Screen savers: Fixing cracked-screen smartphone, tablets a growing business

David Rose of Phil Campbell, Ala., has his wife’s phone examined by Jennifer Pannell at CPR to have the LCD repaired. (Adam Robison)

David Rose of Phil Campbell, Ala., has his wife’s phone examined by Jennifer Pannell at CPR to have the LCD repaired. (Adam Robison)

Staff and wire reports

Some people drop them. Others leave their mobile phone on the roof of the car and drive off. Or they slip the device into a purse or pocket – and miss.

Whatever the cause, smartphones with cracked screens seem to be nearly as common as cellphones themselves. The phenomenon – particularly frequent among the glass-cased iPhones – has prompted repair
services to mushroom at mall kiosks, computer shops and college campuses.

During the course of a year, nearly a third of iPhone users damaged their device, according to the results of a survey released last September by SquareTrade, which sells protection plans for electronics.

Owners spent $6 billion in the previous six years to repair or replace phones that had been cracked, dropped, kicked, waterlogged or otherwise damaged.

And it’s not just the iPhone. Consumers have spent well over $7 billion on damaged Android phones since 2007, SquareTrade said in April.

“It’s not a malfunction. It’s not the product’s fault. It’s the klutz in us,” said Jessica Hoffman, a spokeswoman for SquareTrade, which she said covers accidental or lifestyle
damage, such as “my son threw it in the bathtub” or “my pet tripped over the power cord.”

In Tupelo, the Cell Phone Repair store – better known as CPR – sees its share of customers with cracked screens.

It’s located in the shopping center next to Sam’s Club. Brad and Jennifer Pannell opened the Tupelo franchise three years ago, and screen repair and replacement has been the store’s bread and butter.

“For the iPhone, screen replacement is the biggest thing, along with charging and battery issues. … but Android phones and other phones we also work on quite a bit,” Brad Pannell said.

And it’s not only cellphones that need fixing. Pannell said a growing number of iPad and other tablet users are bringing in their fair share of repairs.

“We see 25 to 30 tablets a week,” he said, “and 60 to 70 percent of them need screen replacement.”

At some shops, screen repairs on certain iPhone models start at $70, a cheaper alternative than buying a new one, which can cost $400 or more.

Repairs at CPR range from $79 to $279, depending on the size of the screen.

Apple discourages consumers from going anywhere other than an Apple store or Apple-authorized center to avoid voiding warranties. New iPhones come with a one-year warranty that covers two incidents of accidental damage, for a $49 fee each time. Consumers can pay $99 to extend that warranty for an additional year, again to cover two accidents for a $49 fee each time. Once warranties expire, repairs to damaged screens run from $149 to $299, depending on the model. In March, iFix2Go set up a kiosk in a corridor at Towson (Md.) Town Center mall, where technician Kendal Robinson fixes some of the more than 100 phones and tablets that come in for screen repair each month.

“There’s high demand because a lot of people are ineligible for a (phone) upgrade, and they don’t want to pay the substantial fee for a new device,” Robinson said. “This is an
option to get it repaired and reuse the same device.”

Consumers who drop off an iPhone 4 at the iFix2Go kiosk can expect to pay $100 for a new screen and get the phone back in an hour or less. A screen on an iPhone 3G costs $50.

At CPR in Tupelo, Pannell said some repairs can be done on the spot, or at least within the day, depending on the severity of the damage and the number of repair tickets that come in on any given day.

The store has three technicians to spread the work.

“There’s always something to do,” Pannell said. “But we strive for same-day repairs.”

A subsidiary of GreenLoop IT Inc., a technology company with businesses that extend the life of IT equipment, iFix2Go repairs iPhones, iPads and iPods in one hour or less. The kiosks have been opening in shopping malls, train stations
and business conference centers.

The company said its seven kiosks in four states repair more than 1,000 devices a day.

Robinson said he has seen it all, including the customer who left an iPad on top of her car then ran over it.

In a case like that, he said,

“it’s fixable but not guaranteed to be fixed.”

Even when a cellphone is cracked but in working order, “it can be complicated,” Robinson said. “It is time-consuming. You have to tear down the phone, meaning take off all the parts that make the phone work.”