Shattered, Shattered. (iPhone)


After possessing literally dozens of caseless phones over maybe a 15 year span, I finally did the unthinkable. Or, perhaps, it was the inevitable. And it was a boneheaded move. Overtired on an 8 hour drive, we stopped for a Starbucks pick-me-up… yet, before making it into the store, I managed to launch my iPhone straight into the pavement face first and shattered the display.

Oh, the phone was fully functional, but trying to use it led to a glass-pierced bloody finger. Reading email was also a bit challenging. Despite that, my first thought was to grab a screen protector or some packing tape and wait out the New iPhone 5. The incident also reminded me of my liability as a Verizon customer, in that I can’t simply swap SIMs with other phones I own (like the Samsung Focus Flash). Not that I actually had any other phones with me 400 miles from home.

Fortunately, there was an Apple Store within 20 minutes of our hotel and so we swung by on Day 2 hoping for some empathy. And empathy I did receive. But an out-of-warranty iPhone replacement would run $150. Considering iFixit parts and shipping would cost $140 to take care of this myself, and cost me valuable time, I somewhat reluctantly pulled the trigger at the Apple Store. I suppose there is a small silver lining — I didn’t realize how poorly my battery was holding a charge and how flakey the home button had become until receiving my new (but probably refurb) iPhone 4.


My wife wouldn’t let me leave the Apple Store without a case. While I generally don’t like to sully my devices with a second skin, I was a bit shaken (and out $150). So I picked out this Speck case — it seemed sufficiently protective and grippy. Although it clearly obliterated the iPhone 4’s good looks. In fact, my iPhone looked (and felt) a bit like an iPhone 3G. Not all bad, but not nearly as sophisticated. Then again, as I learned, a functioning phone beats an unusable one every time.

As I was contemplating how to protect my iPhone while reclaiming a bit of style (I’m shallow like that), Tech 21’s reps reached out after learning of my plight and sent me their Impact Band. It’s similar in concept to Apple’s Bumper in that it wraps around the perimeter of an iPhone 4/4S, leaving the glass back exposed. I prefer this look but, for those that don’t, the Band (available in multiple colors) also comes with a clear plastic shield to prevent scratches. In terms of protection, Tech 21’s claim to fame is D30, an advanced polymer, designed to provide superior shock dispersion… and it’s the orange material seen in my clear band (above, below). Of course, I don’t plan to intentionally test its capabilities and I’m not sure it would have saved my phone, but it feels more solid and looks more unique than Apple’s offering at the same $30 price point (plus that bonus rear protector). The buttons are stiffer than Apple’s and the Speck case this replaces, but otherwise I’m sold (and my wife is now contemplating replacing her iSkin with an Impact Band).

36 thoughts on “Shattered, Shattered. (iPhone)”

  1. Welcome to the club! I shattered my iPhone a few months ago. Did time slow down for you too? Watching it tumble face-first onto the pavement?

  2. I recently had to go through the whole “wait out the next iPhone or do an out of warranty replacement for 150”

    Ultimately, I decided to do the out of warranty replacement for 150, for 1 simple reason: Resale value. No matter what, you are out at least 150 because trying to sell a smashed or otherwise broken iPhone simply won’t bring anything in. But a good condition one can bring in over $200 on ebay even after the iPhone 5 comes out.

    So you are out the money either way (150 to replace or loss of at least 150 in resale value). At least with the replacement, you have a functioning phone.

  3. I dropped mine 2 feet onto my driveway two weeks after getting it and it cracked the front screen. I worked some magic to get the phone covered by AppleCare+ (worth it) and then got a replacement.

    BTW, I settled on the Magpul executive field case. It’s very slim and passes the crucial “doesn’t stick to my jeans pocket” test. Magpul traditionally makes magazine and gun grips, so it looks a little MW3, which I like.

  4. Matt, I didn’t have the slowdown, but it was similarly surreal. Had stuff in my hands and then suddenly I didn’t with the phone facedown in the parking lot. I really didn’t know what to do.

    ScaryMike, yeah that was part of my rationale — figured I was out of the money either way. Unfortunately, I have a CDMA Verizon iPhone 4 which has less resale value than the GSM variant. Was hoping they’d quietly upgrade me to a 4S or give me more memory to improve my resale proposition but that wasn’t in the cards.

    Speaking of non-Newtonian (D30), a buddy of mine wrote his dissertation on non-Newtonian fluids and cited me in the acknowledgement. Maybe he’ll chime in and let us know how protected I am.

