the story of a phone

I got my Nexus 4 in April 2013, and while I like the hardware and the stock Android 4.x UI just fine, somehow in 15 months I’ve broken the screen three times, and I thought I’d capture the history of all that in a post just because it’s been so ridiculous.

Not sure when I broke it the first time, probably late summer/early fall of 2013, but I took it to Onsite Cellular Repair in central Austin. At the time it cost nearly $200 to replace the screen, but I bit the bullet because the phone itself wasn’t that expensive (Google heavily discounted the prices to try to get a better foothold in the market) and anyway, work had covered it for me.

Unfortunately, they did a terrible job getting the phone open — they scratched up the frame so badly it looked like it had been kicked around on a sidewalk for a while. The screen itself seemed to work OK, at least. It had a tiny black spot in the lower left hand corner, just a few pixels in diameter, but I ignored that and went about my life.

After a couple of weeks, though, I noticed that the black spot was slowly but surely growing in size. I tried to make time to get up to the shop, but was too busy to manage that for quite a while. By the time about five weeks had gone by, I brought it in because the black spot had grown to about the size of a thumbprint and was interfering with part the UI. Since over 30 days had passed, the shop flatly refused to replace the screen under warranty, so I cursed them and went on living with the big black spot.

On Christmas Day 2013, I knocked my phone off an end table and cracked the screen up just enough that it wasn’t really usable anymore. I took it to CPR (Cell Phone Repair) at Southpark Meadows and they fixed it for about $150 — I was glad the price of the part had come down a bit, at least, and this fix worked out nicely until I dropped it on a tile floor in May 2014.

This time I took it to Mobile Phone Geeks in downtown Austin because it was just across downtown from my office. The part price had come down even more — just $100, woohoo — but little did I know I was beginning a seemingly endless cycle of visits to the shop that seemed to occupy all of May and June.

A few days after Mobile Phone Geeks replaced the screen, I noticed the Dreaded Black Spot was there again, and in the same place: small, like it had been at first, but obviously expanding very slightly day-by-day, since I kept a close eye on it this time. I brought it on in to them, and explained that I’d seen this before after the first screen replacement, and I knew what was coming.

They took the phone apart and declared that there was a bend or kink in the plastic frame around the screen that had been poking the screen in a way that caused this expanding black spot. They gracious agreed to consider this a warranty replacement because they felt they should’ve noted the frame defect that would cause problems. I’m not sure why, with the bent frame, I didn’t have the same black spot issue with the screen that CPR had put on the phone, but I never thought to ask them before I happily covered another $20 for the replacement frame and walked on out of there satisfied that my phone was fixed for good (or until I dropped it again).

But the very next day, the screen just stopped responding. It would still turn on from the hardware button, but there was no touchscreen response at all, so I couldn’t unlock the phone. I brought it back in, their tech popped it oven, and said something about a piece of conductive tape getting in the wrong place and shorting out the screen. He had it working again in just a few minutes and said he felt like things were well-situated inside the phone and the issue wouldn’t reoccur.

A few weeks went by problem-free, but then the phone stopped responding again. I brought it in again, and after investigation was told this time it wasn’t just the way things were seated inside the housing, and they’d need to order a replacement. Once again, it would be a warranty replacement, so it wouldn’t cost me anything. I grudgingly agreed to get this down again.

That was about a week ago. And today it stopped responding again.

So, if we include the original factory-installed screen, this phone has now had SIX screens on it, in under 18 months. And, with the expectation that this will once again qualify as a defective part and merit a warranty replacement, it’ll soon have the seventh.

I’m not writing this post to slam Mobile Phone Geeks, though, they have actually been really gracious and apologetic about the issues I’ve had, and of course they’ve already replaced two screens for free and will probably be doing it again. I just wonder if they need to reconsider their parts supplier at this point.

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