Phones break for all kinds of reasons. Most of us drop, scratch, or get them wet. But there are plenty of stories of humorous phone destruction. People jump into pools with it in their pocket. Cooks have dropped them into deep fryers. Phones coated in potato chip dust have been eaten by pets. There’s no limit to how creative we can be when it comes to destroying phones.

Understanding phone damage is important for two main reasons:

  • First, should you repair or replace when something happens to your phone? 
  • Second, what kind of damage is acceptable when buying a used phone?

In order to be sure whether you should get your phone fixed, what you should spend on it, or what type of damage you should be worried about in a used phone, it is important to understand the types of phone damage. 

Phone damage can be placed into four major categories:

  • Screen Damage
  • Component Damage
  • Cosmetic 
  • Water Damage

In this guide, you will learn exactly what type of phone damage means what, how it affects the value of your phone, and whether it is something to worry about. 

1. Phone Screen Damage – What You Should Know 

The screen itself is a very complicated piece of equipment. Not only is it there so we can visually interact with our phone, but it is the way we interact with the device by touch. It’s almost hard to remember the days when there were buttons on a phone. 

When the iPhone launched with the touch screen, consumers everywhere screamed, “How can you type when you can’t feel the buttons?” We learned it wasn’t so hard, and eventually preferred it over the tactile feel of a keyboard.

Screens have become more and more complicated over time. Many new devices vibrate through the screen and aren’t only touch sensitive, but pressure sensitive as well.  

There’s no part of our phone where we are more protective than the screen. We buy fancy covers and screen protectors. We cringe at the smallest drop and anticipate potential damage.

Most of us fear if the screen is damaged, the phone is worthless.

There’s a good chance you’ve dropped your phone and cracked your screen. If not, you have a family member or friend who has done it for sure. How many times have you looked at people’s phones and you have seen webbing or cracks, but they continue to use it?

Sometimes a cracked screen can be inconvenient. It can scratch your ear or it could just look bad. You’ve known people who purchase a screen shield and put over it to protect themselves from scratch or just hold the phone together. It is the duct tape of phones. In spite of a cracked appearance, the screen is completely can be completely functional.

Aren’t you amazed at some of the damages you’ve seen on screen but they continue to work?

You can still swipe. You can still access apps. You can press any button you want or talk on the phone or take pictures and there are no issues, even though the screen looks terrible.

But then there’s other problems with screens – the LCD. LCD stands for liquid crystal display. This portion of your screen is below the protective glass. When the LCD cracks goes there’s a problem, and the cost to fix the LCD is significant. You can live with broken glass. The cost to fix is minimal. But if the LCD is damaged, the cost skyrockets.

How Can You Tell What Type of Screen Damage You Have?

Here’s the secret between an LCD break and broken glass. With an LCD break, the screen is no longer functional. It may not be completely destroyed, but parts of the screen go dead to your touch.

You’ll see stripes strange colors or just fuzzy misshapen images. Often you can’t access your apps. You can’t swipe you and can’t move anything around. The phone is no longer functional anymore. 

The other way you know the LCD is damaged is when spots or discoloration appear in certain parts of the phone. These are signals that the LCD is ready to go.

You probably already figured out the cost to repair. If the glass is broken the phone can be completely functional and you can repair with a screen protector. Or a repair shop can replace the glass for you.

If the LCD is damaged, the cost to fix it is usually so high that it makes more sense to trade up and get a new phone than to repair it. 

Still not sure what type of screen damage you have? We wrote this complete guide to broken screens to help you learn more and know what steps to take next.

2. Component Damage – Is Your Phone Fixable? 

The internal components of cell phones are very commonplace where damage occurs. This can cause seemingly huge issues with your phone and can make it seem difficult to fix. However, this is rarely the case, and usually, component fixes are easy and affordable. 

Charging Port Problems

The most common component to break is the charging port. Outside of the screen, there’s no place on the phone with more interaction than the charging port. It can take a lot of abuse, but they are more fragile than you may think. 

Dropping your phone on the bottom can damage the charging port. Inserting cables too strongly can also damage the port over time. Bad charging cables will often short the charging port due to overheating.

The good news is that fixing the charger port is not very expensive. If this is all that is wrong with your phone, you can easily repair it for a cheap fee, and keep using your phone with no problem.

Broken Buttons

The next most commonly damaged components are buttons. Just like the charging port, the volume buttons and other buttons on phones are easily damaged from overuse or pressing too hard. These fixes are simple and can be done cheaply.

Don’t throw your phone away or buy a new one if you are experiencing problems with the buttons. You may want to use it as an excuse to upgrade or buy a better phone, but it’s not the end of the world if buttons go down.

Because this is such a simple fix, the trade-in value on phones with broken charging ports and buttons is much higher than more internal components such as wires.

