Apple Replaces Shattered iPhone After Customer Drops It

Someone in Apple’s iPhone Support department just got the crap haunted out of him by three ghosts, I’m guessing, based on what happened when David called to explain that his wife had dropped and ruined her brand new iPhone.

I wanted to write and tell you about a recent experience I had with Apple Customer Service.

I purchased an iPhone 3G S (32 GB) for my wife when they debuted and today I decided to get one for myself. While at the AT&T store I picked up an OtterBox for my new phone and one for my wife’s because I had heard how great they were. When I got home my wife picked up her phone to put it in the new case and it slipped out of her hand, landed on our tile floor, and shattered the screen.

I called Apple iPhone support (1-800-MY-IPHONE) with my Apple Care Plan number and told my story to Michael. We joked about the irony of dropping and breaking a phone while putting it in a protective case. He asked me if I had any other Apple products. I told him that we own several. Over the years we have purchased three laptops, an iMac, and 4 iPods in addition to the two phones. He put me on hold for a few minutes and came back to tell me that they were going to replace my wife’s phone for free. I was amazed. The damage was entirely our fault, but they opted to reward our loyalty with a free repair.

I know that not everyone is a fan of Apple or their customer service, but it is because of service like this that I am and will continue to be an Apple customer.

Here are the two lessons I’ve learned from this:

1. Buy an Apple Care plan if you want to cover all your bases. In reality, despite what I just typed I never buy extended warranties; I’d rather assume the risk myself, and accept that there are times when I’ll have to pay for repairs or replacements. But lots of our readers swear by Apple Care plans and say they saved them lots of money. Just to be clear, though, the Apple Care plan explicitly states it does not cover damage caused by the user.

2. (This one is more important.) When dealing with a company, try to find a way to communicate that you are a steady, predictable revenue stream for them. Smart companies know that it makes sense to throw the occasional bone to a devoted customer, because in the long run it’s cheaper than spending money acquiring new customers. The wrong strategy is to be obnoxious or threatening about it; the right strategy is to quantify how much you’ve spent in recent years, if possible, and to try to get the company to see that it’s a smart business decision to keep doing business with you.

Also, as a general rule, if you’re clumsy try handling electronic devices in “safe” areas: on the couch, or over a kitchen table or desk. As we saw in the Droid packaging problem last month, your first interactions with a new device–or in this case, a new OtterBox–can be unpredictable, so it’s wise to make sure you’re in a safety zone at first.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Good for you, Apple. Way to go. More companies should treat their customers like this!!!

  2. H3ion says:

    “God bless us every one.” It sounds like the Christmas spirit has not only shown up at Taco Bell but is also present at Apple. Nice job by Apple in going above and beyond. BTW, those Otter cases are very solid.

  3. CherieBerry says:

    The same thing happened to me less than 12 hours after I purchased the iPhone 3Gs. I did not have the Apple Care Plan, but they replaced it the touch screen for me free of charge (probably because I *just* purchased it). They fixed it quickly and without question, making me quite pleased.

    Downside is, that they didn’t reattach the new screen properly and two months later it the internal connectors came apart and I had to return to the Apple Store to have the phone looked at again.

  4. 333 (only half evil) says:

    My husband has broken two OtterBoxes in the past few months, which were both replaced free of charge. His phone remains undamaged.

    • pot_roast says:

      TWO of them? Dare I ask just what the hell he’s doing with these phones that he’s destroying them? I’m a firefighter/emt and only have a Speck case on my iPhone, and it’s been in my pocket through car accident extrications and structure fires.

  5. SharadaThyestes says:

    You beat me to the punch. I was going to post kudos to Apple for taking care of a similar situation for us this week. My son popped his knuckles against, and cracked, the screen to our IMAC. Big expense and no coverage under the Apple Care Plan since this was our fault. They covered it anyway, and we will be Apple customers for life. Thank you Apple! Also, FWIW, we decided to purchase the Apple Care Plan after Consumer Reports reviewed it and found it worthwhile. We don’t typically purchase extended warranties (never) but found this one a good buy.

