My Daughter’s iPhone4 Screen Broken – Was it Faulty? What will Apple do?

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June 30, 2010

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UPDATE: We went to the Apple store and the iPhone4 pictured was exchanged for a new one. The customer service was excellent and we were out of the store in ten minutes. The genius inspected the phone and noted a small knock on the very edge and that it had a single hairline crack across the screen. We were under no illusions that replacement was guaranteed and relieved to find out that in this case they would replace it. We went to best buy after and bought a case. It’s hard to find them stocked anywhere.

I just left the house taking my Motorbike for a service a few miles away. My daughter was following in the other car. When I arrived I parked my bike and as I was taking off the protective gear my daughter jumped out the car with huge tears in her eyes crying… Oh my god… my iPhone screen just cracked and more wailing. I couldn’t believe it.. but there it was a thin line crack all the way across the front face.

Now I know there are no real stories here. She got into the car her screen was fine. There’s nothing more precious at the moment than her iPhone4 and she’d been up for an hour at home. So using it. While I was checking in my bike for the service I know the text messages of the broken screen were already flying. So as I jumped back into the passenger seat for the ride home I asked her what happened.

She said she got into the car… put the iPhone4 in the normal spot. She puts it in the Armrest cupholder. Picture. Sometimes while driving it slides back – second picture although I assume it ended up upside down… which she said it had (slipped back) on this occassion. There’s nothing sharp in there… there’s no “drop” effect and as she was following me there was no racing driving going on.

I looked carefully at the screen. There’s just the hairline crack. Was it stressed as part of the manufacturing process? Did it fail to get the gorilla glass coating. What’s the deal?

Kerstin wants it fixed. She paid for it. Approx $259 with tax. It’s a lot of money for a college bound student. She doesn’t have a case yet although she’s been looking online. I’m not sure in this instance a case would have helped. That though is the only difference vs the iPhone 3G she has carried for years.

So I’ve told her to make an appointment with the Apple Store in Walnut creek using the the new Apple Store app. I presume that is the best place to get started. I’m intrigued to know how it goes. I realize that stuff breaks. I also know there was no funny business in this case, there was no weird story. The reaction on discovery was too emotional and the crack too obvious to have been missed earlier in the day and she’d been up for an hour or more. So it got used and I’d have heard earlier if it was cracked.

So we will be paying a visit to the Apple store. I’m hoping they will be accommodating. Unlike those that like shooting bullets and blending iPhones we sort of think they should be babied, cared for and treated as the expensive device they are.

I’m sure her iPhone3G like mine was dropped many times. They seemed robust. I expected this one to be even stronger. Now I’m not sure.

Will keep you posted. All pictures taken in the car on the move going home with my iPhone4.

Update: I’ve closed comments as I mentioned I might in my comment below.

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  • Unfortunately, it’s not a $259 device, it’s a $600-800 device with a subsidy. The new generations of smartphones are making this a bigger and bigger issue. The chances that a cell phone will outlive its subsidized life are very low.

    Some Android phones are sturdier than the iPhone… and there are benefits to Android too, check out this recent iphone vs android hype-free comparison over at the Ringio blog.

  • Hi Sam, yes I know it isn’t a $259 device and I’m paying a subsidy. That’s what she paid. As it is now in a contract that has two more years. I also know that you can replace a screen yourself on the iPhone3g or generally get it done for around $59. Some places less. I think Apple charges $99 for that. I’ve seen the iFixit costings for the screen which on the iPhone4 is bonded to the glass. So now both must be replaced. That won’t be a $99 cost at Apple. Here’s what I can find. http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/06/25/diy-iphone-4-screen-repair/ and I see that the replacement looks to be $149 and then you will have to install yourself. Not that hard with a few micro tools that I’m sure you will need. Of course there are no screens in stock.

    We have an appointment on Friday morning at the Genius Bar in Walnut Creek.

    I’d disagree with your assessment re outlive subsidized life. With an iPhone2g going on three years, and multiple 3G’s all over two, and Nokia smart phones for years that stood up to all sorts of hard wear and tear… No these devices have to be robust. If they need a protective case to survive then Apple should also make that clear. For that’s communicated as optional… and the looks cool is sold big time as a benefit. Why hide that in a case? Yet I’d think I only see 1 in 10 iPhones not in a case generally. That’s not a scientific number.

