White Paper: Making Smartphones Last Longer

Smartphones are impacting our daily life in more ways than we can imagine, with more than 1 billion users all over the world and 2.5 million apps across Google and Apple stores. 80% of the people in the world use mobile phones and 42% of those devices are smartphones. The growth rate for smartphones has exploded in the last decade. But it wasn't always like this. The history of mobile devices is quite fascinating. Let delve into the history first:

The 80s

In 1983, Motorola launched DynaTac 8000x commercially. It was one of the very first mobile phones that were truly portable. It weighed almost a kilogram, was 30 cm long and 9 cm thick. The mobile phones back then weren't as popular as personal user devices.

The 90s

1993 heralded the beginning of a truly personal mobile phone with the launch of a Nokia 1011. It was a first GSM device on which you could actually send a text message. Nokia expanded its reach till 2000 by launching many updated variants of their phones such as Nokia 8110, Nokia 5110, Nokia 3210, and the most iconic Nokia device ever - the Nokia 3310. These phones had added functionalities of custom appearances of color in device bodies, games, and ringtones to choose from.

This decade saw the phones being used by teenagers as a statement of being upbeat and with the trend. They would personalize their phones with cases and ringtones and they would compete to reach a high score in the legendary game of "Snake".

The 2000s

In the early 2000s, an exponential application of mobile phone innovation began. Mobile devices had multiple new functionalities and had in-built cameras, color screens, and WAP to access the internet in a limited way. Companies invested in R&D to innovate these functionalities even further. In 2003, Nokia came up with a unique hybrid of a handheld gaming device and a phone - the Nokia N-gage. Motorola launched the MotoRazr in 2004 which came with the functionality of an MP3 phone. They sold over 135 million devices. BlackBerry became a rage for working professionals for its messaging and easy web use.

The smartphones which resemble what we use now started in 2007, with the launch of the first iPhone. It broke typical conventions of how phones were being utilized. Rather than just being used for calling or texting, phones became more integrated into our work and private lives. We started using it to pay for shopping done online or in stores. We used phones to take high-quality photographs and videos instead of our point-n-shoot cameras. The usage of social media apps became a way to connect to larger communities.

Smartphones have improved our quality of life. It's almost become a necessity that we can't survive without. But as you browse the internet for your next pair of stylish shoes on your 2-year-old smartphone, you frequently come across apps that refuse to install on your phone. The game that you have been playing for a long time, feels sluggish now. Your device frequently hangs and stutters, and you can't seem to book a cab ride to the airport.

According to studies, the average lifespan of a smartphone these days is 18-24 months. There are multitudes of factors that contribute to this. The operating system causes limitations. Most apps need to stay compatible with the OS. Many versions of API (Application Programming Interface) get released every time the OS version gets updated. API contains the code and libraries that work together to run an app. Thus OS version updates need to be complemented with APPs updates for a smartphone to run optimally. Many developers lack the resources to make apps backward compatible with OS versions beyond a few previous releases. Older devices can't update their OS after certain versions due to hardware and memory limitations. The game app that was updated to the latest API version, starts becoming processor-heavy and slows down and hangs your device. Your phone becomes obsolete for you when it can no longer keep up with your demands. It's not because your phone is broken, it is just outdated.

The fast pace of technological advancements has led to devices and gadgets becoming increasingly disposable. We tend to discard them the moment they do not function up to their highest capacity. However, it is important that we know the most common smartphone problems, what goes on at a service center to repair your device and how much a repair is going to cost you.

Most Commonly Occurring Problems in Smartphones

While your smartphone is a technological marvel, it also delicate and expensive to own and maintain. As smartphones evolve, the technology used inside the phone becomes even more fragile. We also tend to use our phone along with doing other activities, like cooking, commuting, walking, etc, which makes them more susceptible to damages. In fact, 45% of all smartphone owners damage their phones accidentally within the first year of purchase. The price paid for the phone makes it worth investing in protection plans.

