It may always be a mystery exactly how someone manages to drop an iPhone into a toilet, but we won’t have to wonder about the financial repercussions any longer. A new study estimates that Americans have spent some $5.9 billion on iPhone repairs since the first iteration was released in 2007.
SquareTrade, a company that provides independent warranties for tech gadgets, surveyed more than 2,000 iPhone users about how they’d abused their phones over the years, then extrapolated the cost of repairs, replacements and insurance deductibles across the entire user base.
The primary culprit of a damaged iPhone is the classic, clumsy drop from the user’s hand. The second-most popular reason was “immersing the phone in liquid” (read: dunking it in the toilet). Having the phone fall out of the user’s lap, be knocked off a table or get drenched in a liquid spill were the next most common reasons for damage, respectively.
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Apple provides a one-year limited warranty on the iPhone, which covers product malfunction but not user clumsiness. An entire industry has cropped up around the protection and restoration of many people’s most treasured electronic device. Apple authorizes thousands of small businesses around the world to resell and repair their products, but many more conduct unauthorized repairs, which are typically cheaper but can void Apple’s warranty. One such startup that began in a bartender’s Manhattan apartment now has an official storefront and three New York locations.
Some iPhone users avoid the repair shops altogether and simply bear the shame of a cracked screen. According to SquareTrade, 11% of iPhone owners allow their screens to remain cracked, while 6% of users have used tape to keep their phone together. That’s hardly a surprise when repairing an iPhone screen usually costs between $100 and $150, almost as much as a typical subsidized $200 phone.
For those smartphone users who want to be able to abuse their phones without worry, there are some options. The Motorola Defy was one of the first smartphones for folks plagued with butterfingers, and this week the company announced a new version of its Razr line that features a splash-guard coating that protects against rain and spills. AT&T offers a line of “rugged” phones, including the Samsung Rugby Smart, which they claim can be submerged in water for 30 minutes and live to tell about it. Or, if your phone somehow ends up in a toilet while you’re inebriated, you can always purchase a cheap “drunk phone,” as some young people have started doing.
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Just remember, it’s not all Apple’s fault. Ty Shay, chief marketing officer of SquareTrade, points out that daily cell phone use has risen dramatically since the advent of the iPhone, which increases the opportunities for mishaps. And it’s tough to have your pretty glass casing and protect it too—the iPhone’s stylishness is part of its undoing, durability-wise.
The iPhone 5 has an aluminum back instead of a glass back, which will probably help it survive falls. But with the device having a lighter weight and a larger screen than past models, durability issues won’t go away completely. Users are happy to take the risk, though—preorders for the fall’s hottest product topped 2 million units in the first 24 hours it was on sale.
Hopefully the phones will survive the trip home from the Apple Store, at least. As Shay points out, when it comes to taking care of cell phones, “We’re kind of our own worst enemy.”