Damaging your smartphone is the technological equivalent of getting bad plastic surgery, except one is easier to get corrected. In my experience, smartphone repair shops have taken it upon themselves to make the repair process as expensive and painful as possible, but it's not entirely their fault. In the case of manufacturer defects, all the big players have their own inherently limited policies, most with a warranty window period of around one year for defects only. But recently, there has been an uproar of discontent in China regarding the one year warranty period of all Apple devices which limits replacement parts to 30 days after the time of purchase. The question at stake for Apple in China is whether they are treating Chinese consumers differently than Americans, but there is a much larger question at hand when repairs are concerned.

Where I see this issue as in its infancy, the Chinese have long demanded better practices from Apple, the American company. Though I can't relate to the visage of Apple in China as "arrogant", I do understand why warranty is so important in the context of the iPhone.

The Chinese have demanded Apple extend their warranty policy to include the damaged backside of their iPhone 4 and 4S, to align the policy with their latest iPhone 5. It's no secret that the glass backside of the last generation iPhone was prone to breaking. It's for this reason that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a formal mea culpa to hinder damage to his company's reputation outside of the U.S. But is the issue fully resolved? Not really.

To put it simply, smartphones are not as durable as they used to be. They're glass. Screens crack. Some die for no reason. I have been very critical of devices and pleaded with manufacturer's to improve durability instead of design. Unfortunately, form over function has gotten the smartphone market to the point of no turning back. Consumers now associate smartphones as an extension of their person, similar to how an individual with plastic surgery sees themself. It's for this reason that repair prices of smartphones are shooting through the roof.

I am inclined to believe that any manufacturer, not just Apple, is at the point where warranty policies need to be refined to align with the design of their devices. Where corporate responsibility demands businesses to uphold the highest level of best practice to benefit the consumer and their industry, corporations also have a duty to address smartphone damages and defects to the acceptance of the consumer. When a smartphone is designed without disassembly in mind, the consumer is trapped between expensive repair costs and limited warranties.

The argument against increased manufacturer responsibility would say there are optional warranty extensions and insurance policies which could reduce the out of pocket fees associate with repairs. You can purchase insurance policies through carriers, third party companies like Asurion, and even retail stores like Best Buy, but each has inherent limitations in the form of deductibles, and monthly fees. These costs to the consumer add up and beckon the question "Why fix it when I can just buy a new smartphone?"

With that said, many local chains like uBreakiFix have found an industry in exploiting the extreme difficulty in repairing smartphones. Consumers outside the manufacturer's Limited Warranty period, and without insurance, now have another hurdle to jump through with repair costs. Pair exceedingly high deductibles with monthly fees for insurance and I'm beginning to wonder how design has evaded the corporate responsibility of manufacturers.

On top of this, the limitations in manufacturer warranties are written in a way to benefit the supplier, which is understandable, but they need to be revised. I understand there is a limitation between what the manufacturer deems their responsibility to repair, and my expectations as the buyer of a product. My issue lies in communicating the warranties each manufacturer offers. I also believe the workmanship and the design of smartphones is at a tipping point and inherently favors smartphone replacements instead of repairs.

There will always be the argument for putting on a durable case to keep your smartphone safeguarded in the face of adversity. But it has become more of a requirement to prevent further repair/replacement costs down the road than I am comfortable with. I enjoy a smartphone without a case, but lately it has been at the inherent detriment of irreparable damage to devices.

On one hand, consumers want the best design and quality which is understandable. The problem is that it generally impacts the repair process of the device. Gadget tear-down company iFixit recently scored the HTC One a dismal 1 out of 10 citing that its nearly impossible to reassemble without breaking the backside of the device. In turn, you can expect HTC and repair shops alike to either down play product issues, or turn consumers off by astronomical repair prices. In essence, smartphone design is spawning a lose-lose scenario in the face of repairs for the consumer.

However, I'm interested to hear your thoughts in the matter, Dear Reader. Does the repairability of a device deter you from a purchase? Are you comfortable with knowing your smartphone is nearly impossible to repair in the case that damage occurs? Do you have insurance, or an extended warranty on your device?

Images via iFixit.

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9 Reactions to this post

"The latest batch of smartphones scream quality, but some are at the expense of repairability. Does premium quality outweigh durability and the ability to fix a smartphone if it is damaged?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Andrew Bissel No! Developers are the people who really make a phone worth using. If were going to root or jailbreak then were gonna come across a phone we have to repair ourselves.
Nick Kathrein Heck NO. Once you put the phone in a case to protect it then it doesn't matter what is made out of because it covered. Let through more stuff in landfills just because we want to glue down everything in a solid piece of metal. Heck... Lets make a car this way. Who cares it's not fixable. You'll just buy a new car. What a waste of resources for a planet that is in need of some common sense.
Skylor Mitchell If they can build a truly durable device, then there shouldn't really be any reason for it to be easy to repair.
Pak King This is the reason I only buy smart phone with removable battery and micro SD card. anything else is a dumb purchase.
Matthew Swanson I think we're moving toward a culture of disposable, for better or worse. I'd rather have a well built stellar phone than one i can take apart. Chances are if i damage my phone is beyond repair anyway... and with phone you can repair is often cheaper just to buy a new one, especially if you have insurance on your device.
Lawrence Lepes As long as you keep a good eye on your device, you don't have to worry about getting it repaired.
Chris Kettler i should get royalties or something for that
Chris Kettler best buy and geek squad have a pretty good thing going here. 9.99/mo, no deductible, no limit on turning the phone in. i've done it twice in a year so i think it's payed for itself. they say they cover everything from cracked screens to water damage to phone death. i'm waiting on my replacement one x to arrive now. the cool part is best buy does a loaner phone for a $50 deposit.
Ana Sharada Loncar Yes it does.

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