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The Cost of Cracking (priceonomics.com)
97 points by omarish on Mar 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments

Isn't it funny how people scoff at ruggedized phones for being "ugly" but then go and slap all kinds of chintzy cases and screen protectors to their fragile phones, making them much uglier than the rugged variant and just barely more resistant to damage than without all that crap?

Mind I have never broken a phone, and I take good care of all the units I have had, only replacing them due to obsolescence.

I hate the OtterBox cases and whatnot with a passion, but I'm pretty impressed with the casemate case [1] for my 3gs. Two years later and the back is still shiny; many drops and not a crack. Best of all, it doesn't make the phone any bulkier or affect its profile.

[1] http://www.case-mate.com/iPhone-3G-Cases/Case-Mate-iPhone-3G...

I am on my 15th iPhone since it originally launched. I dont like cases and screen protectors. (they make it hard to pull from my pocket)

I HATE how fragile they are -- I have replaced many a screen and cracked glass on these things.

But one of the many design flaws that irk me about the iphone is no lanyard attachment hole on the freaking thing.

It should have come with a lanyard and a hole to attach it to.

Had apple done this from day one - I bet the number of broken phones would have been greatly reduced.

I don't deny that cracked screens appear to a problem, but surely you agree that going through 15 iPhones makes your case a bit of an outlier?

Considering most of those phones all broke and cracked on the very first drop, I'd say not really.

I have dropped my 15th unit, my current iPhone 4 one time so far on the sidewalk of SF -- it landed on its corner and has a dent and a scratch. I feel lucky that I have only dropped it once in 8 months.

The things are fragile. There is no denying that. With the iPhone 4 introduced with now 100% MORE glass to break! (the rear panel) I think its actually irresponsible of apple to not put a lanyard hole on the damn thing.

With respect, I think a greater part of the problem is mistreating your stuff. One, two, even three broken phones I can see. Fifteen indicates a problem with the user.

My iPhone 4 fell out of a pocket as I was getting out of my car and cracked the back glass, which was a cool $70 out of my pocket. I got a replacement back and it's fine again, but I made goddam sure not to drop it again.

I dropped my iPhone 4 the day after I got it, at 25 mph from a bicycle, on an industrial concrete road, and the phone survived without a scratch. I got the Apple bumper the next day.

I have two kids, 10 and 7. Can't tell you how many times that phone has been dropped since. A lot. I took it mountain biking one too many times, took one too many jumps, shattered the front glass. Apple immediately replaced it for free despite being a month out of warranty, but it was still a 3 hour ordeal since the store I went to didn't have my model in stock, so I had to go to another store. Considering my take home is around $75 an hour, Unless you're rich and have a lot of time to deal with the hassle (a rare combination), I think your vanity is getting in the way of good sense, thus I question your judgement.

How'd you do with the 3GS? I've had mine for 2.5 years, dropped it about 8 times, still fine with it, never replaced a part.

15th Phone?! That's three phones a year since launch.

Please tell me you haven't been buying phones because they broke? If so, I think this a great testament to brand loyalty that Apple are masters at.

I don't think I've had 15 phones in my life, and I have had at least one phone at any point in time for the last 13 odd years.

Damn. So this is not about software cracking.

I'd love to know how many (if any) people saw the title and thought cracked screen and how many people voted the story knowing it was about cracked screens...

I don't vote without at least skimming, so I voted after reading it. In fact my vote was largely influenced by 2 things:

1. interesting study

2. relief that it isnt about cracked software or cracked servers :)

If I'm on hacker news and I see the word cracking, I immediately think piracy/etc. Cracktros. Not broken glass. :P

If I'm on hacker news and I see the word cracking, I immediately hope this'll be some old school "let's open up IDA and see what's what here" article.

I think the ambiguity was on purpose to attract clicks. It got me as well.

I wondered if it was the abbreviation of criminal hacker

Apple only charges $29 to repair a cracked iPhone 4S back glass.

Just mentioning that the Apple Store is always good first place to go to. I got mine replaced for free when I cracked my iPhone 4.

The Genius Bar employees have very wide latitude to waive charges. If you're polite/friendly with them, and if you are obviously competent and able to make their job easier (show up on time or slightly before, don't complain if you have to wait, have all the debugging steps done, be able to assist with simple debugging steps, HAVE THE MACHINE FULLY BACKED UP BEFORE ARRIVING, etc.), they're more likely to waive charges.

Another tip for OSX apple machine service: have an "apple:apple" temporary account created (as admin) for them to run tests, rather than having to log them in to your account or give them your password, especially if you use filevault. I don't really know what the equivalent is for iOS -- maybe turn off passcode lock before showing up?

How do you help debug a cracked screen?

If they have admin access who cares if they do not have to login as your account? Does filevault use a separate password?

There are lots of repair issues other than cracked screen; I meant the general case. But yes, even with a cracked screen, back your shit up using the cable before going into the store -- it'll save a step for the Genius and make it more likely you get a free screen.