Device damage* includes all damage cases other than screen damage

1. Damaged Screen or Display

Even with the invention of the advanced technologies like gorilla glass being used for protection against lighter screen damage, smartphones are most vulnerable to the issue of cracked glass. Many smartphones also come with thin bezels or curved screens, which lets an impact affect the glass integrity severely. While most people drop their phone within days of getting a new smartphone, the amount of damage a drop causes depends on the height of the drop and the surface it falls on.

A cracked screen is unsavory to look at and it also poses danger to other parts of your phone. The crack allows the dust and moisture to get inside the phone easily, which damages other components that are intrinsically put together inside the device.

A cracked screen or damaged display is most common, and is reported to be almost 71% of all issues in smartphones. The average repair cost for this issue amounts to Rs. 5,500. When your phone reaches the repair desk, the following parts need repair or replacement in order for the phone to be fully operational again.

Parts Replaced / Repaired................. Percentage
Screen ............ 97%
Back Cover ............ 15%
Motherboard ........... 11%
Others (camera, battery, etc) ............. 13%

How To Avoid

Apart from being more careful with your delicate device, you can also buy a case with protective surfaces on all sides. A screen guard helps against scratches but doesn't save your screen in case of a fall, especially screen guards like Tempered Glass. Getting rid of the habit of putting the device in the back pocket helps because a lot of times screen damage happens when you sit down on the mobile phone without realizing it.

2. Starting / Booting Issue

This issue is also known as the device being "bricked". Installing a lot of third-party apps that are not cross-compatible with other apps and/or with the current OS of your phone, can cause frequent crashes. Sometimes, broken OS updates that were not applied properly causes your device to go in a boot loop. Overheating motherboard because of processor load can force your device to randomly shutdown. The phone's battery that is not working optimally affects the booting up of the device. A lot of users fiddle with their OEM-provided OS by jailbreaking/flashing custom updates that do not work seamlessly with the device and bricks it. Many other software related issues contribute to this kind of damage

A bricked device is reported to be 8% of all issues in smartphones. The average repair cost for this damage is Rs. 9,900. The repair desk usually reports replacing/repairing below parts in order for the phone to be functional again.

Parts Replaced / Repaired................. Percentage
Motherboard ................ 94%
Screen...................... 55%
Back Cover ............. 19%
Battery ................. 15%

How To Avoid

Clean up your phone frequently of old and unused apps. Make sure that the battery in your phone is working in optimal conditions. Charge your phone above 70% before applying any OEM updates so that your phone can process through the update without the battery dying mid-operation. At the signs of overheating of the phone, promptly take the mobile phone to your nearest repair shop.

3. Liquid Logging

Many smartphones now boast of being water-resistant but it still not commonplace. Manufacturers can now get IP rating for their devices that certifies the device to be splash-proof or completely waterproof depending on the rating they received by regulatory committees. According to the data from these manufacturers, only some devices in the market are rated waterproof while most others are only water-resistant.

Accidents happen to the best of us. Liquid logging consists of damages done by water, moisture, and other liquids. You can end up dropping your phone in a puddle, sink or toilet. You can end up splashing a soft drink or a hot beverage while out in a cafe. Or you may get drenched in a sudden rain while your smartphone is lying vulnerable in your pocket. It is terrifying to see your device screen flashing abnormally or not respond at all after an incident like that.

Liquid logging is reported to be 3% of all issues that can happen to your device. The average repair cost for this comes to about Rs. 9,700. When the repair desk receives a liquid logged phone, recovery happens after usually replacing/repairing the below components.

Parts Replaced / Repaired................. Percentage
Motherboard ........................69%
Screen.................. 69%
Full Body Replacement............14%
Battery............ 12%
Back Cover ....... 11%
Others ........... 16%

How To Avoid

Take the device out of the water as quickly as possible and turn it off. In case the phone is splashed with other liquids, turn it off and then wipe the device thoroughly. Take all the removable components out such as a Battery, SIM card and Micro SD card. From then on, you have various ways to quickly absorb moisture from your device. The prevalent solution of waterlogging is to keep the device in an airtight container with dry uncooked rice to soak the moisture out. Even though it the most common solution, studies have shown it to be ineffective. The alternate option that works is using silica gel packets instead of rice. A few days of this method dries out moisture as much as possible.

