WiFi HiFi: The Crazy World of Mobile Device Repairs
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine.
They’re popping up everywhere. Little shops in strip or shopping malls that promise to save your smartphone from becoming a doorstop after you’ve dropped it for the umpteenth time, or following an accidental spill.
Device repair shops like Fixt, UBreakiFix, Fonelab, and Mobike Klinik, employ “doctors” for your digital tech, who can seemingly breathe new life into an expensive smartphone suffering from every kind of ailment: not just cracked screens and water damage, but even dead batteries, defective charging ports, and more. Many offer not only repair services, but also services like data recovery. And most also sell accessories. There’s no better time to upsell a customer on a protective case or screen protector, after all, then after having just replaced a busted screen.
In most cases, an appointment isn’t needed. Walk in, plop your device down, and explain what has caused the panic. Basic fixes can be completed in under an hour. Cost depends on the quality of parts you choose, reputation of provider, and type of device. But it can range anywhere from $30 for a new battery, to $450 for an authentic Apple screen for a new iPhone X.
Smartphone repair shops aren’t new. But now that customers are paying $1,000+ off-contract prices for premium devices, and we’re using our smartphones more than ever, they are seeing a surge. Business Insider reports that 45% of smartphones owners will, at one time or another, accidentally damage their devices. Thirty-eight per cent will drop them, 28% will drop them into liquid, and 8% will spill something on their device. Unlike other tech devices that we’d rather replace than repair once broken, smartphones are expensive, and we simply can’t live without them for even a day. Which means if something is wrong, customers are not only willing to pay to fix it, but they’ll want it done immediately.
Extended warranties like AppleCare+ offer some peace of mind. But fixes aren’t immediate. And the warranties don’t cover everything that could potentially go wrong, and only apply to newly-purchased devices.
During a visit to San Diego, CA for a trade show, we spotted a mobile phone repair van parked on the street beside a restaurant, pulling up to help a customer with a phone repair emergency. It seems silly, but the idea makes total sense. Imagine being at a conference in a different country or province, and your phone breaks. Can you wait until you get back home to fix it?
Where do you take your phone? That dark, dank basement where a man calling himself the iPhone Doctor promises to fix your phone in 10 minutes sounds tempting, as does that kiosk in the mall offering unbeatable pricing. But as with any industry, it’s buyer beware.
Alongside a dark underbelly to the world of mobile device repairs are trusted service providers. We spoke with a few of them, who offered advice, and peeled back the layers to help us understand how the smartphone repair industry really works.