If you are happy with your phone, you can repair it. It won’t leave a dent in your wallet, like buying a new phone. However, if this small problem is the last straw that it took to get you to gravitate towards a new phone, we strongly suggest considering a premium pre-owned phone in order to save money on a practically brand new device. 

3. Speaker Damage – Can You Hear Me Now? 

Phone speakers are most commonly damaged from being dropped. Many times, the impact may loosen connections rather than directly damaging the speaker itself. Keeping the volume up too loud for a long period of time can also shorten the lifespan of your phone speakers.  Like other components listed so far, this is a fairly easy repair as long as the damage wasn’t due to water.

4. Water Damage – Phones Can’t Swim 

Water damage is pretty much a guaranteed death sentence for most phones. If water gets inside the phone, there will be significant damage to the screen, components, wiring, and more. You can mitigate some of the damage by rescuing the phone from the water quickly or drying it immediately with nifty tricks like using rice, but your phone will never be the same again.

We’ve seen it hundreds of times and have even done it ourselves. Most people get their phones wet and immediately rescue them from the water. Then, they dry it in a bowl of rice for 24hrs, cross their fingers, and restart it. 

If you are lucky, everything will work initially. You may get some weird bleed through on the screen. The camera may be foggy. There may even be some fading or discoloration, but it still works.

These odd screen glitches are a sign that the LCD is damaged. 

The phone may still be usable, but eventually, the corrosion caused by the water damage will spread like a virus inside the phone. The life-span of a phone is severely shortened when any liquid penetrates the phone. Even if it seems to work perfectly fine with no defects, over time, the water will begin to affect the internal components and compromise the performance and functionality of your phone. 

If a phone has water damage, the cost to repair it can be very high. Often times, the cost is so high that most people just wind up trading in an old phone, and getting a new one. Believe it or not, water damaged phones do still have some resale value for the components inside, like gold, copper, lithium, and more.  

Even with repairs, it will be hard to get the phone back to like-new quality. You will continue to have problems with the phone throughout its lifespan. Repairing it will just extend life for a short period of time, but cannot stop the inevitable.

The reason the cost to repair water damaged phones is so high is because of the various components that get destroyed in the process. The LCD is almost always damaged, the wiring will be damaged, and other components that get wet will short out or begin to corrode.

Because of the high likelihood of future damage becoming worse, the high cost for repairing these phones, and the lack of guarantee that the phone will function properly and last long after repairs – we strongly suggest that people with water damaged phones begin the process of browsing for new, used, or refurbished phones.

5. Cosmetic Damage – It’s Not As Bad As It Looks!

The last major category of phone damage is cosmetic. Cosmetic damage doesn’t need much explanation.

We’ve all seen it or experienced it. Without a case, the back of the phone is easily scratched. We scuff it and chip it when we drop it. The same can be said for the screen – over time, you are almost guaranteed to get small scratches or cracks on it, no matter how careful you are. 

The big difference with cosmetic damage is that everybody defines it differently. A webbed or cracked screen may be cosmetic damage to one user, but to another that’s a broken screen – something they simply can’t live with.

Many types of cosmetic damage can be easily buffed out or cleaned for very affordable prices. For this reason, many people do not replace phones simply because they have a small crack or a scratch. Instead, they usually opt for phone repairs. 

One very important thing is to make sure that the damage on your phone is strictly cosmetic. For example, a phone that is dropped may only seem cracked, but there could be internal damage that begins to make an appearance over time.

A huge benefit to phones with cosmetic damage is that your trade-in value is high. You can expect to receive a higher trade-in value with these phones than with any other type of damage. Resellers love these phones because they are easy to fix and otherwise undamaged.

Most customers who buy in the used market understand there may be some level of cosmetic blemishes. As long as the screen is intact and the phone works, there is a demand for your phone.

So, if you were looking to upgrade your phone or you’re just not happy with the current model, this may be a perfect opportunity for you to trade it in for credit on an upgrade, if it only has cosmetic issues.

How Much Is My Damaged Phone Worth? Can I Still Trade It In? 

All used phones regardless of how damaged they are still have resale value. Whatever you do, don’t just toss your phone in a drawer or landfill when you are ready for a new one. Especially if the phone is still functional, you can get a bit of money out of your phone instead.

Find a reliable vendor that can give an honest assessment of your phone. The more information you can get about your phone and it’s value, the more secure you feel about the transaction.

At Glyde, you can quickly and easily list your phone for sale, even if it’s damaged. Remember: Even damaged phones have value! When you list your phone on Glyde, we’ll give you a Recommended Price to help you figure out what a fair price is for your device.

We’ll pay for shipping and offer a 3-month warranty, too – we’re the only Peer-to-Peer marketplace to do so!