It was the night before a book sale that my phone froze mid-text to a friend I was on my way to meet. The screen went black and wouldn’t turn back on. Then the phone started to heat up so much I couldn’t touch it.
I tried to not worry about the fact that, as I didn’t own a tablet, my phone was the main way I would be taking payments in less than fifteen hours.
I didn’t think too hard about the fact that even though I had insurance on this phone, the carrier company still charges a $150 deductible to not fix it, no, but replace it with a refurbished (not new) phone that would no doubt not be shipped to me until the weekend – and the book convention – was over.
With my anxiety starting to rise, I arrived at my friend’s house who thankfully just so happened to be a phone repair tech.
Sam – who actually portrayed Jaxon at two of the three Grim release parties! – expertly took the phone apart and informed me that sadly, the heat that my phone had been generating during the drive to him fried the touchscreen, but he happened to have that at his office. Once he got that, Sam fixed my phone and had it ready in less than half an hour!!! WAY better than getting a refurbished (crappier) phone!
This experience led me to realize that I truly don’t know a lot about the tiny computer I carry around in my pocket every single day – the device that holds my entire life inside its expensive little frame – and what to do when something happens to it.
- When do you take it to a repair shop to not only save time and money, but also not be sent a phone that will not be as good as yours was when it was new?
- Can you always?
- Why do the carriers not fix phones quickly like Sam was able to?
- SO MANY QUESTIONS!
Thankfully, Sam was happy to answer them all for me, and I wanted to share them with you in case you found yourself in a similar panic-inducing situation as I did last week.
There’s a lot of great information in this interview, and be sure to check out the lessons learned section at the end!
Interview With a Phone Tech
Reinfried: What do I do if I crack or break my screen?
Sam: Don’t panic. I see a lot of customers who think it’s the end of their phone, but it’s not. It can be repaired. In fact, with most phones, it’s an easy fix. Don’t let your carrier lead you to believe you need to replace the device. Depending on the phone you have, the display may or may not be pricey, but it is almost always cheaper than buying a new phone.
Before going in for a repair or to your carrier, however, you should figure out if your device is covered under a warranty. Many carriers say the plan you chose will cover damage, but only after you pay an expensive deductible.
Regardless of if you’re able to pay the deductible, it is wise to call around to local repair shops, as they most likely can fix the screen for much less.
Reinfried: Yeah, I remember a few times I’ve had to pay that deductible. Then I end up with another phone.
Sam: The refurbished kind.
Reinfried: Yep. And what do you know? Each refurbished phone I’ve had ended up having some kind of issue with it, or not lasting more than a few months.
Sam: Kinda sucks when you just paid $150 or more and waited almost a week for them to ship you a “new” phone. Emphasis on the quotations.
Reinfried: Why do carriers do that? Make you pay a deductible saying they cover damage to phones when all they do is send you a used replacement?
Sam: I can’t speak for every company, but my guess would be simple greed. They want to sell you a new phone. If you get it repaired, no one there makes money.
Reinfried: Makes sense. So what about what happened to me? What should someone do if their phone suddenly won’t turn on, or freezes?
Sam: If you’re one of the blessed few with a removable battery, try taking it out, putting it back in, and booting the phone back up. If you don’t have one, look up your device online to see how to do a hard reset.
If neither of these work, as was the case for your Pixel, it’s time to get some diagnostic work done. A good phone tech can tell you pretty quickly what’s wrong with your device and what your options are. It could be as simple as reseating the battery, or something more complex such as a problematic motherboard component.
Repair shops can almost always not only diagnose what is wrong with your phone, but also fix them the same day. However, if it is more of an extreme case, the repair shop may have to order parts, which could take a couple of days or so to ship. Some even have loaner phones for their customers. Either way, it’s often cheaper and less of a hassle than taking it back to your carrier.
Reinfried: Motherboard components? That doesn’t sound fun. I’ve seen you work here and there. All those little pieces and tiny screws…it looks very complex, but you make it look like the easiest thing in the world.
