While a drop or near-drowning episode may not be quite fatal for an iPhone, the cost of repair may be so prohibitive that buying a new device may seem a better option.
Consumers have bought more than 100 million of Apple Inc's (AAPL) gadgets, and that total is growing rapidly, with 52 million iPhones and iPads sold just in the last 14 weeks of 2011. But accidents can and do happen, with one out of four of those iPhones breaking within two years, according to a June 2010 study by San Francisco, California-based SquareTrade, a company that offers extended warranties for gadgets. That adds up to a sizeable number of people needing repairs or replacement of their devices each year.RELATED: 6 Things Apple Could Do With Its $100 Billion in Cash
The simplest way to avoid expensive repair work is to invest in preventive measures, such as an Otterbox Defender - a basic but robust protective skin which costs around $50. Otterbox offers waterproof versions for those prone to spilling coffee, as well as kid-proof screen protection against sticky fingers.
Apple device lovers can also buy an extended warranty or third-party gadget insurance. Apple offers its AppleCare+ extra year of warranty coverage for $99, plus a $49 service fee per damage repair. The warranty covers up to two incidents. Payment with a credit card may double the length of a warranty, so check with your issuer to see if you can turn Apple's one-year limited warranty into a two-year warranty.RELATED: Banking on Another Apple Miracle
Indeed, Apple has ample rivals in the market for plans to fix and protect its devices. Gadget expert Josh Smith, editor of GottaBeMobile.com, says the two best ones are offered by Apple and SquareTrade. "Both provide two years of coverage that includes drops and water damage for under $100," he says.
If your goal is to save money, you'll need some courage and savvy. For simple repairs, there are online guides, such as the ones on Fixit.com. Apple, however, warns that no one, other than an authorized agent, should attempt to repair or modify an iPhone. In an owner's manual for iPhones, the company says, "Disassembling iPhone, including the removal of external screws, may cause damage that is not covered under the warranty."
Indeed, Apple recently introduced a tamper-resistant screw that can't be opened by standard screwdrivers, aimed precisely at discouraging home-repair efforts. Chris Zane, owner of Zane's Cycles in Branford, Connecticut, was a consumer who wasn't deterred by the iPhone manual's warning. He bought seven iPhones for his employees, and decided it would be quicker and cheaper for him to fix them himself when they broke.