With its glass and polished metallic design, there’s little doubt that the iPhone is one of the most elegant smartphone designs out there, but unfortunately, that also comes with the cost of reduced durability and potentially expensive repairs when things break.
Although professional drop tests have concluded that the iPhone 12 is the most durable smartphone ever made, they also concede that it’s not indestructible, and although Apple has made great strides with its new Ceramic Shield glass, it’s important to remember that this is only used on the front of your iPhone — the glass panel found on the rear side is the same old regular-strength glass that Apple has been using for years.
In other words, your iPhone 12 is much more likely to survive unscathed if you’d drop it face down, but if it lands on its rear (and you don’t have a case on it), the glass on the back is just as likely to shatter as it’s always been. Granted, that won’t really affect the functionality of your iPhone, but it’s still an annoying problem to deal with.
The worst part of all of this is that although Apple has long offered lower prices for screen repairs that involve replacing the front glass, getting the back glass fixed has been considerably more expensive. As iFixit notes in its teardown of both 6.1-inch iPhone 12 models, repairing damage to the rear glass back requires “removing every component and replacing the entire chassis” — the most negative point about the design that significantly lowered the “Reparability Score” for the newest iPhones.
New ‘Same-Unit Repairs’
Traditionally, when you bring a broken iPhone into your local Genius Bar with problems that are too complex to be fixed in-store, Apple will simply give you a replacement unit for the entire iPhone, sending your old broken one back so that it can be either repaired and refurbished, or simply recycled if the damage is too extensive.
For the most part, this meant that things like screen and battery replacements were done in store, while everything else — including back glass replacements — were handled by simply giving you a replacement unit instead.
However, according to an internal Apple service memo obtained by MacRumors, it appears that Apple is preparing to introduce additional “same-unit repair” procedures for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, allowing more things to be fixed in-store without having to swap out your iPhone for a replacement.
Specifically, the memo notes that, starting on February 23, technicians will be able to deal with iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models with a variety of problems, including:
- Not powering on.
- Logic board problems.
- Face ID problems.
- Cracked rear glass.
To address these issues, Apple Authorized Service Providers will have access to a new “iPhone Rear System” part that consists of the full rear casing of the iPhone, plus all the internal electronics except for the display and the rear camera system.
This will allow Apple technicians to address a whole new range of potential issues on the spot, since they can simply take the customer’s existing display and camera and swap it into the new enclosure, offering up a pristine casing along with a whole new battery, logic board, Face ID system, and more.
How Much Will It Cost?
Apple’s motivation for this change appears to be entirely an environmental one, since it will reduce the number of iPhone units that have to be shipped back for repairs. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t look like this will reduce the cost of repairing an iPhone with broken rear glass, since Apple still has to replace the entire rear casing, complete with all the other more expensive components that are packed in there. In other words, whether it’s an entirely dead iPhone or merely one that’s had its back glass shattered, the repair procedure will be the same.
This means that if you don’t have AppleCare+, you’re still going to be paying big bucks to get the rear glass on your iPhone fixed — it comes under other damage and comes in at $449 for an iPhone 12, or $399 for an iPhone 12 mini. Further, even if you have AppleCare+, it will still cost you $99 to use one of your accidental damage incidents, which is significantly more than a $29 screen repair.
That said, it’s possible that Apple could decrease the overall repair costs for other damage in general, since presumably this new policy will cost less than swapping out an entire iPhone, but regardless of whether that changes or not, rear glass damage will likely continue to cost the same as any other full iPhone repairs.
Of course, it’s also pretty easy to avoid a cracked glass back simply by using a case. While the front screen of your iPhone has to be exposed by necessity — and even the best screen protectors likely don’t add much to Apple’s Ceramic Shield — the rear glass is far less likely to be damaged if your iPhone is dropped while protected by just about any case.
As of right now, it also looks like the new program will only apply to the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, and not the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, although it is rolling out next week to all countries and regions where the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 are sold.