Sam: It’s not too bad. It’s a challenge I enjoy.
Reinfried: And what about the other issue I had? When my phone got really hot to the touch? Should that be something to worry about?
Sam: It isn’t good, but don’t panic. It can mean any number of things, most of which are in any way problematic. Some phones just run hot. If it happens a lot, though, it can be an issue.
Start by locating where on the phone the heat is coming from. Take it out of the case. While looking at the back of the device, mentally divide it into a three by three grid. Feel around the back until you find the hottest part.
Reinfried: I remember you having me do that. The heat was coming from the middle, on the right.
Sam: Yep, and with your Pixel, that told me it was most likely the battery. Knowing where the heat is coming from is invaluable information for a repair tech.
Another good thing to do is keep track of what apps are running when the phone heats up. Even ones in the background. If you notice that it only starts to get hot when certain apps are running, you have located the issue, or at least a contributing factor.
Reinfried: Man, I wish I knew you a few years back when someone knocked a glass of water onto my phone. Which was new. Back then all I knew to do was take it to the carrier, but they didn’t cover water damage. What is the right thing to do if a phone gets wet?
Sam: First and foremost, for the love of God, do not put it in rice! *chuckles* Seriously, don’t do that.
Reinfried: How come? That’s the first thing most people have been told to do!
Sam: Well, when a liquid gets on a phone, it floods into the nooks and crannies. Unless it is distilled water or pure alcohol, it has impurities that interact with electrical current. It begins to form corrosion on your motherboard within about ten hours. That corrosion spreads across it like an end times plague, and sooner or later – it could be a day, could be a month – your device will just give up the ghost.
Reinfried: So rice is bad because…?
Sam: The only thing putting the phone in rice does is dry the outside of your phone and clog up your charging port with delicious rehydrated grain food.
What your phone needs is to be cleaned and dried from the inside. Remember how I said there’s about a fifteen hour window before an end times plague takes hold of your phone? When a tech hears, “I left my phone in rice overnight, so it should be fine, right?” we sadly shake our heads on the inside.
No, that was the window of time in which the phone could have avoided the end times plague, but now it is shut. At that point all is not lost, but repair becomes much more difficult, and more costly.
Reinfried: So what DO I do if my phone gets wet?
Sam: If you can, pull the battery. Please, please, please do NOT turn it on. Take it to a repair shop that does liquid damage treatment, which usually entails disassembling your phone completely and cleaning any corrosion off before things start to fry.
When you call around to find a repair shop that does liquid damage treatment, try to make sure they use something called EC cleaning solution and a sweeping frequency ultrasonic cleaner. Low-rent shops will use isopropyl and a jewelry cleaner because it’s cheaper, but it isn’t as good for your phone or the repair itself.
An ultrasonic cleaner vibrates at the resonant frequency of the components that it is cleaning. Since that is going to be different for different parts of different phones, the cleaner needs to be able to adjust to your particular device. A jewelry cleaner will work in a pinch but it’s like putting a quarter in the vibrating hotel bed and claiming it feels like a real massage.
You want a repair shop that has the tools and equipment to actually treat your problem. Make sure to take your device to them as soon as humanly possible.
Reinfried: Wow. There is a TON of helpful information here. Thank you so much!
Sam: Not a problem at all, I’m happy to help. And if anyone has further questions about phone repair, I’d love to answer any of them.
Reinfried: You’re awesome!
Sam: Aw, shucks.
- Before your event, make sure EVERYTHING works. Your phone, your Square or PayPal reader, even the latch on your cash box if you have one.
- Have backups. Don’t do what I did and only have one way of taking credit card payments. Have access to a working phone, laptop, and tablet if possible in case one fails the day of your sale.
- Test your card reader before the event. They have the ability to charge a single dollar, so just swipe your card to ensure it works.
- Have a friend or family member present at your event. Not only are books heavy, but they, too, no doubt have a phone or tablet you could use if yours goes down mid-sale.
- Know a phone tech. This helps. 😛