By Anna Roberts

In an office building wedged between Lids and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square, on the 20th floor, is the Device Shop. At noon on a Monday, the store was almost empty except for one customer, referred to by the receptionist as Squeeze.

It was the second time he’d been in this month. He gingerly handed over his iPhone 6S for inspection. It was encased in a plastic bag, the screen shattered beyond all recognition. Twenty minutes later, the receptionist returned Squeeze’s phone, screen in tact, for $100.

In 2014, Squaretrade reported that 26 percent of iPhone users cracked their screens, on driveways, off tabletops and down flights of stairs. Squaretrade also reported that 15 percent of those unlucky users never got their phone fixed.

Millions of Apple users are discouraged from utilizing third party repair services, which can be less expensive than going directly to the source. Apple products are in such high demand that although Apple’s smartphone division accounts for a small percentage of the market, they intake an overwhelming majority of the profits. If phones break, the company has implemented policies that make it difficult for their users to use any other service besides Apple’s.

Apple’s user agreement stipulates that if users that have purchased AppleCare—Apple’s $99, one-year long insurance program—repairing phones with a third party service would render that insurance null and void. This subjects users to exorbitantly high repair costs at the Apple store, upwards of $300 out of warranty. That equates to about half the cost of a brand new phone. Third party repair services are barred from using Apple products, so these companies import replacement parts from China. However, prices can fluctuate depending on availability.

Many iPhone users, when faced with a phone that’s broken in some capacity but still useable, simply upgrade their phones instead of going through the hassle of repair. When faced with the choice of heading to a less expensive third party repair service which cannot offer an Apple certified replacement parts, or going to Apple, where repairs are costly, users figure they might as well spend their money on purchasing a new phone altogether.

The Guardian first reported this February that iPhone users, who got their home buttons repaired by third party services, could face inoperable devices. Thousands of people reported “error 53” messages showing up on their phones after they tried to update to the new iOS operating system.

The update technology looks to see if the phone still contains the original parts. If not, the phone locks up and currently, there seems to be no discernable way to repair the devices without purchasing a new phone. Fixers at the Device shop confirmed that this means the phone is essentially dead. Apple tech support offered no other solution.

This error messages renders a device valued between $650-$850 depending on the model and memory capacity worthless. Third party services are not able to correct this problem and Apple basically requires the user to purchase a new device.


Operating Profit Value



Apple raked in 92 percent of the total earnings of the world’s top eight smartphone manufacturers in the first quarter of 2015, up from 65 percent from a year earlier, said Michael Walkely, managing director of Canaccord Genuity. According to the study released by Canaccord, Apple only sells 20 percent of smartphones, but the company is able to amass so much income because it can sell products at comparatively high prices.

“Apple dictates the market to such a degree that people fall in line,” said Nikolai Hamedi, 27, a former Apple Genius at Tyson’s Corner Center, a shopping mall in McLean, VA. That was the first Apple Store ever opened, in May of 2001. “Indestructible screens still aren’t a make or break demand, thus they don’t do it. Unless it’s a standard everywhere else, then I think they’ll make it happen. Otherwise, more money for them to make in repairs.”

Apple holds a relatively small portion of the smartphone market, but yet they consume most of the profits. Samsung Electronics took in 15 percent of the total operating income. HTC, Sony, Blackberry and other companies actually operated with net losses, according to Canaccord; therefore the total reaches over 100 percent.

Apple is able to charge a premium price for their new devices. The phones are stylish, popular and in high demand. There’s certainly a market for phone repairs, but often users don’t see repair services as an option.

Marideny Tavarez, 27, has shattered her screen six times in the past two years. First, she dropped her iPhone 5S and the breakage wasn’t that bad. She didn’t want to go through the hassle of fixing it. However, it just kept slipping through her fingers.

“I kept dropping it and then eventually the pieces were literally falling off,” Tavarez said. “Certain cracks were over where the keyboard so I could barely see what I was typing. I just hoped everything I texted was spelled right.”

Coworkers encouraged her to fix her phone and suggested third party repair shops, most notably a hole in the wall in Chinatown underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. Tavarez didn’t trust those services and Apple was too expensive. She didn’t have insurance. Tavarez weighed her options and decided the path of least resistance would be to hold onto her broken phone until she could upgrade with Apple.

“It didn’t bother me, but it seemed to bother everyone else,” Tavarez said. When her contract with Verizon ran out four months ago, she purchased an iPhone 6S. So far, she hasn’t broken it yet.

As consumers desire bigger screens with sleeker designs, smartphone manufacturers have been tasked with creating a product that walks thin line between aesthetics and function. The larger and glossier the design, empirically, the phone is harder to hold onto. There are always going to be more slips and falls.