  6. ecwis says:

    Why would someone buy a phone that breaks if you drop it? Cell phones should be designed to withstand a fall. I just dropped my BlackBerry from about five feet onto a concrete floor and NOTHING happened to it, not even a dent or a scratch.

    • crackers says:

      I’ve dropped my iPhone from my ear to the pavement (about 5’4″ – ha ha!) more than once and it didn’t scratch or break. I’ve knocked it from the kitchen counter to the ceramic tile floor and had no problems as well. I think this was just a matter of impacting the glass in exactly the wrong way.

  7. reuvenb says:

    IMHO, the iPhone should be build a little more solidly. I dropped my phone (HTC Tattoo) seven feet onto a bleacher seat, where it bounced onto a concrete stair. Not a scratch on it. If the iPhone broke after hitting a ceramic tile, then I’d hate to see what would happen if I got hold of one for a week.

    • H3ion says:

      When the phone survives but the floor needs to be replaced….that’s a phone.

    • M-D says:

      The iPhone is built quite solidly. But no amount of solid construction is going to save a glass screen hitting a stone surface at 9.8m/s^2.

      I had a similar experience – I’d had my iPhone 3G for about 8 months (with no 3rd party case for grip) and never had an issue with slippage. I was in the Avis lot in New Orleans, and pulled the phone out of my pocket to check directions – as I was doing so, the phone slid out of my hand and, as it fell to the asphalt, rotated screen-down, so when it hit the screen took the full impact.

      Here’s how I know the iPhone is solid: the thing still worked. Still made & received calls, still took pictures, still accessed wifi, the works. Even the touch screen (what was left of it) still functioned, although I’m still pulling little glass shards out of my right index finger. Thankfully, I was on my way to Baton Rouge, home of one of only two Apple Stores in LA. Spoke with the manager, owned up to the damage, and they sold me a new phone at the discounted ‘new activation’ price. It’s true that I wasn’t as fortunate as the subject of the post, but Apple had me back up and running in about 30 minutes, which was important since I was on a business trip and HAD to have a working phone for the next day.

      Here’s where AppleCare is very important: even though screen damage isn’t covered under the warranty, having AppleCare on your phone means that the store can offer you a discounted replacement (since Apple treats it as a ‘out of coverage repair”), and – this is the best part – the AppleCare plan transfers to the replacement phone, so you don’t have to buy another service contract.

    • Paladin_11 says:

      I dropped my first gen iPhone on a sidewalk at a bus stop a year ago. No damage to the screen but the case was scratched a bit. I also dropped this same phone into a toilet once. (with just plain water… get it out of your mind!) The phone completely freaked out and I thought I was out $600. A day later the phone had dried out and it started working again. It’s been working ever since without issue.

      I think the iPhone is plenty tough enough as is.

    • FaustianSlip says:

      And I’ve dropped my iPhone at least four different times onto the concrete floor of our garage with no problems to show for it. A lot of it depends on just how it lands, and I think having some kind of screen protector helps, as well.

  8. Stiv says:

    *sigh*. If I didn’t know better, I’d expect from the tone of the post that a company like Apple couldn’t provide quality customer service unless there was some supernatural agent involved. For what it’s worth, I’ve always received exemplary service from Apple. I’ll concede the fact that others may not have had the same experience. But still, Consumerist’s increasingly snarky tone is becoming tiresome.

  9. bigmil87 says:

    I actually work for AppleCare, and most likely the reason that the Advisor put her on hold was to speak with a Senior Advisor, i.e. Tier 2.

    I am Tier 2 and to be honest like Chris said the best way to possibly get a repair on the house is to just be genuine and tell us about the whole situation. If I have a customer who is screaming at me over the phone I am unlikely to fix something for free when instead I have someone who is calm and collected.

    I would also recommend that if you are not getting an answer you want ask for a Senior Advisor, all Senior Advisors are located in the U.S. so if an accent is what you think is the problem that would get you to someone who most likely speaks more fluent English. Also Senior Advisors can and will do things like this, an entry level Advisor does not have the ability to do things like this on their own.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      Thanks for the inside info. NOW – something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to know:

      If a Peon Adviser lies and says no Senior Adviser is available when asked, what is the magic phrase to get them to get you through to an SA anyway?

