AJ Forsythe couldn’t stop dropping his iPhone and cracking the screen. He also couldn’t afford to be Apple’s best repair customer.
Clumsy but industrious, Forsythe bought parts on Alibaba and found he could fix his own phone cheaply and quickly. Soon, he was running a repair service out of his dorm room at California Polytechnic State University, replacing cracked touchscreens for $75.
Five years later, Forsythe runs a network of 1,700 technicians in the United States with another 400 in 11 countries under the name iCracked.
Nearly a quarter of all iPhone users in 2013 had a broken screen, according to a poll taken by a British mobile phone insurance company. A third of those said they would not bother getting their phone repaired. U.S. consumers have spent almost $5.9 million on repairs and insurance deductibles since the iPhone first went on sale in 2007.
iCracked tries to eliminate the hassle and wait by bringing a new screen to you and repairing it on the spot. iCracked also fixes damaged charge ports, faulty batteries and water damage.The average repair takes about 40 minutes.
“Much like Uber, our iTechs operate on a radius that they set, and they cover quite a bit of territory,” said Jordan Barnes, iCracked’s director of public relations and brand strategy. “We understand that as a consumer your smartphone is your most intimate digital relationship and … we get you back connected in the most secure and trusted way, as soon as possible.”
There are parts of the United States, like Fargo, N.D., where there are no iCracked techs available. People who can’t find service nearby can send their device to iCracked for a two-day turnaround or purchase DIY repairs kits for the various devices.
“Our iTech network has scaled incredibly fast over the last six months,” Barnes said. “We’ve doubled our fleet of iTechs in that time.”
The average iCracked service person does 30 to 50 repairs each week for an average of $80, Barnes said. Price varies depending on the device and the parts needed (iCracked fixes iPhones, iPads, iPods and Samsung Galaxy devices).
Technicians are subjected to background checks and a thorough vetting, Barnes said. They keep the money they make on the repairs, while iCracked generates revenue on its DIY kits and other products.
One tech blogger last year wrote of having a positive experience with iCracked, though the technician that came to fix her phone charged a little more than $200 for parts and labor.
With Apple having a tight hold on its components, iCracked uses parts from other suppliers that the company backs with a lifetime guarantee.
iCracked also offers an insurance plan for $7 per month where subscribers pay just a $25 deductible on a repair.
“We’ve iterated our product with every single innovation that smartphones manufacturers have come out with over the past four years, and we intend to keep doing so,” Barnes said.