Dealing with a broken phone

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Ryan Wilkinson, MHK iRepair technician and senior in kinesiology, replaces the screen on an iPhone 5S Saturday at MHK iRepair in Aggieville. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

A call from work goes unanswered. A text from a significant other is seemingly ignored. In an age where most people rely on their cell phones as their primary method of communication, one clumsy drop and the loss of a phone has the potential to completely disrupt a person’s life.

“I think (cell phones) have become indispensable for all of us,” Steven Smethers, associate director of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said. “People who are under the age of 60 don’t have landlines anymore. It’s all cell phones. We find that when we are cut off from anything that has been a part of our habit of media consumption, we will go through a certain amount of trauma.”

For students on a tight budget, cell phone repairs become a low priority compared to a necessary expense like food. Others dread the thought of asking parents for repair money.

“I don’t pay for my cell phone bills, so I would be in a lot of trouble if I ever broke (my smartphone),” Leah Devers, sophomore in computer science, said.

Although insurance plans from cell providers can cover damage, the deductible from a claim for accidental damage can cost more than repair from a third-party, according to phoneclaim.com. The website is operated by Asurion, LLC, an insurance company which handles the insurance services of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, in addition to several smaller providers.

Even though repair parts and tutorials can be found online, the process of repair can be daunting and students often turn to professional services for repair.

“We see a lot of cases where people drop the phones from their laps,” Ross Cunningham, senior in sociology and co-owner of MHK iRepair, said. “A common cause is when people go out to Aggieville and aren’t careful with their phones. We see a lot of water damage, as well.”

Located in Aggieville, MHK iRepair offers repair services for cell phones, tablets, computers and even televisions.

A common misconception is that a broken phone is a dead phone. That is not always case, however. According to Cunningham, MHK iRepair can usually provide repairs and even recover data in 70 to 75 percent of all cases.

“Usually, our customers are really surprised that we are able to take a completely dead device and get it up and running,” Cunningham said. “We can extract all their contacts and pictures when we need to. One time, we were able to repair an iPad that had been shot with a handgun.”

In cases of water damage, a widely told do-it-yourself fix is to seal the wet phone in a bag full of rice. Called “the rice trick,” the moisture inside the phone is allegedly absorbed by the rice, leaving the phone completely dry. In an online article titled “iPhone water damage: rescue a soaked device with rice trick,” Macworld UK found that after days of drying in rice, they were able to get a wet phone running again.

However, Cunningham said that in his repair experience, the trick does not hold a lot of truth.

“The rice trick is actually more of a myth,” Cunningham said. “These phones are so tightly built that the rice would not be able to absorb any of that moisture.”

In cases of water damage, Cunningham said that they disassemble the phone and clean out the corrosion, while the rice trick would simply dry out the phone at best.

Of course, the best defense against cell phone damage is to handle the phone carefully and to avoid situations where the phone could fall and break or fall in water. In other cases, the best way to protect the phone is to add physical protection. For ultimate protection, Cunningham recommended buying heavy-duty protective gear for phones.

“You can usually avoid broken screens by buying tempered glass screen protectors,” Cunningham said. “Really though, the most important thing is being careful with your phone. I particularly recommend OtterBox and LifeProof. Those are probably the two most protective cases you can get.”

Another way students can protect their devices is by using original manufacturer parts and accessories. Aftermarket chargers and cables are not always made to standard and may cause cell phones to charge improperly, and non-original batteries have been found to consistently have lower capacity than original batteries, according to an article on TechCrunch.com titled “Are third-party cell phone battery manufacturers deceiving their customer?”

Although manufacturers have been reducing the number of slots and ports on the exteriors of their phones, it is always a good idea to keep your phone clean from dirt, debris and lint. If particles manage to find their way into the phone’s charging port, a toothpick or similar object can be carefully used to clean the port out, which should result in a better charge.

Keeping your phone updated with the latest software releases is also an excellent way to protect phones. Apart from adding the latest features to your phone, updates patch security vulnerabilities in your phone, leaving you protected against identity and data theft, according to both Apple and Google, makers of the two most popular phone operating systems.

In general, users should use proper caution when downloading unknown files onto their devices. This is especially true for Android users because the operating system is currently the preferred target of 97 percent of all mobile malware, according to a Forbes.com article titled “Report: 97% Of Mobile Malware Is On Android. This Is The Easy Way You Stay Safe.” This is in comparison to Apple’s iOS, which has relatively few security threats. That being said, Justin Graham, sophomore in computer science, said that common sense goes a long way in phone protection.

“If you’re a competent tech user with an Android phone, you’re probably safe,” Graham said. “But we all know there’s people out there that don’t know better and want to click on every popup and download every shiny cursor and emoticon. These people are the ones that typically get infected with malware.”

Although they may seem small and durable, cell phones are delicate devices that need be treated like an investment.

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I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.