      • bigmil87 says:

        There is no way to force another human being on the other end to do anything but generally asking for a supervisor or a Senior Advisor should get it through to the person you are talking to.

        Apple records all incoming calls so they should know to do the right thing.

    • Zenatrul says:

      One thing also to mention is when you go to the Genius bar at the apple store(or shopping at the store) and they ask for your email address, give it to them.
      They send you a survey to it and if you put very low on it the manager will usually call you about it and I’ve heard of them replacing products before too.

  10. pinwheels says:

    An Apple store employee did the same for me when I dropped my original ($400) iPhone the day after I got it. I went in to the store and asked how much it would be to repair, because I dropped it. He asked how long I’d had it, and when I told him, said “hold on a minute,” and returned with a new one. Swapped the SIM cards, handed me the new phone, and said “don’t drop this one.” Awesome customer service experience, as always at Apple.

  11. imthemommy says:

    Ours was an iPod touch. My kids have two of them and one of the screens were shattered when dropped. There was no warranty. One visit to our local apple store to inquire about possible repair and a lovely customer service rep excused himself and returned with a brand new replacement. We were shocked! I see now by these posts that this is not an uncommon practice….Way to go Apple!!!!

    Just as a side note…I think these things are much more durable than people think. I’m a complete clutz and of course my young children are as well by nature. Their iPod’s and my iPhone have been dropped while unprotected by cases more times than I could count with no damage. Just like any other electronic product, there will always be that one time when it hits just right and will cause the catastrophic damage. You never know.

  12. Scuba Steve says:

    So what exactly does an apple care plan cover that the warranty doesn’t? Aside from the occasional Apple Employee going above and beyond and repairing something that they have stipulated they don’t have to?

    I mean, I’m all for great treatment, but would rather it not be at the sole discretion of the poor sap on the other end of the phone.

    • adamstew says:

      Applecare plan will extend the warranty by a year.

      • FaustianSlip says:

        Two if it’s a computer. I had it on my laptop and it was completely worth it; had it fixed in both Japan and Australia and had fantastic service each time.

  13. Thora says:

    Stuff like this is what makes me really reticent to ever buy a device with a capacitive screen. They’re made of glass, if you didn’t know, and they tend to shatter if hit just right. I’m glad I have a tank. I drop my touch pro 2 at least 3 times a week & it’s still humming right along.

  14. magiclaffs says:

    Though it might be fun to bash Apple for its elitist marketing and overblown pricing I have to say I’ve been very pleased with Apple’s service plan. My first Iphone 3G went wacky when I upgraded the firm ware on it. I explained it to Apple care and they sent me a new one after being very patient with guiding me through the upgrade process which failed. The second replacement (new) Iphone had a faulty switch (on the left side) which turns off the sound. It broke off in my hand. They replaced that one with very little questioning! Bravo to Apple. Lesson learned- the Applecare replacement is worth every penny.

  15. tbax929 says:

    Ugh. I hate, hate, hate Apple. I’m actually trying to sort out a billing issue with them; they keep charging my credit card for something but can’t seem to tell me what it’s for. The hold times are ridiculous, and you have to sort through a ridiculous robot menu just to get a human being.

    I should have bought a Zune.

  16. ec8r says:

    This guy got lucky. I’ve had nothing but bad service when dealing with my Iphone. The vibrate switch stopped working properly so I took it in to the Apple store where they proceeded to look for every tiny scratch on the phone as evidence of “abuse”. After thousands of dollars spent on Apple products this will be my last.

  17. JWBrockman says:

    I’m somewhat surprised to hear this. I had an original iPhone that developed a crack one day while it was in my pants pocket (might have been caused by my car’s center console, but I’ll never know for sure). I continued to use it for several months until one day the wifi stopped working. I was still within warranty, but I was denied repair due to “abuse” because of the cracked screen. They could have fixed the wifi and put the cracked screen back on and I would have been happy, but of course that wasn’t an option.

