Report: Water-Damaged iPhones Now Swappable

May 4, 2009

Careless iPhone owners who have flipped their handset into a swimming pool–or glass of beer–can now reportedly save themselves the expense of purchasing a new handset under a new Apple store policy allowing the replacement of a liquid-damaged handset for $199. According to an independent iPhone repair company, display problems represent one-third of iPhone hardware issues. The new policy applies to out-of-warranty incidents that would normally require the purchase of a new phone, and also trigger an extention of the owner’s two-year AT&T contract. Under the new policy, the iPhone owner simply pays a one-time $199 price for a refurbished handset, and transfers the SIM card to the new device. The iPhone is equipped with four liquid submersion indicators: one in the headset jack, one in the dock connector, and two on interior surfaces. The indicators have been used by Genius Bar staff to help determine if an owner’s iPhone problem was caused by liquids, which are not covered by Apple’s warranty. The policy change could be related to an easing of Apple’s general repair policy, or as a way of clearing out an inventory of the current iPhone 3G stock ahead of a new model introduction this summer. According to a November 2008 SquareTrade study (pdf) of 15,000 handsets, the iPhone has a 9%–11% projected failure rate during the first two years, but a 24.7 percent accidental damage rate. Among component problems, the display module leads at 33 percent, followed by the antenna and hardware casing (13%) and power issues (12%).

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