Simone Becchetti—Getty Images
By John Patrick Pullen
December 17, 2014

With apologies to Sir Jony Ive, I have managed to break every version of Apple’s iPhone, in one way or another. From getting water in the original iPhone’s dock to dropping and shattering an iPhone 6 within one day of its release, I’ve done it all. Heck, my iPad even took a face-plant on the sidewalk once, resulting in shards of glass everywhere.

But to date*, I’ve paid $0 to get each device repaired. Now that’s pretty much because Apple’s Genius Bar staffers did me a solid, each and every time I got a case of the dropsies (a string of favors that I imagine will end with this story.)

Still, if you’ve got a broken iPhone screen — depending on the model — there is more than one way to get it fixed.

Original iPhone

Seriously? Just upgrade it. If you’re still lugging around a seven-year-old handset, you probably also have a seven-year-old cellular plan. Carriers will give you an iPhone 5C for free, and your plan will still be cheaper. And no, your original iPhone isn’t worth money — unless it’s sealed in the box, comes with another, opened box original iPhone, and a souvenir gift bag—all in mint condition.

iPhone 3G (and 3GS)

See above. But in case you were wondering, my iPhone 3G screen held up just fine — including when I put it in the washing machine.

iPhone 4 (and 4S)

Sadly, see above, again. But the real problem here isn’t that you can’t get these screens replaced, because you actually can. It’s just that these older phones are officially obsolete, unable to load the newest versions of iOS. And, in addition, it’s currently less expensive to buy an iPhone 5S ($99) than it is to fix a broken screen on these older models ($149 each, except for iPhone 4S, which costs $199). These repair prices were quoted by Apple, and tend to be higher than third party repair services or do-it-yourself options. But still, it’s less expensive to simply upgrade to a new handset.

Still, if you like the challenge of doing it yourself, this guide by iFixit can help you field strip your iPhone like it was a wide-mouthed bass. But before you rip into it, grab a display replacement kit, which has all the tools and hardware you need and typically costs less than $20.

Alternatively, if, like me, you broke iPhone 4’s rear glass cover, you can easily swap it out, and get some pretty cool colored or brushed aluminum replacements in the process.

iPhone 5 (and 5S)

Apple’s out-of-warranty cost for replacing these handsets’ screens is $129, which again, begs the “why not upgrade” question. But in this instance, the answer to that might be because your iPhone 5 is still too new to toss — and I’d argue that even if you can upgrade, this phone is still plenty powerful and worth holding onto (at least as a backup).

Replacing the iPhone 5 on your own is also a little more involved than its predecessor, invoking the need for special suction tools, as iFixit demonstrates. For $59, the company provides everything you need to fix your broken iPhone 5 screen, but if you have a busted iPhone 5C or a smashed up iPhone 5S, make sure you get the proper kit — they aren’t all the same. (In fact, the replacements for the colored and Touch ID sensor phones cost $89.)

As the costs of replacement parts soar, it might be worth considering having someone else fix up your iPhone. A local third-party repair shops that I contacted recently quoted just over $100 to replace my shattered iPhone 5 screen. Yup — I’ve broken one of those, too. Well, my wife did, a month after I broke my brand new iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus)

Before I go into display replacement options for Apple’s newest iPhones, two pieces of advice. First, buy a case. The brushed aluminum backing on the new iPhones is smooth and particularly slick. With its wider form factor, the phone is more difficult to grip. I recommend Apple’s leather case, it’s the best protector I’ve ever had — and no, I didn’t have one when I dropped my iPhone 6 in the garage, 23 hours after I bought it.

Secondly, buy the AppleCare Plus warranty. In my 15 years as an Apple user, I have never bought one warranty, but if I could take a mulligan on this device, I would. Many people opt out of AppleCare Plus because the cost of replacing the newest iPhone’s display is an all-time-low $109 ($129 for the iPhone 6 Plus). But the $99, two-year plan is a good investment because it allows for two accidental incidents. (Meanwhile, AppleCare’s default plan lasts just six months and only covers manufacturer’s faults.) You’ll want these protections because even the non-plus-sized iPhone 6 is wider than you think, and you will drop it. I repeat, you will drop the iPhone 6.

Also, it’s entirely possible that iPhone 6’s screen replacement services are currently unavailable, because demand for the new phones are so high that replacement displays are hard to come by. This would mean that Apple could only replace your iPhone 6, a repair option that costs $299 for an iPhone 6, or $329 for iPhone 6 Plus. If you had AppleCare Plus, that would cost $0.

Given how new the iPhone 6 is, its replacement parts are still very expensive, and third-party repair shops are having a difficult time matching the Apple Genius Bar pricing. A call to a local shop just generated a $250 quote for an iPhone 6 screen replacement, and the iPhone 6 Plus’s screen costs $370 for them to fix.

And likewise, it’s still early for do-it-yourselfers to make their own repairs. This walk-through explains how to swap out a new screen for a broken one. They also sell replacement display parts, but starting at $166, you won’t save any money fixing your iPhone 6 on your own. Just do as I’ve done every time: bring it back to Apple, be very nice to the lovely people there, flash a smile, tell a funny story about how you destroyed the super-computer in your pocket, and know that it will all work out in the end.

*With my recently broken iPhone 5, this is likely to change soon.

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