Friday, April 26, 2013

Choosing a phone by repair cost

The first day of July this year, I can get a new phone at discount.  I may not jump on that opportunity right away.  I have an iPhone 4S and Applecare + doesn't expire until the 24 months are up, which should be finished around October.

In the last few months, I've been associated with a computer and phone repair shop.  I help them with some odd iPhone/iPod touch and Mac problems.

The phone technician is impressive.  Apple will sometime say that an iPad or iPhone can't be repaired but he repairs them.  I believe what they really mean is that it's not worth their time.  What I've read is that they replace the product right away and then send it to a designated repair facility.  Often, those repairs end up with the product being returned in worse shape than the shape in which it was received.  This also applies to Apple computer repair.

I was having a problem with the backlight of a late 2004 Apple PowerBook.  I discussed the problem with the owner of the shop, who does the computer repair.  We agreed that it was the backlight.  When I checked it 2008, an Apple retailer gave me a guesstimate of US$400, because they would replace the whole rear panel, as Apple does, which includes the backlight.

The owner of this local shop quoted me a price of something like US$90 for labour + US$20 for the part, and he would order an extra part or two, just to have it.  Being that it was late 2012, Apple didn't even have parts available, so getting the whole panel would have required a deal on eBay for a used part, even a whole computer.  I believe that soldering the new backlight in place took minimal time.  It was the disassembly and re-assembly that took the most time.

So it is with phones.  They have a large display, one or more slabs of batteries, and a tiny circuit board.  Often, they're held together with a lot of glue, which makes disassembly almost impossible.  Certain generations of the iPod touch are a pain and the Samsung Galaxy S III is nearly impossible.  (This just in--the Galaxy S 4 is apparently just the opposite.)  If you damage the display on the Samsung GS3, and you don't have at least US$300 for the display, you're in trouble.  Replacing the display could be a mess because of all the glue and the tight fit.

On the other hand, I see iPhone 4, 4S and 5 repaired regularly although the iPhone 5 isn't nearly as fragile.  It's fairly simple to take those three phones apart, as long as you remember where you put the extra pieces.  One of the biggest problems they see is that someone decided to help their friend avoid a major repair cost and forget to finish the job, which in turn, costs more time and energy--and diagnostic and repair costs.

I'm fairly shocked that Apple made it easy to service the phones.  I needed to replace the battery in my 4th generation iPod (the original white model with the monochrome display) and I couldn't open it.  That's rather different with the 4200rpm hard drive, but the case was not meant to be opened by just anyone.  I've been replacing computer parts since the time of the original IBM PC in 1981, so I have a clue, but I don't mess with miniature parts.

This brings me back to the thought of a new phone.  These high resolution and large displays cost a lot of money to replace.  I was considering the LG Optimus G with the 1280x800 (or is it 1280x768?) display.  Now, they've announced the Optimus G Pro with the 1920x1080 display that's even larger.  Even if the phone is US$299 with a contract, the display replacement might be US$400 or more.  Obviously, if you're paying US$10 per month insurance, it's not a bad thing at all.  I suspect Asurion will charge more than US$10 per month for such a phone.  It's good to know that Apple only charge US$99 for two years.  My buddy replaced the display on an Optimus G a few days ago, and he said that there was so much adhesive that it took a lot of time to remove the shards of glass before he could install anything.

I think I'll hold onto my phone another year and see what happens.  After all, I know someone who can repair it quickly.

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