, you may not have to do anything about them. If Apple won’t cover them under warranty, you could just continue to use your device rather than shell out for an expensive screen repair. In the meantime, you could invest in a protective case or screen protector to prevent further damage.

Third-party repairs

Having a non-Apple employee lay a paw on your cracked screen automatically voids your warranty. However, if your iPad is past warranty already, there are other possibly less expensive options to consider from third-party vendors, many of which are quite reputable. Also consider the nationwide network of Apple Authorized Service Providers, which may be able to give you a price break for an iPad screen fix. But they’re often not cheap either.

When scouting around for a third-party repair company — whether Apple authorized or independent — make sure you have all the information you need before turning over your device, such as cost, time schedule, warranty, and the source of replacement parts. Always check local reviews to ensure you’re dealing with a reputable outfit.

Do it yourself

This option is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re the adventurous type, mechanically inclined, or simply short on cash, some do-it-yourself kits for screen repair are available from iFixIt or on Amazon, and have earned some good reviews from users. Be sure you’re up to the challenge before you start taking your tablet apart. Here are a couple of pointers:

  • If you buy an off-the-shelf screen repair kit, make sure it is designed for the device you are repairing. One size does not fit all and not all devices have repair kits available.
  • Determine whether you cracked the top layer of glass or whether you damaged the touch mechanism or LCD as well. Those are separate categories of damage.
  • Protect your eyes by wearing safety goggles as you work.

Let’s take a look at a few example DIY kits.

iFixit

As one of the premier vendors for Apple repair, iFixit offers specific repair kits for 16 categories of iPads, which you can identify by model number. The site features a vast variety of teardown and repair videos, replacement kits, tools, and customer support Q&A. For example, the iPad 2 Wi-Fi EMC 2415 Front Panel Replacement, consisting of an iPad Wi-Fi front panel assembly replacement, has a rating of Difficult: It involves 40 steps, takes 1-2 hours, and costs $40. iFixit outlines each step in vast detail, and users can comment and offer advice at each step.

Amazon

You’ll find lots of kits at Amazon and the prices are low, but the quality of the parts and instructions can vary greatly, so do your homework and check the reviews carefully. Here are a couple of examples:

Touch Screen Digitizer for 2017 iPad 9.7 ($25)

This complete replacement kit for cracked, unresponsive, and non-functioning screens is specifically designed for the 2017 iPad 9.7 inch (model numbers A1822 & A1823). The package includes one touchscreen with digitizer, a tool kit, and instructions. It comes with all the necessary tools, as well as a clickable home button. The replacement button does not support Touch ID, so you should use the original home button if possible to retain Touch ID.

Prokit for New Black iPad 2 Digitizer Touch Screen Front Glass Assembly ($15)

Made specifically for the iPad 2, this screen replacement kit comes with a plastic iPad 2 bezel frame and tools. The digitizer includes adhesive and home button assembly. 

Prepare your iPad

Regardless of where you go for repairs — or if you decide to do the job yourself — be sure to first back up your iPad. You may also consider factory resetting your iPad before handing it over to a third-party to protect your privacy, just be sure to back up first. Any replacement device you get from Apple will be clean, so you can easily restore the data from your backup in order to use the replacement device while you await your repair. And if you decide to completely replace your damaged iPad, it will be easy to get up and running again with your backup.