4. Phone Not Charging / Battery Damage

Your device's battery life is decided by the number of cycles it goes through for a charge/discharge. When it's near its end of the lifespan, the battery starts giving random readings of battery levels and a surge in usage of the device causes itself to shutdown with a faulty battery. The charging ports on the smartphone device get worn out with daily usage. They become dirty and scratched, which affects your phone optimum charging capacity. Damaged cable due to tangles and a faulty wall socket can cause this damage as well.

Faulty Charging is reported to be 2% of all smartphone issues. The average cost of repair amounts to approximately Rs. 5,900. The repair desk usually repairs/replaces the below parts in order for device recovery.

Parts Replaced / Repaired .................Percentage
Motherboard .......... 55%
Battery ............... 37%
Screen .................16%
Others............. 18%

How To Avoid

Clean the dirty ports on the device at a regular interval. A small toothbrush or a cotton bud helps in removing gunk around the charging port opening and helps avoid minor charging issues. Broken charging cables should be replaced immediately in order to save a phone from further damages.

5. Camera Malfunctions

Just like your screen, the camera at the back of your device gets scratched frequently too. Smartphones usually don't come with camera lens doors to physically keep the dust away and scratches to a minimum. The image produced by the camera can contain dots, due to the sensor issues as well.

Camera issues are reported to be 0.4% of all smartphone problems. The average cost of repair is Rs. 6,300. When the repair desk receives a device with camera defects, the following parts get replaced/repaired.

Parts Replaced / Repaired............Percentage
Camera ............. 81%
Motherboard........... 18%
Screen............ 16%
Back Cover............. 12%
Others................ 18%

How To Avoid

Keeping your phone in a protective case with raised edges reduces the amount of scratches camera lens receives. Avoid storing the phone in a bag or pocket along with sharp objects like keys. Holding a phone more carefully while taking selfies/photos secures it from scratches borne by accidental drops.

Dealing with Damages and Malfunctions

According to repair desks, these are the parts that are most commonly repaired in all cases reported.

  • As the most common part, the screen is repaired 77% of the time.
  • A Motherboard is repaired 14% of the time.
  • Battery and camera are repaired 4% and 3% of times respectively.
  • Speaker-receiver gets repaired 1% of the time, so is full-body replacement of the phone.

Cost of Repairs in Comparison with the Device Price

Overall average costs of the parts repaired in mobile devices ranging from economical to highly expensive stays at 33% of the original device price. FOr expensive smartphones (above 50k) repair costs are almost the same at 39%. Cheaper smartphones (below 10k) lead the chart by the highest percentage at 41% of the original device price. Phones priced between 10k-20k costs 33% of the device price in average repair costs. Phones ranging between 20k-35k price are most reasonably priced for repair at 27%. For Phones above 35k and below 50k, the repair prices are estimated to be at 32%.

Part Costs Break-up within Different Price Ranges

1. Smartphones below Rs. 10k

Parts Price (Rs.)
Back Cover 750
Battery 900
Camera 800
Motherboard 3500
Screen 2600
Speaker-Receiver 250

2. Smartphones between Rs. 10k - 20k

Parts Price (Rs.)
Back Cover 1200
Battery 1000
Camera 1200
Motherboard 5800
Screen 3600
Speaker-Receiver 300

3. Smartphones between Rs. 20k - 35k

Parts Price (Rs.)
Back Cover 1900
Battery 1400
Camera 2100
Motherboard 11000
Screen 5000
Speaker-Receiver 450

4. Smartphones between Rs. 35k- 50k

Parts Price (Rs.)
Back Cover 2100
Battery 1400
Camera 2700
Motherboard 16000
Screen 8500
Speaker-Receiver 600

5. Smartphones above Rs. 50k

Parts Price (Rs.)
Back Cover 3300
Battery 1700
Camera 4100
Motherboard 18000
Screen 14000
Speaker-Receiver 650

The average costs of repair per part are calculated from the findings above. A Motherboard stands at the highest with an average cost of Rs. 7,100, followed by the Screen at Rs. 4,100. Back cover and camera commonly cost the same average amount of Rs. 1,600. Battery averages at Rs. 1,100. The least expensive repair part of the phone, the speaker-receiver, is at an average of Rs. 350.