A fresh account is less likely to have random stuff (desktop full of files, random app windows, customized settings, ...), so it's easier for the tech to work with. They usually ask for the username/password, and note it somewhere -- if it's the default (apple/apple), it's easier for you (you don't need to change your account password) and for them (if the note gets lost, or if your password is absurdly long or complex).

With Filevault 1, you'd be safe as a logged-out user even from an admin on the system. With Filevault 2, they went FDE, and assumed systems are dedicated to single users, or that unix file permissions would be the only protection between user accounts, so one admin account can read everything. (I actually use separate drives when I send machines in for repair -- doing this on the MBA is slightly harder and requires a service tech agreement with Apple).

This applies even more so if you have something like PGP disk or Trend or Wingate or whatever which makes booting more complex.

I went with my friend to the Apple store last year with her cracked iPhone 4 and watched in awe as they transferred her data to a new one and gave it to her on the spot, free of charge. I got the same treatment a few years ago when the power switch on my Touch stopped working.

Interesting thing is they didn't ask to see a warranty either time, they must have them in their system for each machine.

Any physical/liquid damage isn't covered by warranty. Pretty good of Apple to do that, all of the network operators i've worked with charge.

off-topic, but couldn't find a contact form on the website.

Priceonomics need to improve their search results. If you navigate through categories the results are well organized... but if you try to use search it does not organize the data properly.

I can drill down through your results to find the Honda Civic prices per year: http://priceonomics.com/cars/honda/civic/

But I can't search for those results. http://priceonomics.com/search?s=honda+civic+2006

There's the same problem with phones. Navigating the listing to phones I can find the iPhone 2G: http://priceonomics.com/phones/apple/

But if I search for the iPhone 2G: http://priceonomics.com/search?s=iphone+2g

It appears that cities with high heat and humidity have more cracked phones than others.

I've broken enough phones in my life to know that I need to have protection[1], and frankly, I love the rugged size of the otterbox defender on my Moto Photon.

I'm notoriously clumsy with my gear and would rather spend the $50 for a nice big rubber case (improved grip and drop prevention) than wait to drop it.

Beyond that, come summer time, I'm a big time beach bum, but I still have to run my business and that means bringing the phone to the beach. Having an "almost completely contained" case is a godsend to protect it from the occasional drop in the sand.

Frankly, I'd rather prevent than repair, though I'm not exactly afraid to take the phone apart should I bust the screen, but I might as well invest a few bucks to make it near-indestructible. It just makes me feel better.

[1] Broken two flip phones in half, smashed the screen on a few others, dropped two in water (one toilet, one lake, not that an otterbox will help that much), ruined the shit out of the buttons (power, volume, keys, whatever) from sand. I'm sure I'm missing some.

It appears from the chart your chances of dropping your phone and having the screen crack are higher in the South than the North.

Could it be that Houston summer heat makes your hands sweaty and that means you're more likely to drop your phone? Yet another advantage of living in a frigid climate.

Yeah, but up here we're more likely to slip on ice and drop ourselves.

Interesting. Maybe you could do a rational economic calculation based on value lost per destructive event, frequency of events, and odds that such event will happen before a non-protected event (loss, theft, crushing which exceeds the resilience of a case). Compare that with the cost of a case and the value lost by using a case (ugliness, size).

Although I took my magpul case off my iphone 4 today (to use a tascam im2 microphone), and it's really hard to hold the glass surface, compared to the nice plastic surface of the case.

Are you planning to smash enough phones yourself to reach statistical significance?

So how much money can someone make buying cracked phones, fixing them, and reselling? I guess it only takes one person doing this to normalize the price of a cracked phone.

At the end of the article: "There is entire ecosystem that takes broken phones and makes them whole again, so prices of broken phones aren’t even that low."

I'm not sure, but I love that the ratio of the price to fix a cracked screen vs the value created by doing that is roughly the same across all model of iPhones. Put differently, it makes sense that you can always make a little money by fixing up iPhones. You'd expect people to value that more than just the cost of doing it (no uncertainty, not having to look around, etc).

The opposite is also true : There's a pretty fixed mark-up for 'cracked' Apple TV 2s. I imagine people are buying used ATV2s, rooting and reselling...

There are already places fixing phones more cheaply than the iCracked prices listed in the article:


Not sure about quality, though.


My bad guys - did not realize that article mentions iCracked. I will delete my other comment.

Check eBay for parts! From a simple search I can see that a replacement back for the iPhone 4s costs about $4 including shipping. Nowhere near the $120 iCracked charges according to this article.

I cracked the screen of my iPhone 3G a few years back. Rather than get it replaced, I decided to keep it like that since the touchscreen was still perfectly functional. I thought it made an interesting juxtaposition, and I loved the looks of horror mixed with pity people would give it whenever I nonchalantly used it in front of them.

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