iPhone 4 - Meet Stone Wall

It's a bit ironic that the next (extremely belated) post after the saga of iPhone 4 release day is about the near destruction of that very same device. She treated me very well for 15 short weeks, until one fateful night when she slipped out of my jacket pocket and fell about 4 feet directly onto a stone wall. Epic iPhone fail. Here's what the damage looks like:

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The worst of the damage occurred on the top right front corner, where a little gouge in the plastic rim shows that this is where it struck the rock first. A blow to the corner is guaranteed to ruin the phone's day. You can see in this photo that all of the broken pieces are still hanging tight in their place with the exception of one small triangular section. I've actually been using it for 2 days now without any more glass falling off. The broken pieces will likely remain intact since Apple glues the glass directly to the IPS display (This was the cause of the short lived yellow screen scare a few days after launch that eventually corrected itself). Scrawling across the center of the display, there are three unfortunately long cracks, as seen below.

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You can see a little mark in the center of the screen above, which is a very small chip. But wait... there's more! The bottom right front corner also had a bad day at the office.


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Despite all the carnage evident in these photos, the phone is surprisingly usable. Turns out this is thankfully all cosmetic and has not affected the operation of the display, buttons, or anything else. The entire touch sensitive area riddled with cracks is still smooth to the touch; there's no risk of losing a finger trying to zoom in on a photo. The corners are another story though, you don't want to be touching those. 

The reactions I get to the current state of my beloved smartphone have been "You moron, you should have that thing in a case!" or "You moron, you should have bought insurance!" In a twist of fate, the most adamant case hater (me) could very well have averted disaster had this device been in a big bulky case. That's a risk you take by not wrapping the thing up in bubble wrap, and since it's the first disaster to befall any of my 4 iPhones over the past 3+ years, I think I've still got a pretty good record. That said, it's still too nice of a piece of hardware to hide away in an ugly case or an inconvenient bumper. And with regards to insurance; I don't buy insurance or protection plans on any of my electronics. It's very rare that any of my gadgets meet an untimely demise, and I'm sure that the periodic replacement cost of a gadget is far less expensive than the sum total of getting policies on everything.

It's actually pretty remarkable that this is the first time I've broken a phone. This guy is with me all the time and is in and out of pockets dozens of times per day. It follows me around the house, moving from surface to surface, plugged in here, plugged in there, tossed across the room on to my bed, and jammed into a cup holder to pump out the jams when I'm driving around. If I only bust a phone every 3 years the way I'm constantly using it, I'll be a very happy camper.

So, what now? Turns out that since the front glass is glued to the IPS screen, the entire business needs to be replaced. This is no simple task, since the entire phone is built up off of this front assembly. This is also unfortunate, since the glass itself is fairly inexpensive - It's only about $40 for the back glass. There are several options for what happens next:
  1. March into my local Apple store, administer puppy dog eyes, and see if they replace the phone for free. This actually appears to be quite a common occurrence from what I've read on various forums on the intertubes. 
  2. Should the above plan fail, write Mr. Jobs a check for $199 and they'll replace the screen, parts and labor included.
  3. Have the assembly replaced by one of a few third parties like this one for $162. For $199 they'll even make it white! Not sure if that one even includes the rest of the parts; looks a little sketchy.
  4. Order the replacement parts and replace it at home with the assistance of the various teardowns and how-to's all over the 'tubes. Replacement glass/display assemblies run a little over $140.
It would be a little crazy to not try the puppy-dog-eyes option first, so I'll give that a try first. Should that fail, I'll be ordering the replacement parts and doing it myself. It actually sounds like an interesting project, and I'll blog the crap out of it accordingly.