    I went ahead and bought a new 3G at that time, because I thought the first phone would be covered under my credit card’s replacement policy, but then I found out that coverage was no longer included with my card.

    I never mentioned the cracked screen to Apple before I sent it in, because I figured it was my fault and I wasn’t attempting to claim that damage under warranty. Maybe I should have just outright asked for a replacement when I first found the crack, rather than taking responsibility for it myself and losing out on a legitimate warranty repair later on.

    • FaustianSlip says:

      I used to work at Apple, and they didn’t “just fix the wifi and put the cracked screen back on” because they can’t do that in-store. If you bring an iPod or iPhone in for repair at the Genius Bar, they’re not going to take it out back, pry it open and fix what’s wrong. They’ll (try to) back up your data, swap it out with a replacement unit and put all the data back on the new unit. Broken units are sent out to be refurbished at a later date, but unless things have changed drastically, there are no physical repairs of iPhones or iPods that take place in the stores. They don’t have any of the equipment around that would allow them to do any of that kind of work.

      And the other issue is that while you may know that the wifi worked flawlessly until well after the screen cracked, the employees dealing with your case have no way of knowing whether that’s true or not. They may have stemmed from two separate problems, but they may not, and there’s no way to tell without opening it up, which the Genius Bar guys can’t do (see previous paragraph). Personally, I tried to err on the side of the customer if/when things like that came up, but anything where the screen was cracked had to go to a manager for repair/replacement approval, anyway. And please believe me when I say that I never heard more half-truths, utter bullshit stories and outright lies than I did when I worked at Apple and made appointments for people for the Genius Bar. The best of these were usually people who bricked their phones trying to jailbreak them or people who had jailbroken their phones, then had something go wrong and were trying to get repairs. I’d look at the phone, which would say, “T-Mobile” in the corner, ask them whether it was unlocked, and they’d look me dead in the eye and go, “Oh, no, I’d never do that!” When I’d point out the obvious, then they’d cave and admit that they’d flashed the firmware, but c’mon. If the guy you talked to had already dealt with fifteen people lying to him that day, his willingness to buy your story may have been tapped out.

      • JWBrockman says:

        I know they couldn’t *actually* fix the wifi without repairing the broken screen, I was just making the point that I wasn’t asking for a new screen. I would have been satisfied if they could have fixed only the functional problem with my phone and not the cosmetic. It seemed very unfair to me at the time (and potentially a violation of law) for fairly common cosmetic damage to be grounds for refusing to fix an unrelated problem. A policy of not fixing cracked screens is one thing, but a policy of not fixing *anything* if your screen cracks is going too far. If Apple designs the phone such that they can’t fix functional failures without also fixing cosmetic issues, that isn’t the fault of the consumer.

        Obviously no vendor can be sure that every single item repaired under warranty hasn’t been the fault of the user somehow, and IMO in the long run erring on the side of making customers happy with their products is better for the brand. What’s interesting to me is that since Apple redesigned the case for the 3g, broken touchscreens seem to be much less common. They also seem to be more accommodating toward customers who crack them. To me, that implies that they knew there was a problem with the durability of the 2g models, and chose to deny repairs to save money. Now that those units are nearly all out of warranty, their policies have changed accordingly.

        • FaustianSlip says:

          To be honest, as I said elsewhere in the comments, even having worked at Apple, I didn’t see particularly vast numbers of broken iPhone screens coming through the store- and part of my job was to meet every customer at the door who was there for a Genius Bar appointment and get an idea of what was going on, so I saw just about every repair job that came in during a given shift. Were there phones with broken screens? Sure. Were there more than what I saw when working at Best Buy and dealing specifically with cell phones? Not at all. And personally, I’ve dropped my own, first-gen iPhone on our cement garage floor a number of times, as well as on the ground and various other places, and my screen’s always survived. I’m not saying that that iteration of the iPhone never broke on anyone, obviously, but I saw no indication of flimsiness in the screen and saw comparatively few come in with broken/cracked/shattered screens when I was working at a busy store in the middle of a mall. With no offense intended, I think your claims of the screen’s tendency to break are somewhat overblown.

