I washed/sat on/broke my cellphone! How do I repair it?
Man, it was one of those crazy moments. I realized a split second after it was too late that I'd just driven over my cellphone. I checked it out and, surprisingly, the phone didn't seem damaged at all, except it just won't turn on. I called AT&T and they told me that it'd cost $99 to replace it and that I couldn't cancel the cellphone number because my contract wasn't up. Augh! What are my options at this point?
Well, stuff happens, so I'm glad you don't seem too stressed out about it, even if you might be one of the thousands of people who have their cellphone glued to their ear.
It is darn frustrating and it would be nice if the cellular companies were a bit nicer about these sort of inevitable situations. (caveat: many cellphone carriers have replacement insurance you can buy for your cellphone, including AT&T. They charge $5/month or so and it drops the replacement cost of a broken or non-functional cellphone down to $50, last I checked. Like most insurance, though, you can't buy it after the fact)
I recently encountered a similar situation when I realized that I had put a Samsung cellphone hidden in a pair of pants through the washer and dryer. It was squeaky clean but no longer worked!
As a first step, I opened the phone up and left it in the sun for a few hours: sometimes it's just some stray moisture in the boards or casing. This time, however, it failed, and every time I gave it power, the phone just vibrated without ever completing the power-up sequence. Not good.
The most important thing I checked was that underneath the battery, the "Sim card" was still intact. The Sim card, aka the Subscriber Identity Module, is the brains of a cellphone, it's how the cellular network knows what carrier and phone number are assigned to a given device.
Sim cards are 25mm x 16mm, tiny little things with some metallic contacts on one side. They slip into a small slot inside your cellphone and with many phones the Sim card is completely inaccessible (for example, the Apple iPhone).
Fortunately, the Samsung I'd washed wasn't in that category and popping the back and pulling out the thin rechargeable battery showed just the tip of the Sim card poking out. They're easy to recognize with AT&T, at least, as the cards are brightly colored white, blue and orange.
The accessibility and pristine condition of the Sim card meant that I should be able to find a different Samsung (or any other AT&T compatible cellphone that made its Sim card slot accessible) and simply slip my Sim card in and have the phone magically work as if it'd never been cleaned.
But where to look?
Calling AT&T yielded nothing of value. As you found out, they want a lot of money to replace even the lowest price phone. Heck, the Samsung we had was one of the "free if you sign up" telephones in the first place but without replacement insurance I was out of luck.
I then checked eBay.com as it's often a great place to find older and used electronics, but was dismayed to see that replacements were running about $140, which was more than AT&T wanted for a downgrade/replacement phone. Sheesh!
As a last ditch effort, I checked Craigslist.org, first their local regional site (nada) then the greater Denver region. Score! I found someone based in South Denver who had a used Samsung for only $25, without a Sim card but with a charger. Even better, she told me that she was coming into my neighborhood the very next afternoon to visit some friends.
Like anything else you buy used, however, I was leery that I could be getting ripped off by someone who would sell me a phone that didn't actually work. My solution? I asked her to charge the phone and said I wanted to put my own Sim card into the device and test it before I paid.
She showed up, exactly on time, and within 45 seconds I had the tiny Sim card positioned in the slot underneath the battery, and was calling that phone with my other phone. It rang. In fact, it rang with a custom ringtone, which is rather fun.
Phone worked, I was happy, I paid her, she was happy.
Of course, it's quite possible that I wouldn't have been able to find an identical replacement phone, in which case I would have probably looked for a lesser model on the used market or, worst case, bought a replacement through AT&T. Sometimes you just have to write it off as a lesson learned, but hopefully your experience will end as well as mine did.
And next time don't leave your phone in the driveway!
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