  • Johnny

    They should take care of you at your appointment I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
    I have a whole new appreciation for the level of service apple has.
    We’re on vacation, and Monday at the pool, my daughter pushes me in with my phone in the pocket of my trunks.
    I upgraded from the 2g to the 3gs about 4 months ago, and I’ve heard about apple having world class customer service, but never had an issue or needed service for either product.
    Seeing as the iphone4 was going on sale at AT&T Tuesday morning, we figured we would just go stand in line in the morning and see if we could get her one and see what my options were Since I knew that water damage was not covered period.
    We go to AT&T, where they proceed to
    tell me that they can’t do anything for me, they won’t give me an early upgrade to get the iPhone 4 or help me out with the 3g but that I can purchase either one for the out of contract price of a low down $599!
    We did pickup an iPhone 4 for my fiancé tho, so
    I figured worst case senario I could
    just use her old 2g untill I qualified to upgrade and get a new iPhone 4; but since there was an apple store on the way back to the hotel, I figured I would stop by and see if I had any other options.
    So at apple I explain my situation to one of
    the reps who tells me thanks for comming in but I need an appointment and they can’t help me untill it’s my appointment time, but that I’m extremely lucky because they have an avaliable appointment the same day(which apparently is rare). The rep makes me an appointment and tells me that it will get looked at, but I’ll probably have to buy another one for $199.
    Not liking that option either , I agree to come back for my appointment that night anyway.

    When I showed up later that night the store was packed like apple usually is. Feeling like this is just a waste of time , I make my way to the genius bar and wait for someone to acknoledge me. One of the reps notices me and I explain that I have an appointment. He motions toward a table and asks me to have a seat while he finishes up what he’s doing and that he will be right over. He comes over and I explain what happened along with that I was at the AT&T store that morning and what they told me, and that I simply trying to find out what if any options I have.
    He asks to see the phone, I give it to him and he takes it out of the case and quickly glances over it. He comments about the phone is in good shape and that it’s obvious I take care of it. I explained that I only had it a few months, I upgraded from the 2g, and as soon as I was eligible, i’d get the iPhone 4.
    He tells me to sit tight, and he will be right back.
    Two min later he emerges with a new phone , appologizes for making me wait, and says he will have me out of here in and back to my vacation in less than 5 min.
    I wa amazed ! No questions, no hastle, nothing.
    They were terrific. I really can’t say enough about apple after that experience.

  • Mitchell

    There are a few reports where people have smashed their iPhones and apple replaced them free of charge, i’m thinking of getting one myself but stories like these really make me rethink. let us know how it turns out later at the apple store

  • Monica

    I got an iPhone 4 on Tuesday, and the guy who was helping me at the Apple store told me that I did not need a screen protector. Having two iPhones before the 4, I knew that protectors are usually a good idea but I asked him over and over again if a screen protector was needed because I do drop my phone occasionally and he said no because the new iPhone’s screen can handle being dropped. Well yesterday, I was at the pool, laying out on a pool chair which is one foot above the ground and my phone was resting on the chair. As I got up, someone else sat down in the chair and the phone slipped through and cracked. According to tests that they have done on the new iPhone, the material in the glass isn’t supposed to break unless it’s been dropped three times from 3.5 feet above, yet mine cracked from a small drop. But my iPhone 3Gs did not break after multiple drops on cement. I am wondering if Apple will replace my screen or even my phone and how much it will cost me, even though the guy at Apple spent 20 minutes telling me I didn’t need a protector.

  • Johnny thanks for the advice and encouragement. You were right and I’d recommend anyone with a broken screen on an iPhone4 to go first to apple.

    I am a little curious now if bonding the screen to the display makes them more susceptible to damage.

  • I am glad to hear that I am not the only person that this has happened to. I have been babying my iPhone 4 like no other since the day I got it (I even kept the protective plastic sheeting on the back of it). I had the phone in the pocket of my sweatshirt and when I took it out there was a crack across the top of the phone. I was in shock since I hadn’t dropped it or anything. I had a iPhone 3G for 2 years and never had any broken screens, even after taking many falls onto concrete, etc. I am out of town at the moment but will be heading to Apple as soon as I get home on Thursday. I am hopeful that I will receive the same customer service as you have & hoping that they have some iPhone 4’s in stock for this type of situation.

  • Paulina

    So being the procrastinator that I am I kept putting off getting me a case for my iPhone 4. (also they were sold out and none caught my eye) so 4th of July I am out and sitting on beach chair at a BBQ and it slips out my pocket onto the ground and has a crack right across the screen. Yeah right helicopter glass. O went to apple and they said warranty doesn’t cover physical damage and I would have to pay 200 to replace the screen. Sucks! 🙁

  • David L.

    I camped out for the iPhone 4 and love it!. I left my iPhone on a marble counter basically feels like a glass counter. on its back side. I cam back an hour later from being outside and I had 4 missed calls. Later on I noticed the slightest crack on the top right corner and in the middle of the phone to the left. It looks like an O, cut in half. *Both spots.

