Man Turns Water-Damaged iPhone 3GS Into New iPhone 4

Matt was able to turn his water-damage iPhone 3GS into a new iPhone 4 for only $200, even though he hadn’t reached his upgrade time yet, thanks to a lot of persistence, and a little bit of mercy.

He says a “freak accident” made his iPhone 3GS plop into a cup of water:

Despite my best efforts, irreparable damage was done. My wife will be the first to tell you that I’m virtually attached to my iPhone so this created a rough spot for me. Especially so since I know from others what my options were:

1) Throw myself at the mercy of Apple and hope for a replacement 3GS out of kindness (not likely).
2) Pay $200 now for a replacement 3GS from Apple.
3) Wait for my upgrade time to come along (Feb 20th.) and get an iPhone 4 at $200.

So my wife and I go to our local Apple store the next day and no dice on Apple charity. I’m left with options 2 and 3 but I don’t want to go with 2 (I wanted to upgrade) and don’t want to wait for 3. Since we were at the mall anyway, the AT&T store was right by the Apple store. “Why don’t you ask them to move up your upgrade time,” my wife says. After all, her upgrade time got moved up from December to June when the iPhone 4 came out.

I speak with an AT&T rep at the store about pushing up my upgrade time. Unfortunately, she tells me there’s nothing she can do because only the AT&T customer service phone line could approve that. That’s a bit strange but I took her word on it. So I called the AT&T line and the first representative I spoke with was very nice but couldn’t really do anything for me. I wasn’t rude or obnoxious on the phone but I did remind her about my wife’s early upgrade.

That seemed to be enough for her to connect me to a manager. I wish I could remember her name because she was great. She was limited by AT&T policy on iPhones (she couldn’t set it up right over the phone but could and did note my account to reflect approval for an earlier iPhone upgrade). She said there wasn’t a guarantee the AT&T retail store would honor her notes but most do.

I walked back into the AT&T store and had my account checked. Ten minutes and $200 later, I walked out with a new iPhone 4. Say what you will about AT&T’s network but their customer service is really accommodating. I thought I’d be out $200 for a phone I’d want to replace in 3-6 months or stuck without a working phone altogether. Instead, I got to upgrade early without any extra cost. Thanks AT&T!

Good move on pointing out how your wife’s upgrade time got moved up. That seems to have been what mainly did the trick in getting yours pushed forward. Polite, professional and persistent wins the day again!


Edit Your Comment

  1. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Isn’t the standard “year” when it comes to phone upgrades 10 months? I could swear that with Verizon, if you were 20 months into a 2 year contract, you could still get the upgrade.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t know about that. Mr. Pi and I got our phones on the same day, but my upgrade date was in September, and he can’t upgrade until February.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        but you is a cute kitteh. who could say noh to you?

      • tiffany says:

        just got two phones on the same day with my bf through verizon and since i’m the primary account holder, i get to upgrade my phone several months (can’t remember how many) before he can since he’s a secondary line. just verizon policy i think.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      This is the case for T-mobile.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Pretty much. They want to tie you into another contract before you can shop around. Early upgrades are cheap customer retention.

    • Harry Manback says:

      This has been true for me for awhile now. I was able to get them to bump mine up to 18 months after a similar situation happened to me (mine was a not so freak hot tub accident). I was met with much resistance, but when I calmly explained that either I could
      A) Wait 4 months for my upgrade date and use my dumb phone, thereby costing them $120 or
      B) Give me the $50 discount now and start getting the $30 a month for the data plan immediately.

      The first time I called they said no, so I waited a month. Then I went into the store and they wouldn’t even try to work with me, so I waited 2 weeks. I called back again, told them that they would continue to lose money (since I showed I was willing to wait). Each time they told me it was impossible, the system simply would not let them change my date. I asked for a supervisor, and 10 minutes later the upgrade date on the website had changed. You have to be persistent.

  2. jason in boston says:


  3. JennQPublic says:

    Is this where the comment about how iPhone owners are hipsters who just want to look cool goes? Or is this space reserved for comparing Steve Jobs to the Messiah?

    I’m sure there’s no spot where it’s appropriate to say that overall, I’ve gotten really good customer service from AT&T the last few years…

  4. Portlandia says:

    Apple has great service like that.

    I had a freak accident with mine on Mother’s day this year. I was walking, a bicyclist hit me and the phone was in the hand I used to prevent a fall. Screen wasn’t damaged but body was bent and internals presumably broken. Brought it into the Apple store, told the guy what happened and he gave me a new iPhone.

