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iPhone Woe Stories Shine Light On Opportunities For Retailers In Repairs

NEW YORK – The iPhone 6 is here, and as recent reports can attest, it is bringing both high demand and potentially high rates of product-damage claims – a problem seen more and more as smartphone screens get larger and devices get harder to handle.

But what is seen by some as a negative for the average consumer has turned into an opportunity for enterprising electronics retailers.

In addition to creating opportunities for extended warranties and accidental damage policies, a few new turnkey smartphone-repair systems are reaching retailers to help keep customers happy and profit margins higher.

Retail-centric repair services — like RadioShack’s recently launched “Fix It Here” program for in-store repairs of Apple and Samsung mobile devices, and independent water-damage repair service TekDry, which offers a service to save cellphones and cameras from a drop in the toilet or kick into the pool — are providing consumers with opportunities to have out-of-warranty devices repaired rather than replaced.

RadioShack’s Fix It Here program recently expanded to 500 stores across the country and is ramping up to reach 700 shortly. The service covers water damage, camera and audio issues, battery replacements, and broken charging ports and buttons.

Denver-based TekDry, meanwhile, offers a mail-in service, but warns that time is of the essence in fixing a wet portable device, like a smartphone or digital camera, so it’s also looking for retail partners to take on its patented repair system and service training for more localized and immediate assistance.

According to a recent survey conducted for “Protect Your Bubble,” a provider of insurance and extended-warranty protection plans, only 8 percent of consumers with a broken phone are successful in repairing it themselves, while 20 percent had to pay to replace their device out of pocket.

Other interesting findings: 61 percent of survey respondents said they were without their phone for two to four days after it was damaged, and 53.8 percent said they were somewhat or very restless while they were without their phone.

Protect Your Bubble offers retailers and consumers another preventative solution in the form of insurance to safeguard against calamities befalling their new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones. Coverage fees start at just $5.99 per month, the insurer said.

Consumers can easily add protection for their iPhone through 30-second online quotes; unlimited claims; coverage for up to 36 months from the phone’s purchase date; and live customer support located in the U.S. Wearable technology protection plans are available now, and will also include the Apple Watch once it becomes available to consumers in 2015.

A timely reason for all the damage chatter is recent reports of how the hot new iPhones are susceptible to bending and other hazards. The new larger size of iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and other devices increases the chances for drops and spills as users adjust to the new dimensions, Protect Your Bubble stressed.

Its survey found 41 percent of users have damaged phones by cracking screens, while 24.4 percent attested to having damaged their products with water.

Protect Your Bubble also offers a fix to a larger problem – identity theft, where the iPhone’s new mobile payment feature, Apple Pay, presents a potential new exposure.

For those without the foresight to add warranty protection, TekDry said it offers a patented device-rescue service that “completely restores within 30 minutes wet mobile devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets and cameras, saving consumers time, money and the hassle of dealing with high insurance deductibles and costly device replacement fees.”

The standard smartphone mail-in service fee is $99, but TekDry is currently running a discount for $69.99, which includes the cost of shipping in both directions.

If the process is not successful, the service refunds all but $20 of the cost.

“More than 22 million Americans lose their mobile devices to toilets, swimming pools, washing machines, drink spills and other aquatic accidents each year,” said Eric Jones, co-founder of TekDry.

Jones said its can be critical to have a water-damaged device serviced within 48 hours from an accident, and TekDry is currently looking to establish strategic partnerships with retail locations to place its technology in their stores.

Meanwhile, RadioShack CEO Joe Magnacca recently said stores with its new Fix It Here service are outperforming the chain in sales and profit and that the service is driving new traffic to those locations.

The service operation has been generating more than 5,000 repairs (nationally) a week in recent weeks, a company spokesperson told TWICE.

RadioShack said the service time for most repairs is less than an hour, with the most common repair being a cracked-screen replacement.

Repair fees for a screen replacement typically run from $79.99 to $279; discounts are offered for multiple repairs on the same device.

The new initiative is part of Magnacca’s multi-pronged turnaround effort.