    I have an appt. at genius bar at 10:30 am EST today. If youre speaking the truth and they really did replace your iPhone, Gosh do I hope they replace mine. Do I tell the truth? What should I do. I would love a brand new one.

  • David L.

    YESSS! They replaced it! “just this once I will replace this for you”

    YEAH BUDDDDYY. brand new :]

  • Jon Husband

    Genius FTW !

  • Amy

    Mine shattered tonight. I called Apple and they said I could “swap” it but the swap would cost me $199. So, I said, “So, I can buy a new phone?” He said, “Well, it’s a swap.” I said, “Well, you need to work on your verbiage. There’s nothing about that that’s a swap.” I’ve had my phone for 6 days and needless to say I’m SO annoyed. I think I may try the genius appt and see if it yields me any different response. I agree…the iPhone 3G was WAY more robust. I dropped that thing more times that I can count/remember and NEVER had a problem. One slip from my hand and this thing is done.

  • Amy and others I hope you find resolution. I know how much it hurts to see a cracked screen particularly after babying earlier phones and never having a crack. I’m contemplating closing comments on this post. Something I never do normally, however I can see that it could end up being a magnet for all sorts of comments and tough luck stories. As I cannot be the judge re the type of damage, it serves no real purpose to keep them open. In the end it will be hard to know or judge why my daughters was replaced and perhaps someone’s is not. I’d always recommend taking it in to the Apple store as quickly after the event as it happened. I’d also take some pictures where it was, what it hit or otherwise. Then I’d be truthful with the story. I’m sure Apple see’s many cracked screens, from phones that were dropped, sat-on, stood-on etc. At this point early in the life of the phone we don’t know if there were some manufacturing defects. Taking it in makes the product ID obvious too.

    Quite separately, I have no idea if Apple treats customers differently depending on their lifetime value. Is there a gold star next to some customers? If such a system exists I’d imagine outside a “business” account I’d probably come close to meeting that type of criteria. The family has now had lots of macs, phones, ipods, etc. If the phone had not been replaced in this case I’d certainly sour on my Apple experience.

    Still when a nice case is available I’m going to buy one. My daughter has already put her’s in a gel case – all that was available.

  • Dennis

    Just last night I was sitting on the patio with my iphone 4 in my lap. My wife handed me her iphone 4 and said look at this. When I reached for her’s mine slipped off my lap to the concrete…that’s all she wrote, my screen shattered. I am now trying to figure out what to do. I appreciate the comments here and will go to the nearest apple store an hour and a half drive from here hoping for a no charge replacement. I have had the 2g,3g and 3gs and have also dropped them several times with never a broken screen to show for it. This was my 4’s first fall from grace…BE CAREFUL FRAGILE might be the word for the day.

  • Brenda Marsh

    I wish we had had the same success. My son was in a sitting position with his iphone on his lap. Stood up and the phone fell onto a wooden deck, landing on the corner. The impact cracked the screen. I went to the apple store yesterday, and got to pay the $199.00 plus tax, and the cost of a bumper, another 29.00 plus tax . This screen is not all it’s been “cracked” up to be. Not strong at all. Disappointed in the whole process.

  • Hey Stuart

    I read that people are buying Lance Armstrong yellow Livestrong wrist bands and cutting them in two at the circumference – makes two nice yellow bumpers for the iPhone4 for about a buck!

    iPad and iPhone4 not in NZ yet. Soon for the iPad i hear.

    Cheers

    Roger

  • Dan

    I was playing my favorite ap zombie farm last night. While I was playing and heard a little “pop” noise. My screen cracked from corner to corner. I did not drop the phone at all. I was holding it in my hands when this happened. I called apple and they told me to send them the phone for repair. I have had my iPhone4 roughly a week.

  • Rob Farrar

    Just got my phone last night. First time to get an Iphone and it dropped off a table about 3 foot high on to concrete and shattered entire screen. I bought a case for it several weeks ago when i purchased the phone but were out of stock and went to a local best buy with the same luck being out of stock. Very frustrated first fall with this phone and its ruined. Going to apple store to see what they say but im sure I will have to pay for a new one or swap with a very high charge which im not willing to pay. Considering just asking if I can reactivate my old pantech phone since i know that it can be dropped and thrown across a room and keep working like it was new.

  • Katrina

    I was getting out of my car when my iphone 4 fell on the concrete and has a lot of cracks on the screen. Will I have to pay to get it fixed? and how much do you think i will have to pay?

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