Earlier this year, reportedly faulty exploding iPhones in Europe caused a whole lot of finger pointing at Apple and its suppliers—but more often than not, iPhones get sent to the repair shop because of user slip-ups.
Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, an iPod and iPhone repair shop, and one of the first technicians to take apart the iPhone 3GS and write a repair guide, has seen his fair share of reasons why broken iPhones need emergency surgery. Here are his six favorites, along with advice on how to triage the problems:
1. "My iPhone went through the washing machine."
Liquid is public enemy number one of the iPhone. One reader wrote to me that Apple refused to fix her broken iPhone because the Apple technician saw a red line on the base of the phone where the charger attaches. "It's some kind of liquid submersion indicator," she says, adding that her new iPhone was never exposed to water, rain or humidity. "They insisted I must have somehow submerged the iPhone in water, voiding all warranties."
When an iPhone gets caught up in the washing machine, you'll probably have to kiss it goodbye. "This all-too-common cause has a high mortality rate due to the thorough and prolonged penetration of the water," Vronko says.
2. "I plugged my iPhone into my car charger, and it started to smoke."
Chances are you've fried iPhone circuits because of a power surge. The 12 volt electrical system of cars used primarily for headlights and interior lights was not designed to handle the loads of modern cars with their big stereos, myriad gadgets and electronic features. "It's common to have power surges simply because we're overloading a small capacity system," Vronko says.
The good news is that the iPhone probably can be repaired cheaply, unlike the iPhone in the washing machine. In the iPhone, the dock connector acts as a kind of protective layer to the main board, and so a power surge will likely fry just the dock connector. You'll need an inexpensive dock connector replacement, Vronko says. Of course, you'll still have to go a couple of days without your iPhone.
A big power surge, of course, can make it to the main board. In these cases, it's bye-bye iPhone. "It wouldn't make economic sense to fix it," Vronko says.
Vronko doesn't make many recommendations about iPhone accessories, save one: Buy brand-name chargers because they'll have a better fuse to protect the iPhone. A brand-name company will also be more likely to help you out if its product causes damage to your iPhone.
Also, if you're intent on using a car charger, try not to have the iPhone plugged in when you're starting or turning off a car. That's usually when electrical spikes occur, Vronko says.
3. "I dropped the iPhone and the screen cracked."
You may pull an iPhone from your pocket or bag 40 times in a day. Its thin shape and slippery plastic shell is a disaster in the making. I've probably dropped my iPhone once every other week, luckily on carpet, and thus had to replace the screen's protective film or live with the scratches on the back. With a drop on concrete, though, it's easy to see the potential for cracked screens.