Apple Stores Can Now Replace iPhone Displays While You Wait

Broken iPhone

For many of us, the iPhone has become a staple item in our daily assortment of tech gear. Like any product that gets heavy use on a daily basis, sometimes it can fail. For the iPhone, that means a trip to the often-crowded Genius Bar for help. Now, as more consumers are adopting the digital device, Apple (s aapl) is facing an increasing number of iPhones in need of repair. The good news for consumers is, the majority of those repairs can now be done by your local Genius.

When the iPhone first launched, Apple offered a “loaner” program (with a fee) for consumers who had iPhones that needed to be repaired. This program, which received little attention in the press, finally disappeared from Apple as it began offering instant iPhone swaps, instead of asking a consumer to wait a few days for an offsite repair. (Come to find out, the “waiting” technique may work well for iPods, but doesn’t fly for iPhones). In an even more efficient move, Apple now offers a new service allowing Geniuses to perform actual repairs of the screen assembly to your iPhone at the store.

What? No more free swaps?

For the business-minded, the talk of your Genius Bar appointment being even longer while a Genius dissects and operates on your iPhone may make you scream, “No fair! Usually you just give me a new one and I’m on my way.” We all knew, though, that it would not be cost-effective for Apple to simply swap out an iPhone on a whim when things went bad. With the ability to perform certain repairs in-house, this means you keep your original iPhone and won’t need take the time to sync up a replacement iPhone before you are back in the game.

Cracked screen? No worry!

The biggest component likely to either fail or be damaged is the screen. Similar in construction to the screen on the iMac (minus the touch-sensitive components and newer oleophobic coating on the iPhone 3GS), the screen can be removed from your iPhone via a large suction cup. (Though I’m sure Apple has a very “specialized” device that does this — much like the infamous unbent paper clip that doubles as the SIM card ejection tool). Geniuses can now replace a defective screen for free if your iPhone is under warranty or, if not warranty-related, for a nice hefty $199. (Standard disclaimer: Defective doesn’t mean cracked beyond belief because your estranged ex drove over it in her Hummer. That does void your warranty, as does liquid damage and jailbroken phones.)

Before Apple began offering this service, consumers faced choices like iFixIt or iResQ, which offer similar repair services (or just components) at rates cheaper than Apple. However, such solutions do void your Apple warranty. These solutions also require you (in repair instances) to send off your iPhone, so you will be without it for a few days. Going the Apple route, provided you can actually find a Genius Bar appointment at your local Apple Store, they should be capable of (provided the parts are in stock) replacing your screen assembly within five to 10 minutes. When a Genius graces your iPhone, your warranty remains intact.

Apple’s talented Genius team can also perform other repairs to the iPhone, as the screen assembly contains other parts that can fail, including the receiver or touch sensors. In order to continue to reduce costs and provide quicker turnaround to consumers, Apple will likely follow its trend of performing more repairs in store. As crowded as the Genius Bars usually are, Apple will have to keep repair times under consideration. Most stores allocate 10 minutes per iPhone or iPod appointment. When times are busy and the Geniuses get behind, taking the time to swap the screen may only extend wait times for others. At the time of this writing, the Apple Store is unable to do screen replacements on the iPod touch or the classic iPhone due to slight construction differences. (Hint: These models do not feature the same two screws found on the bottom of the 3G and 3GS.)

Most importantly, please remember to back up your iPhone before going to the Genius Bar. You never know when your iPhone may need more than just a simple screen replacement.