Did your dad drop his iPhone again? Or is your mom in a panic because her Android smartphone won’t turn on? The first thing you should do is tell them to calm down—chances are, it’s not a big deal.
In general, most smartphones can survive short falls onto wood or carpeted floors. They may even remain intact when dropped a few feet down, depending on the angle and area of impact.
“Most modern smartphones are tested pretty thoroughly before they're sent out into the marketplace,” says Corey Horob, a web developer and tech consultant based in New York City. “A few dings or scratches shouldn't break your device.”
But regardless of whether your dad sees a small scratch or a huge crack, he should always examine his phone carefully after it takes an accidental tumble. Even if it looks fine on the outside, internal damage may have been sustained — and that can affect the device’s functionality.
"Always invest in a screen protector and a solid case."
Test it Out
First, check the phone’s basic functions. Does it power on and off properly? Does the mute button work? “The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a meeting, assuming that your mute button works fine,” says Horob, “only to find that it doesn’t.”
Next, examine the screen. Horob suggests swiping every area of it to make sure the entire surface functions properly. “Thankfully, most smartphones have just a few buttons and one screen,” he adds, “so there's not all that much you need to test.”
Lastly, your family member should make sure they can connect to their network provider (ask them to make an outgoing call), and make sure the phone can connect to a WiFi network.
When a phone falls onto a very hard or uneven surface such as pavement, the chances are high that the screen will shatter. While this may look really serious (and cause your relative to freak out), it’s actually not the worst type of damage a smartphone can sustain. A phone’s inner workings are fairly durable, and not as immediately delicate as its outsides. And the great news is, screens can be replaced.
“If you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty,” Horob says, “you can buy a DIY repair kit to replace the screen — for much cheaper than getting it done elsewhere. Places like iFixit.com sell kits that have everything your mom will need to replace it herself, including easy-to-follow instructions.”
Did your dad drop his phone into the pool? If so, things get a little more serious. The first thing he should do, whether the device got a little bit damp or was totally soaked, is turn it off — it’s crucial to shut the power down before any liquid reaches the circuitry.
Next, he should dry the phone with a clean towel – disassembling all parts and wiping them off thoroughly. Finally, he should seal the phone (minus its parts) in a plastic storage bag, along with desiccant packets (instead of dry rice). After 24 to 48 hours (“24 worked like a charm for me,” says Horob), the desiccants will have absorbed enough of the remaining moisture to safely turn the phone back on. If the device is salvageable, it should begin working as usual.
Moisture is extremely damaging to most electronic parts and can cause them to corrode over time. So even if the circuit board was saved and the phone dried out enough to function, it may stop working much sooner than it would otherwise as an eventual result of its tumble into the toilet.
- If your relative is typically pretty clumsy, make sure that they have the right kind of phone insurance. Most plans will cover accidental damage for an additional fee. Your relative may also want to check into third-party insurance plans, which cover things like drops and falls.
- Always invest in a screen protector and a solid case. “It can be tempting to buy a case based on its aesthetics,” Horob notes. “But if it doesn't actually protect your phone, it won't do you any favors. Ten minutes of online research before you buy one can make all the difference.”