This article was published on March 29, 2022

How I resurrected my old iPad for cheap — and it was worth it

I didn't give in to capitalism

How I resurrected my old iPad for cheap — and it was worth it
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

I am DYING to tell you about how I repurposed my old tablet into a handy ebook reader. And if you’ve got an old or broken device lying around, you could try this too, if you can find an inexpensive repair shop in your area. Let me tell you, it’s worth the trouble.

I bought my Apple iPad mini 2 way back in 2014 for around ₹22,000($289), to listen to songs, watch videos, try and uncheck long articles off my reading list, and play a game occasionally. I was working in the software industry back then, and entertainment was my primary concern.

I especially liked the size as I could lay in bed, and hold the device with one hand. I didn’t care about having a super gigantic screen.

The iPad Mini 2 is perfect to hold with one hand.
The iPad Mini 2 is perfect to hold with one hand.

It proved to be a trusted companion during my travels, as I could download a few videos or movies to watch on buses and planes. When I was on the road, we were inseparable.

This fairytale came to an end in 2017, when I accidentally fell down and elbowed my iPad, resulting in a broken screen.

The cost of repairing the screen at an official Apple repair center was more than half of its original price — and given my usage had reduced, I didn’t want to spend that money at that time.

In the next few years, I moved cities, switched from writing a blog to being a full-time tech reporter. The iPad traveled with me, lying in some corner of the house.

Why not just buy another iPad?

When the pandemic hit, I was spending more time at home, and wanted a device that I could use for catching up on important articles, reports, and white papers.

I found it tedious to read some stuff on my laptop, and while phone screens have gotten bigger, I didn’t want to strain my eyes glaring at small text. As an impulse, I headed over to Amazon to check out tablets I could buy.

Most Android tablets seemed unappealing, and the iPad felt like a costly purchase just to read or watch an occasional video. I have an external monitor on my desk, and a TV in my drawing room a few meters away. So I’ve never felt the need to have a tablet to watch videos.

The resurrection

One fine weekend I finally got my lazy ass off the couch, and headed to a local gadget market. Every Indian city has these markets where you can post-sales parts for any gadget. Thankfully, I live in Delhi, where there are plenty of them.

The rule of thumb in any of these markets is to always haggle. This involves tactics like saying, “I heard the shop down the lane is selling this part for Rs.X cheaper,” to walking away from the shop altogether even when you’re still interested in buying something. Yep, it’s super dramatic, but it works.

After browsing through a few shops, I finally went to a store that quoted a reasonable price of Rs.4,000 for a new aftermarket display. I felt it was fair, and got it installed — and it works great. Now, I have a functional iPad Mini 2 in my hands, without breaking the bank

I don’t see a visible difference between the original Apple display and the aftermarket one. I might feel the dissimilarity if I were to play some games with high frame rates. But that wasn’t my objective at all.

The touch response on the display is not the greatest. But I might be biased after using modern phones that have a touch sampling rate of 120Hz and above. Not a deal-breaker for my usage.

The refurbished iPad is the perfect ereader for me.
The refurbished iPad is the perfect ereader for me.

While I waited to get the display installed on the iPad, the shopkeeper told me that a lot of Apple partner repair shops in the city send devices to them, or get parts from them. I couldn’t verify that, but I can tell you that even after using the device for more than a year, I haven’t faced any problems with it.

Of course, you should know there’s a chance that these repairs go wrong, and there’s no warranty on the parts. If you’ve got a good rapport with the store, they could exchange the part if something goes horribly wrong a few days after replacement. But as I’ve learned, it’s not impossible for such shops to do a good job with aftermarket parts, and it’s worth taking the chance on an old device that’s out of warranty.

The key to this is finding a trustworthy market or a repair shop. If you don’t know any, ask your friends if they’ve had positive experiences anywhere in town. Another way is to check Google reviews of stores, or browse through local forums or social networks for recommended shops.

One of the best places to get your gadgets repaired
One of the best places to get your gadgets repaired. Credit: Wikimedia commons.

You can even call a few of them to understand the baseline price of a repair vs. the cost of replacement. Sometimes it might not make sense to spend any money on a broken gadget when your main use case won’t be fulfilled.

It makes sense to get an aftermarket repair when your gadget has been out of warranty for a couple of years, and the official company service shop might charge you a shitload of money. So make sure you’re spending “I’ve nothing to lose” money on refurbishing in case the gadget doesn’t work as intended for long.

How do I use my refurbished iPad?

Currently, I have just a few apps on my iPad: Feedly, Pocket, Flipboard, Google Books, iBooks, and YouTube. And that’s all I really need on this device. I can get the latest news, save articles to my reading queue, and send PDFs from my iPhone or Mac to read later.

Mind you, it’s a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, so I can’t have too many downloaded videos on YouTube for a flight. But if I want to catch up on some long video essays combined with reading reports, it’s perfect.

Since I am not using the iPad for gaming or any processor-intensive tasks, the battery lasts me for at least a week. And the day it gets low, I can charge it overnight.

I’m definitely tempted to get the new iPad mini that has a beautiful new screen and scrumptious design. But do I need it? Not really. I am working from home most of the time, and I have a few big screens around me.

So it’s a death match between my capitalist will and my iPad mini. I will only buy a new iPad when either of them will die.

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