          I would have been satisfied if they could have fixed only the functional problem with my phone and not the cosmetic.

          Given that you acknowledge that there’s no way they could have repaired “only the functional problem” with your phone, along with your understanding that goodwill gestures notwithstanding, accidental coverage isn’t covered under the warranty (or AppleCare), I’m not sure that I understand your beef here. The only way for them to “fix” your phone on the spot would have been to completely replace it. A replacement is totally exceptional and outside the scope of the warranty or AppleCare program, and up to the discretion of the manager of a particular store. It sounds to me like your issue is with the manager who handled your case rather than Apple itself. Or are you saying that Apple should purely hew to the letter of their warranty and charge for all damaged screens rather than allow for case-by-case exceptions?

          The legal angle you bring up is flawed in that, as I mentioned before, Apple has no way to determine whether the wifi issue you had developed as a result of the incident that caused the cosmetic issue (i.e. accidental damage) or was part of a separate, non-accidental incident. Apple doesn’t refuse to allow for cosmetic replacements; they refuse to replace phones broken due to accidental damage. As it happens, most damaged screens are damaged as the result of accidental incidents (i.e. dropping), but I saw phones with dead pixels and other, similar issues replaced with no issues. It’s not a question of cosmetic vs. functional damage, but accidental vs. manufacturer issues. And in a case where a later issue happens after accidental damage occurs, that’s unfortunate, but there’s no way for some guy at the Genius Bar to determine whether the two issues are linked are separate, certainly not considering that they don’t have the tools to actually open up the phone.

          And FYI, if you had started implying or threatening legal action of any kind in my store, we would have been barred from helping you further, as Apple policy in those cases requires that the customer be referred to Apple’s legal department. I don’t know whether or not you did that, obviously, but personally, I was always way less inclined to try and get an exception made for someone who was making noises about a lawsuit or Google lawyering, but that’s just me.

          • bigmil87 says:

            I absolutely love when people threaten legal action against Apple for something they are not happy with, it is the one and only time I get to read from a script.

            “I’m sorry that you are considering legal action against Apple. However at this point I am not Apple’s legal counsel and anything done from here on out with have to be spoken with Apple’s legal department. Thank you for calling and have a good day.”

  18. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    What I want to know is why aren’t AT&T cust serv reps required to treat you in the same manner with respect to your dissatisfaction over THEIR signal and service? I think ALL facets of the IPhone experience should be covered in this manner.

    “You dropped my signal, I want a functioning one, thank you.” LOL

  19. logie-al says:

    There is no “magical phrase” to get to a Senior Advisor. However, there should always be a Senior Advisor available. To get to a Senior Advisor, politely explain your situation to the Advisor you are talking with and ask to be transferred to Tier 2.

    You will always speak with an Advisor (Tier 1) when you call the iPhone support line. They are the only gateway to a Senior Advisor. Advisors have the power to handle almost all of the problems you could encounter. If you still believe you need to contact a Senior Advisor, the Advisor will need to find out why you are wanting to contact Tier 2 and who you are. Tier 1 Advisors are not allowed to simply transfer you to a Senior Advisor without telling the Senior Advisor why you want to speak to them.

    Just please remember: the Advisor on the other end of the phone is human and they try to do everything to make sure your experience is as painless as possible.

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    Chris, you forgot a third Gold Rule:
    3) Only buy from companies that place customer satisfaction as one of the highest priority products they manufacture. Apple really does (not all the time, but they try).

    I’ll be statesmenlike and not point to any companies in any of the spaces that Apple inhabits that live by the reverse of the above corollary: customer satisfaction is only a checklist item to include in their advertisements and are a source of chortling amusement by their employees, once they press their phone’s Mute button.

  21. Munchie says:

    This is a tough issue to properly address. At what dollar value does a customer become valuable? When does Apple grant exceptions and when should it not? When a precedent is set with one customer should all customers not expect the same treatment? The apple care plan never covers accidental damage or consumable parts.