    I should also point out the irony that I got my Mom an Otterbox to avoid what I just did… ;)

  5. My problem with bumper cases is that they always seem to mess up my Zagg screen (front and back) protector. If you have a screen protector do these peel them up a bit?

  6. Sorry to hear about your loss! ;-) So, if you get a swap, does that affect your contract eligibility? Anyway, if you believe the rumors that the next iPhone will be announced in a few weeks, I might have bought a cheap prepaid phone. In fact, I have an old, unlocked Motorola GSM flip phone that I use for international travel – I just swap in a SIM when I travel.

  7. out of warranty swaps do not affect your contract or eligibility. They are really more like “repairs.” The way they do it, is they have a flat fee for all repairs, and give you a refurb instead of fixing your phone. I’m assuming, behind the scenes they fix your phone up and give it to some other person.

    I’ve gone through a few of these swaps and the phones have always seemed as close to new as a new phone. I can’t tell any difference.

  8. Dave, I’d imagine it’d be tough to get this on without disrupting a screen protector. I personally don’t use a screen protector, but my wife successfully uses a generic one with her iSkin.

    Greg, that occurred to me. But it’s not such an easy proposition on Verizon and I was on the road… needing a quick fix. I’ll recover some of the outlay when I trade up.

    As Scary says, this doesn’t effect my warranty. But I also very specifically worked through Apple instead of Verizon… no telling what they’d have done to my account (and I don’t pay for warranty coverage).

  9. Good news is, with LTE phones on Verizon, you can just swap the SIMs to a new phone. Hopefully the next iPhone is LTE.

  10. It will be LTE, but it will be packing the nanosim. Hopefully the aftermarket will not be far behind with another plastic tray adapter so the nanosim can be used in a micro or full-sized SIM slot. That assumes, of course, that the nanosim is pin-compatible with microsim, and it may not be… :(

  11. Droped my new iPad two months ago in a parking lot, Apple charged me $300 to swap it for another one.

    Still don’t have a case on it or the iPhone and still not considering Apple Care+. The reality is I’ve had an iPhone for 5 years and an iPad for 2 and only spent $300 on repairs in all that time.

    You obviously understand why I don’t like cases, but as for Apple Care+, it is $100 and $50 per incident. so in other words it costs as exactly the same as you paid! What’s the point of insurance that costs as much as the repair itself?

  12. Dave- I use the screen protector more for fingerprints than scratch protection. Doesn’t the screen get all fingerprinted up quickly?

  13. Uh-huh, this town’s full of money grabbers
    Go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots, uh-huh.

    I still think a StarTAC would solve all your problems.

  14. “I managed to launch my iPhone straight into the pavement … Watching it tumble face-first onto the pavement? … I dropped mine 2 feet onto my driveway … Droped my new iPad two months ago in a parking lot”

    OK. I’m noticing a connection here. Rather than muck everything up with cases, how ’bout just making an effort to drop your iOS devices onto carpeted or grassy surfaces instead?

    Everyone knows that concrete and asphalt are the only natural predators for iOS devices.

  15. Dave, fingerprints haven’t been bad and much much better than my iPad.

    Chucky, thanks for taking the headline and running with it. Regarding surfaces, I thought about throwing the phone at the ground and missing but I’m not sure I can manage that feat. But it does remind me of Lonely Island’s hit:

  16. I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but if you purchased with a credit card, the extended warranty protection available with many cards will add up to another year of warranty support. I did this back in the 90s with a Powerbook 100 and sure enough it was covered! I got a nice check from them paying for the repair of ~$600.

  17. Generally that warranty support is for mechanical failure, but not accidental damage. I suppose I could have tried, but it didn’t occur to me. And again, not sure I could have pulled it off efficiently while on the road. Speaking of which, I’m trying Square Trade for the first time – I ordered a grey market dash cam from Korea and figure a little protection might be nice since there’s no real repair option.

  18. I’m a believer in cases, but I’m not sure that the cases you chose–or others mentioned here– would protect against 4 or 5 foot drops!

    Perhaps if you got lucky in the way it hit, or which part of the phone (or iPad) it hit, you might get away with it, but I’m doubtful as a general rule of thumb.

    As to the advantages/disadvantages of getting Apple Care +. Yes, the cost of $150 ($100 insurance, $50 for 1st incident) equals the cost of the screen repair, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. It gives you an extra year on everything…not just breakage. Home button goes south, no problem. Battery turns out to be a lemon (or you use it excessively), no problem. Speaker or mic gives, no issue either.