Repair Costs for Different Brands of Smartphones

A smartphone repair cost varies depending on the brand you use. For instance, if you're using a Xiaomi smartphone that costs anywhere between Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 35,000, you can end up paying nearly 49% of the device cost on repairs when it breaks down. Similarly, you can refer to the table below to understand the average repair cost for other smartphone brands, based on its price value.

Brand Device Price Range (Rs.) Avg. Repair Cost (Rs.) Repair Cost % of Device Price
Samsung < 10K
Samsung Total Rs. 6650 34%
Vivo < 10K
Vivo Total Rs. 4220 24%
Oppo < 10K
Oppo Total Rs. 4679 30%
Xiaomi < 10K
Xiaomi Total Rs. 4871 39%

Ways to Extend the Life of a Smartphone

  • Invest in a protective case to save smartphones from camera and screen damages. Placing a tempered screen guard and replacing it at regular intervals will keep the scratches at bay.
  • Remove unnecessary apps and multimedia. By doing that you will not stretch processing capabilities of the device beyond its reach. This will ensure the good functioning of a device in the long run.
  • Always keep your phone updated with the latest software updates. This helps resolve bugs and keeps the device updated with the latest features. In some cases, where upgrade is possible, it might make your device sluggish due to hardware restrictions.
  • Switch off/reboot your device regularly. Just like your computers, rebooting clears the cache in your devices, which helps it run more efficiently.
  • Follow good charging patterns to keep the battery in the best shape. Periodically checking and cleaning the charging port helps to keep charging cycles regulated. Also, avoid using different chargers. Some phone chargers are designed to cut-off the power it supplies once your device reaches 100% charge, while others don't.
  • If your phone accidentally falls in water, take it out and switch it off immediately. The longer your phone is in contact with water, the greater the chances of damage.
  • Never blow dry a wet phone, as it can send water to internal parts of the phone, causing more damage. Plus, excessive heat can cause damage to the phone.
  • Do not leave your phone in your pocket while doing strenuous activities such as exercising, commuting, etc. This saves against accidental cracks and damages.
  • Avoid viruses and malware by downloading files from unknown sources or it can lead to technical issues in the device.
  • For iPhone users, it a good idea to use cloud storage to not clog your phone of unnecessary data thus keeping the device storage levels optimized.

Future of Smartphones: Convergence of all our Devices

Smartphones are already replacing our stereos and cameras on a large scale. The sales of cameras and typical stand-alone music players have dwindled largely as smartphones became more integrated into our urban lifestyle.

Researchers have found that smartphones add an extra 2 hours in our workday because we start checking and responding to our emails as soon as we wake up and continue the work during the commute to the office. Mobile phones started out as devices that were facilitators of communicating verbally, now being used for almost every walk of life. Our Education, Work, Social Life, and Personal Life, all, require the use of smartphones to some extent, and in some cases, even significantly.

Smartphones have become one of the most integral assets to have in the 21st Century, and will continue to expand their horizons into various aspects of our lives in the coming time.

Looking at the growth of smartphones over the years, we can positively assume that they will continue to replace our other devices and perhaps evolve into a piece of tech that is emotionally attuned to our senses.

Smartphones are here to stay as an integral part of our daily life. You can use the methods described above to avoid any damages, and in the case of smaller malfunctions, you can do DIY repairs, buy a protection plan or take it to a service center for professional services. Taking care of your smartphones is going to extend their lifespan and give you consistent performance, far longer.

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