    So the best thing that can be said about exceptions like this. The above advise is very good. Business policies change frequently and what is true one day may not be true on another. If you get denied an exception try not to take it too personally, it is an exception.

  22. fredmertz says:

    They can afford customer service like this because they charge a ridiculous markup for their products. I love my imac, macbook and iphone as much as anyone, but every single person who owns apple products paid for this iphone replacement…..

  23. seismic007 says:

    I swear by Apple Care (as well as Apple products in general). This last week my aging MacBook Pro fell victim to the defective NVIDIA chipset issue. I knew the repair was covered under the pseudo-recall surrounding the entire NVIDIA scandal. My laptop was not anywhere near new, and had visible case damages, a defective battery I’d never replaced, and a warped case. The Genius Bar rep made note of the damages (as I would expect him to do), but stated they would repair the video issue without any question. When my laptop came back to me later this week, I was in for a major surprise. Along with the logic board replacement (required by the NVIDIA issue), Apple had ALSO replaced the entire laptop housing, keyboard, mousepad, AND the defective battery. I don’t know if the extra level of service and repair I received was because if was (1) just easier, (2) because I had Apple Care on the product, or (3) because I was a long time customer. Whatever the case, the exceptional service strengthens my relationship as a customer.

  24. jennesy says:

    Good for you, glad you got lucky! I fell down the stairs and shattered my screen and Apple still charged me $200 to replace it. It happened 2 weeks to the day of getting my phone. While this is nice, and I am genuinely happy for you, it sucks that their customer service/replacement policies aren’t standardized.

  25. c_c says:

    My friend dropped + shattered his iPhone screen, had to pay $200 to replace it. But I’m sure this story makes him feel better about it…

  26. DreamTheEndless: Death's little brother says:

    My dropped iPhone story: my first gen 8gb iPhone fell out of my breast pocket and onto the ground in a restaurant parking lot while I was getting my daughter out of her car seat. The screen was fine, but the case bent a tiny bit. Everything worked fine except for the bit that held in the sim card. If I held the sim card in with my finger, the phone worked fine, but otherwise it stuck out about a sixteenth or a thirty second of an inch and my phone thought I had no sim card. Scotch tape ended up being an OK short term solution, but about once or twice a day I’d have to peel off and reapply the tape so the phone would keep working.

    We happened to be at the mall the next evening anyway, so I stopped in to see if there was anything they could do. I had heard that if your phone was out of warranty, they would just sell you a refurb phone at a steeply discounted price because it was easier for all parties than dealing with a repair. Then they would repair your phone and add it to their pool of refurb phone for the next guy. (I still don’t know if this is true.)

    Anyway, we popped into the Apple store about 10 minutes before closing without an appointment. All of the Geniuses were occupied, but a helpful young lady at the counter listened to my story. She made an appointment for me the next day but told me “Don’t tell them you dropped it though, then it won’t be covered by your warranty.”

    The next day I showed up at the appointed time and spoke with a genius. I didn’t feel comfortable lying to him despite the warning of the girl the night before. He listened to my story and then took my phone telling me that he would “…see what we can do.” After about fifteen minutes, he returned handing me a brand new phone (still first gen, this was a couple of years ago,) with my sim card in it. He told me that people come into the store all day long and lie to him and that since I didn’t they decided to “just take care of it” for me. This was before applecare was available for the iPhone.

    Those Apple people are great. I love ’em.

  27. hardcoremike8 says:

    I just bought my girlfriend a 16GB 3GS for Christmas…she was able to add it to her homeowners insurance for $36/year. That will cover any damage…user or otherwise. Plus, she insured for the unsubsidized price.

  28. Jakess says:

    An Apple store employee did the same for me when I dropped my original ($400) iPhone the day after I got it. I went in to the store and asked how much it would be to repair,full download because I dropped it. He asked how long I’d had it, and when I told him, said “hold on a minute,” and returned with a new one. Swapped the SIM cards, handed me the new phone, and said “don’t drop this one.” Awesome customer service experience, as always at Apple.