    And so on and so on.

  19. That’s life in the big city. I just always have mine in a case. I like the Speck Fitted cases as they’re really slim and look decent enough. I tried the Apple bands and I just can’t handle the back not being level when I hold it.

    Anyway, think you didn the right thing. Case preferences tend to be pretty personal. Of all the ones I saw listed above the only one I like (lust after actually) is the Element Vapor case. But the cost is kind of ridiculous…

  20. “I did this back in the 90s with a Powerbook 100 and sure enough it was covered!”

    Best product codenames ever: Asahi, Derringer, Rosebud.

  21. When I had my iPhone 3GS, I took advantage of the AppleCare a number of times (dust under the screen, non-working headphone jack, etc). I found it well worth it since there’s an Apple Store only 15 minutes away from me and getting things fixed or replaced there was a snap.

    My iPad 2 also has AppleCare and I’ve used it once (built-in microphone stopped working).

    When I got my 4S, I went with AppleCare+ since it was only $30 more than AppleCare. I haven’t actually used it, but it’s nice to know I have it. Especially since I don’t like using cases with my 4S unless I absolutely have to (I have a battery case for those days where I know the built-in battery won’t last the day).

  22. Regarding Apple Care, there are very few phones I’ve kept more than 12 months… which is why I didn’t spring for it. Not sure what I’ll do if I go iPhone 5 in a month or so.

  23. It doesn’t matter — case or no case. This happened to me, about 4 weeks ago. I dropped my phone that was secured in a defender series otterbox case and it fell face first on the kitchen floor and SMASH!!! I bought the parts and replaced the digitizer under $100 easy from Be sure to use the coupon code ‘RETAILMENOT2012’ to save 7%. Also, I wrote to otterbox and all they did was send me a new case.

  24. “Oh, the phone was fully functional, but trying to use it led to a glass-pierced bloody finger.”

    You should have shipped an Angry Glass iOS game. You’d have made millions.

  25. “Oh, the phone was fully functional, but trying to use it led to a glass-pierced bloody finger.”

    Alternately, it would make a nice SNL-type skit where the character keeps enthusiastically and cheerfully using the broken phone to post Facebook updates about his increasing blood loss and dizziness…

  26. The fragility of the iPhone is one of the reasons I went for an Android phone. The glass back is one of the dumbest design moves that company has ever made. I don’t know if the phone is tougher or my behavior is different, but I haven’t broken my DroidX in 2 years of use (broke 2 iPhones in my 2 years with it). I fixed my iPhone myself with a $20 kit I found at Amazon. It was great, but did take about an hour to fix it.

  27. A glass back??? Why would a cellphone have a glass back? That seems like an extremely odd choice.

    Although over the last 18+ years of using cellphones I’ve always used a case. I’ve never had a broken phone but it’s also been a rare event for me to ever drop a cell phone either. But the few times I have, I was always glad that I had a protective case around it.

  28. Evan, Bryan, yeah it seems there are a number of places to get replacement parts for less. Another reader Brett suggested this one:

    Had I been in town, I would have hit up a guy who replaced a pal’s 3GS screen recently. We figured we could get it done for me @ $60-$75 and that he’d do a better job than I could (and has the parts around).

    Dana, aaronwt, yeah Apple too often ends up on the wrong side of form/function. But I’m shallow like that and do appreciate the good looks… even though it’s been a liability. The rumored New/5 looks to have a mostly metal back. But if the screen isn’t much larger than the 4, I may migrate to another platform. We’ll see.

  29. @Chucky,

    I would watch that SNL skit. I assume it would have to be a younger guy but if he could at some point imitate Dan Ackroyd doing Julia Child…

  30. with my iphone shattered within its defender series otterbox case, i was still able to use the screen since it came with a built in transparent touch sensitive cover. it’s poor design to create such a pocketable device that if dropped incorrectly that it shatters. why must it shatter? mine shattered so badly that there were shards of glass. it needs to be like tempered so the shards aren’t splinters.

  31. My thoughts on cases:

    I prefer to not just drop my phone. And if I do, I’ll suffer the consequences and move on – but not having to deal with some dorky case is more than worth it. Being able to slip the phone in and out of my pocket is more than worth the risk. And since it goes in and out so easily, it spends little time “out and about”. And I’m far more likely to pay more attention without the “security blanket” affect…

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