Sunday, March 28, 2010

2 savvy geeks fix my iPhone in 45 mins for $55

While working here in Puebla, Mexico, I dropped my iPhone for the umpteenth time, this time on a stone floor.

The screen was lit up but with no image. The phone couldn´t be turned off. The normal routine for resetting -- hold down the sleep button and the home button at the same time for 10 seconds -- didn´t work. Restoring the factory settings through my Mac didn´t work.

After asking around, I heard about a place called the Plaza of Technology. It´s kind of an indoor mall, with narrow passageways and maybe a hundred tiny stands where you can buy computers, cellphones and other gadgets and get them repaired.

I walk up to the first stand and asked where I might get an iPhone repaired. The guy leads me through the narrow passages between stands, up two flights of stairs and around some corners.

We present the phone to another young guy (in glasses at left) who is chatting with an older man in a Pumas shirt and ball cap. I describe the accident and the symptoms. He asks some questions. He gets the Pumas fan to dial my phone number. It rings.

-- The screen needs to be replaced, he announces.
-- How much?
-- 700 pesos ($55).
-- How long will it take?
-- 40 minutes.

I´m desperate. My virtual life is lived through that phone. Returning it to a Mac factory is out of the question. I´m too impatient to look for the Mac store and it´s 6 p.m. on a Saturday.

I´ve had other small items repaired cheaply (a digital watch) in Latin America, where repairmen still exist. They don´t all have 401k programs and kids in private schools, so fixing stuff is a decent way to make a living.

-- OK. Let´s do it.

We snake through the passages to his little stand, which is littered with the carcasses and bones of dozens of cell phones. Evidently they are the replacement parts.

He removes the Telcel chip from my phone, says, "Hold this," and disappears. He returns with the phone in two pieces and proceeds to do some diagnostics.

The whole time he is working, he is answering questions of people who approach the stand, putting down my phone to do diagnostics for other potential clients, and finding spare parts for other technicians.

He can´t figure it out. He hands it off to his colleague Josué (at left).

Josué has me a bit worried when he tries and fails a half-dozen times to insert the replacement screen into the housing. He keeps putting down my phone to look for stuff for other technicians. Two of his buddies, seated outside the stand, offer commentary.

Josué is not working in a sanitized clean room. He rubs parts on his pants and sweatshirt. He is using a lot of muscle and pointy tools to wedge the piece in. Factory authorized parts? Who knows. Will dust or grit mess up the phone?

Finally he snaps it together, lights up the screen with the familiar icons and I test it. It works. It´s taken less than an hour. I use the iPhone to take pictures of my two heroes. They have saved my pathetic virtual life.

This practice, the Mac people will surely say, is not recommended. But it was cheap and fast and it worked. At least for now.


  1. This is a very well written and hilarious story. Oh how we always long for that geek who can take things apart and put it all back together.

  2. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Greetings from Maryland Hon!

    Great story and thank heavens your lifeline if fixed!
    Towson is in full bloom!!!!
    Hello to Cindy.