How I Saved my iPad mini with Cracked Display From the Trash

Our original 32 GB iPad mini, bought in late 2012, has been a real workhorse in our family. It's the one most likely to leave the house on our vacations or when we're out and about and we know an iPhone's display won't be big enough.

Recently, this lovely iPad fell off a small stand and did a 20 cm. face plant onto the kitchen table. Even though there was a thick table cloth, the display cracked, and cracked ugly. The display looked like we could easily cut a finger if we touched it the wrong way. However, amazingly, everything else worked. It would boot up, the FaceTime camera worked as did all the buttons.

With calculated risk assessment, it had never been under AppleCare.

Being the sort of fellow I am, I started to think about options. I wondered how much it would cost to replace. Or what I could get for it from Apple's recycle program.

Cracked ugly and potentially dangerous.

So we took it to the Apple store at Park Meadows Mall in Centennial, Colorado, and I, with planned escalation, had a chat with my favorite salesperson, Gary.

1. Hail Mary mode. Would Apple, in a moment of unbridled generosity, simply replace it? The answer was "No." But Gary smiled when he said "No." It was worth a shot.

2. Repair/replace. Could Apple repair or replace it? The answer was "Yes." With the iPad mini not under AppleCare, the cost would be US$199. Here's Apple's official page on that: "iPad Repair - Screen Damage." I thought for a few seconds. This is an old, original iPad mini without a Retina display. $199 seemed like throwing good money after bad. I held that thought and asked Gary about the next option.

As a humorous aide, the serial number on the back of an iPad is so small, Gary had to use the camera of his own iPhone, zoomed in, to read it.

3. Recycle Value. Next, I considered using the recycle value and applying that plus a $205 Apple gift card that we received for my wife's old iPhone 5 to offset the cost of a new iPad mini 3. Gary looked it up on the page I linked to above. With a cracked display, the recycle value from Apple was zero. 

Previously, TMO's Bryan Chaffin mentioned that Gazelle might give me more, based on his own experience, so I held that thought as well.

4. Salvation. About this time, my wife, who had been shopping in another store, arrived. She mentioned that since the iPad still functioned properly that we simply put a screen protector on it, to protect our fingers and call it good.

I remembered that I had just written a Particle Debris column eight days previously that included a link to a Jonny Evans article: "12 ways to use your older iPad." One option he wrote about was using an old iPad as a dedicated TV remote. I love using the DIRECTV remote app, much more so than the standard remotes, and I surmised that having an iPad mini in front of the TV at all times, as a remote control, would be nice. Plus we'd never need to go hunting for an iPad for IMDB, weather, sports scores etc. It would always reside on the coffee table.

Gary chimed in and mentioned that there's a Zagg kiosk just down the concourse, and they charge $35 for a professionally applied screen protector. So that's what we did.

Fate In the Balance

Our iPad mini looked ugly and was estimated to be dangerous to touch, but still operated normally. It was a prefect candidate for a screen protector to make sure the glass shards stayed put and we could get some salvage value from it. For $35, we gave it a second lease on life and turned it into a handy TV accessory, (almost) never to leave the bustle of the coffee table, dishes, drinks, and other paraphernalia.

We've had iPads since 2010 and never used screen protectors because we treat our iPads well, and they have good cases. Plus, I never cared for the feel of that protective plastic. It seems to detract from the essence of the awesome iPad and isn't itself oleophobic. This incident hasn't changed my mind, but it might be something for you to ponder because even with AppleCare+, there's a service charge to repair a damaged screen. And remember, a thin piece of plastic won't always prevent a crack caused by a blunt force impact. (It will, however, likely keep glass bits from flying.)

The lesson here is that there are a lot of initial care options, AppleCare+, protective screens plus Apple and 3rd party cases. And there's the working environment, risk assessment, potential service fees, and the various repair/replace/recycle options you'll encounter with Apple—like the ones Ilisted above. In our case, if the iPad mini had failed in some additional fashion, of course, it would be half way to the trash can, fondly remembered for its service but of no further use—except for maybe a few bucks from Gazelle.

The best news? We also opted for an iPad mini 3. Coffee table ugly can't compete with that when it comes to making my wife happy.