How You Can Make Bank with Broken Phones

The cracked iPhone screen, with its web of glass shards that turn the digitizer into a kaleidoscope, is now practically as iconic as the iPhone itself. Phones slide out of pockets and slip from our butterfingers onto unforgiving concrete and cold, hard tile. The latest rumors predict that the next iPhone’s back panels will be made out of liquidmetal, a zirconium, titanium, nickel, and copper alloy that may make drop damage less of an issue. But for now, with a few good tools and a bit of repair know-how, you can make a tidy business out of replacing people’s shattered glass panels and bent bezels.

Jonathan Edwards (no, not this one or that one) of Shickshinny, Pennsylvania (and yes, that’s a real place), has managed to quit his “day job” and is now self-employed, doing phone hardware repair full time.

He started about six years ago, jailbreaking iPhones for family and friends. But he quickly discovered that jailbreaking was more tedious than he’d thought. He hated spending hours Googling and trying to get other people’s software hacks to work.

Then one day, a friend asked Jonathan to fix a shattered screen on a first-generation iPhone. “It was a pain in the butt,” Jonathan says, as changing the display assembly requires disassembling almost the entire phone, “but about 4 hours after receiving the parts he had a fully functional iPhone.” He found the hardware repair much more satisfying than jailbreaking—it has clear, measurable, exciting results.

In the years since that first repair, Jonathan has fixed and customized hundreds of phones: not just iPhones, but also Androids, Palms, and Blackberries. He’s even fixed a couple of computers. In fact, he’s doing so much business that, last week, he opened up a brick-and-mortar location in Shickshinny.


Jonathan repairs broken phones and iPods at his repair shop

His Pro Tech Base Tool Kit is the heart of his tool collection. “To be honest, I don’t even recognize some of the tools in the base kit or the other kits,” he admits, “but the metal spudgers, lit up magnifying glass and unique screwdriver bit set was worth every penny. Side note: the Pro Tech Base Kit makes you look like a doctor. Seriously, people take one look at your tools and fully believe you can do anything! Unbelievable ‘street-cred.'”

Jonathan offers some advice for anyone looking to turn iPhone repair into a business—he suggests you “get the screw tray, the 64-bit driver kit and the lit-up table magnifier, take your time, [and] always have the guide in front of you.” You can see his full story here, including a few more tips for new iPhone repair businesses, send him an email, or call him at (570) 702-4991.

We love to hear about people starting businesses with iFixit tools—after all, while we believe everyone can fix their stuff themselves, we know not everyone will. And small repair operations like Jonathan’s keep devices working longer and raise the profile of repair. If you’ve started a repair business, tell me about it.