Keep Your iPhone Alive Until the New Ones Arrive

Summer means no iPhone buying; these tips will help your old phone make it to the upgrade.

iCracked technician Taha Jahmi repairing a phone at the Wall Street Journal

Original story here by Joanna Stern on WSJ.com.

It’s mid-July, which means time for iPhone Mad Libs:

Hey Joanna! My iPhone [number] is on its last [part of the body plural]. Its [part of the phone] is busted. [Expletive]! Should I buy a new iPhone now? Or should I wait for the new one? Is the new one going to be so [adjective] that it defies all we know about [noun]? Or just more of the same?

My answer requires no filling in the blanks. Do NOT buy an iPhone right now. It’s my annual iPhone No-Buy Rule™: Once summer rolls around wait for the new one, typically announced in early September.

This year, there’s more reason than ever to wait. According to my WSJ colleagues, in addition to an updated iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, there will be a special model that’s expected to have an OLED screen, wireless charging and facial-recognition technology. Apple declined to comment on the reports.

Even if you couldn’t care less about fancy-schmancy new tech, there are other reasons to hold out. If iPhone-istory repeats itself, Apple will drop the price on the current iPhone 7 models by $100 or more. And now that carrier contracts are all but dead, you may have your phone for two to three years—or at least until something goes wrong with it.

Which brings us to our haggard iPhone 6 and 6s. It turns out most of their common problems can be fixed—with money and/or time. Why sink any cash into a phone you’re going to replace? Because it could up your resale value, and it will definitely empower you to buy your next phone only when the time is right.

Before you walk into that new iPhone repair shop that opened up next to the juice bar, remember: Some replacement screens are hardly better than the cracked ones.

How do you know you’re getting the good kind? Your safest bet is going to an Apple-authorized service provider—not just Apple Stores but over 4,000 locations world-wide including Best Buy and many local shops. (The Apple Support app can pinpoint one close to you.)

I also suggest considering iCracked. Despite its not being an authorized service provider, it does use high-quality screens. Available in 100 U.S. metro areas, the service sends a technician to where you are (home, office, coffee shop) and fixes the issue in under an hour. I’ve had very good experiences with the service. If anything seems off after the repair, iCracked guarantees a part replacement at no added cost.

Resale value? It’s a trade-off. Send in an iPhone 6 that looks like Charlotte’s web to used-phone reseller Gazelle.com, and you get $50. Or spend $90 to replace the screen at iCracked, and you can probably sell it for $120. The cost of prolonging your phone’s life? $20.

Yanyan Ji, Gazelle’s general manager, expects prices to stay steady until after Apple unveils the new iPhones. At Gazelle, you have 30 days to send in your device after locking in a price quote, and you can back out at any time.

Draining battery? “Everyone with an iPhone 6 should get a new battery,” says repair guru and iFixit Chief Executive Kyle Wiens.

After 500 charge cycles, the iPhone battery can lose 20% or more of its original capacity. If you bring an iPhone into an Apple store, geniuses will run diagnostics to check its battery capacity. If it’s lower than 80%, Apple will replace the battery for $79—or free with AppleCare. (They can also try to extend your phone’s battery life by examining its apps and settings.) iCracked will swap any battery for $60.

There’s a more affordable fix: Replace the battery yourself with iFixit’s $20 kit. Mr. Wiens told me that if you are “remotely tech savvy,” you can do it. What he should have said is, “You can do it, you’ll just be terrified and sweating through your shirt the whole time.” Never forget the lessons of the Galaxy Note 7: Lithium-ion batteries really are flammable. Do not puncture.

Spontaneous combustion aside, if you replace the wrong screw or fail to reconnect a circuit correctly, you can create a much bigger problem. After I got the battery inside and sealed up the phone, my screen wouldn’t stop flashing. I was able to go back and fix the problem, but not everyone can be so lucky.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the difficulty. Greenpeace and iFixit recently named Apple products among the least repairable. “Highly integrated design allows us to make products that are not only beautiful, thin and powerful, but also durable, so they can last for many years. When repairs are needed, authorized providers can ensure the quality, safety and security of repairs for customers,” an Apple spokeswoman said.

I can’t recommend this option to most, though at the end, the euphoria is a nerd’s equivalent of summiting Mount Everest. If you do try it, please back up your phone data and take all the proper safety precautions. When you’re done, deposit the used battery at Best Buy or another e-cycling depot.

Another common power issue? A Lightning port that requires cord futzing to get the phone to charge. My iCracked technician removed the equivalent of bellybutton lint and the port worked fine. If something is really wrong, the port can be replaced for about $60.

Resale value? Don’t assume that a non-cosmetic issue isn’t worth repairing. Gazelle said trade-in values can be lowered for shoddy batteries and phones that don’t reliably charge.

Low storage and poor performance aren’t reason enough to get a new phone. First, try some simple software fixes from the comfort of your own couch. When it comes to freeing up storage, check out my previous advice. Back up photos and videos to a cloud service, clear out hidden cached files and delete media stored in old texts and iMessages.

To boost performance, use these hidden tricks:

Turn off Background App Refresh. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh, then turn it off for apps you don’t depend on.

Clear out web-browsing data. Go to Settings > Safari, then tap Clear History and Website Data.

Clear the RAM. Press the power button. When “Slide to power off” appears, hold down the home button. (Note: Ok, this one may just be a placebo. There is debate over whether clearing RAM actually speeds things up.)

New Mad Lib: “My iPhone [number] is working so [adverb], I no longer [verb] that [adjective] new iPhone.”

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