    • whgt says:

      Except…this was AT&T customer service!

      “Apple has great…” anything gets annoying!

      • Portlandia says:

        Except this dude had to pay $200 out of pocket for a new phone. I got mine free, which was the point of my post. So, while AT&T might have played nice and given him a new phone early (after a little complaining) Apple gave me a new phone gratis.

        The whole title of this post is misleading….perhaps it should read “AT&T allows early upgrade after freak accident”. He didn’t exactly just trade in his old phone for a new one, again it cost him $200 and extended his contract another 2 years.

        I will add that I’ve always had great customer service from AT&T (Knock on wood). I’m not knocking them, just saying that perhaps apple would have been more understanding and he wouldnt have had to shell out $200 had he tried the apple store first.

  5. polishhillbilly says:

    Customer service from at&t has been stellar for me. You just have to be very very persistent about getting things corrected or updated. I’ve had what is now at&t since 1997, I’ve had my problems, but for the most part, it’s been great customer service with them.

  6. Jerem43 says:

    I have never had a problem with AT&T customer service. The only major issue that I have had is with third party billers attaching fees on to my account (“Those text xxxxx to yyyyy> now!” things that radio stations and contests use) My wife did that once and it took months for AT&T to get them to stop billing me. Those third party billers are unscrupulous and truly dishonest.

  7. sumocat says:

    I wish we could stop using the term “freak accident” for such mundane accidents as dropping a phone in a glass of water. Odds are you’ll have both a phone and a glass of water in your possession at some point during a normal day. Dropping one in or on the other is about as freak an accident as walking into someone from work while at work.

    • coren says:

      Spilling something on my phone, sure. Dropping my phone into a cup barely big enough to hold it? Kind of unlikely

  8. backwerds says:

    I never realized common sense is now proclaimed as great customer service…

    About 2 months ago I went into radioshack, i was trying to see if I could get an HTC Evo about 4 months ahead of time for the upgrade price of 200. The clerk looked at me and just called Sprint and worked around the system to sell me a phone. If someone is willing to put forth some effort to get a phone sold; there are always ways around it, especially if the phone is going to provide them with more money and/or extending your contract. It’s kinda like turning in your car lease early to get a new car lease.

  9. ChuckLez says:

    For $280, I turned my EnV2 into an HTC Incredible. It took alot of patience, and craigslist, but it was possible.

    And here I was hoping for more of a pricehacker switch-a-roo deals going on in this story.

  10. blinky says:

    Doesn’t a freak accident involving a phone in water necessarily involve a neighbor three houses away with a defective circular saw, or a wayward micro-black hole, or a blind waiter carrying a glass of perrier being chased by rabid raccoons? Unless it’s Final Destination-worthy, it’s probably just an ordinary accident. People drop their phones in water all the time.

  11. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    I once turned a water-damaged toaster oven into a VCR. It took a lot of time and money but by God I did it. Then DVD players came along and I felt like a total schmuck.

  12. damageinc says:

    Title could have just said “Man gets an early upgrade from AT&T” but I guess that wouldn’t newsworthy then because its a pretty common thing…

  13. TacomaRogue says:

    This is sort of a “meh” customer service story. When I upgraded from my baisic phone to my myTouch 3G Slide (aka HTC Espresso) I was 6 months out from an upgrade, but since I was buying two phones the T-mobile sales guy changed my upgrade date (with out extending my contract) knocked $80 off the phone price, and we got the second phone free, plus no activation fee for my husband’s account and a free month of service and half off our current bill.

    What happened here was someone broke their phone, and then purchased a new one. Nothing amazing.

  14. checkcard2009 says:

    No note on a previous comment about Radio Shack-They ALWAYS have the best prices on phones (ATT, Sprint and Tmobile). No mail in rebates to mess with. No I do not work there, but until I happened to be in one for some miscellaneous parts, I would have NEVER thought about Radio Shack for cell phones.

    I will NEVER go anywhere else to upgrade or add a line. They are cheaper and the customer service is second to none. Just my 2 cents.

  15. mikells43 says:

    i sold a 3gs that was dropped in a river and still working for 280 on ebay. oh it was badly scuffed up too..

  16. consumerd says:

    no AT&T bashing…. someone call hell and see if the devil is ok!

    I thought I would never see something like this on consumerist… I am going to go buy a lottery ticket!