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We’ve spent $6 billion on broken iPhones — why?

Shannon Mullen May 23, 2013
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If you’ve ever damaged your cell phone, you know how expensive repairs can be, especially if you have an iPhone.

Apple has sold more than 350 million iPhones since it first introduced them back in 2007, and so far Americans have spent more than $6 billion fixing broken ones. Parts for the latest model, the iPhone 5, are even more expensive than past generations.

iPhone users under 35 are apparently the clumsiest; half of them have accidents that cause damage, according to a survey by the consumer electronics insurer SquareTrade.

Twenty-four-year-old Elena Delvac lives in Los Angeles, and she’s broken the screen on almost every iPhone she’s owned.

“I did continue using my [iPhone] 3 for a long time until pieces of glass started coming off onto my face,” Delvac says. 

She has an iPhone 4 now and paid $80 to fix the screen. Delvac is thinking about upgrading to the iPhone 5, but it would cost even more to fix because there are fewer replacement parts available. “That for me is a huge deterrent, because I drop my phone at least four times a week.”

There’s been lackluster demand for the iPhone 5 since it came out in September.

Apple has cut orders for replacement parts, and doesn’t supply them to independent shops, so some repair companies are charging twice as much to fix iPhone 5 screens as they do to repair the 4.

“The parts have been difficult for people to manufacture,” says Kyle Weins, founder of IFixIt.com, a site that supplies parts for electronics. “We haven’t gotten enough of them out in the marketplace where the price of used phones has come down to the point where we can cannibalize used phones for the parts.”

Weins says Apple controls the repair price so they can steer people into upgrading their phones instead of getting them fixed. 

Others accuse Apple of trying to corner more of the lucrative iPhone repair market. But Gartner tech analyst Hugues de la Verne doesn’t suspect any foul play.

“Apple’s got a pretty good reputation with their end users and I don’t think they would risk a black eye that would come from something like that,” says de la Verne.

Apple declined to comment, but pointed to reports on the durability of the iPhone versus its competitors.

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