After two years of regular use, I noticed my main smartphone could no longer lie completely flat on its back. I also discovered that its rear glass cover, which used to be fixed in place with strong adhesive, had split open. I figured these were signs that the battery had swollen.
Rather than risk keeping a smartphone that could explode anytime soon, I decided to bring my smartphone to a repair center. But knowing that a repair means another person would take control of my smartphone, I first took a couple of security and precautionary measures. I recommend you also do these before you bring your phone to a service center for repair.
Note: a number of these tips are also applicable for when you want to donate your old smartphone or turn in it for a better one in trade-in programs. So, perform these tips as well before you sell, give away, or trade-in your phone.
Back up your personal data
One important thing to do before you hand over your smartphone to a repair shop is to create a backup for all your smartphone data.
The repair process varies on the type of damage or issue inflicted on your smartphone. If the repair shop deems it necessary as part of its troubleshooting, your phone may be reset to factory settings—wiping all existing data on the phone as a result.
But by having a backup you don’t have to worry about data loss. Once the repair is done and you get your smartphone back, you can restore your data from your created backup.
Remove your personal data from the phone
Your privacy matters, and as much as possible you must ensure no one else but you have access to your personal information. You’re only increasing the potential for abuse when you leave your personal data unguarded and accessible to anyone.
The technicians at repair shops are no exception. Your data has no bearing on their job to restore your broken smartphone back to a good, working condition. But on the other hand, desperate or immoral technicians can sell or misuse your information if you give them the incentive.
It is unlikely, but the risk does exist. In 2016, for instance, a student from the University of Oregon sent her malfunctioning iPhone to an Apple repair contractor, where two technicians violated her privacy by looking at explicit images and videos stored in her phone and uploading them to Facebook.
So, before handing in your smartphone to a repair shop, remove all traces of personal data. Remove your Apple ID or Google account from the device, whichever is applicable. Remove the SIM and microSD cards. Enable encryption and then perform a thorough factory reset.
Remove passwords and security features
Enabling passwords and other security features are great for protecting your data. But in the case of repair, security features are hindrances. The technician may need to get past the lock screen to perform tests and confirm if the issues are gone.
All your passwords should be removed from the smartphone before it’s surrendered for repair. Do not share your passwords with technicians, especially the passwords you repeatedly use for multiple online services.
In Android phones, see if Google Factory Reset Protection is disabled. iPhones should have their “Find My iPhone” and Activation Lock features turned off.
Remove accessories and personal effects
Unpair all Bluetooth accessories such as smartwatches and headsets. Remove and keep all accessories such as the phone case and covers, stickers, camera lens attachments, and screen protectors. If you need to turn in the phone charger or cable adapter, ask for acknowledgment of receipt so you’re entitled to a refund in case they’re not returned.
Take note of the smartphone specs and identification numbers
Take note of the unique identifiers of your smartphone. These include the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and serial number. These identifiers will allow you to determine if, after repair, you are getting back the same phone that you handed over, instead of another unit with the same brand and model. Generally, you can get your smartphone IMEI by entering *#06# on the dial pad.
You should also take note of your smartphone specs and components before and after repairs. If you’re not careful, shady repair shops may swap some of your smartphone’s internal components for inferior ones. For instance, your smartphone may be returned to you with the battery replaced with a third-party equivalent that has a lower capacity.
Research and choose a repair service
If you obtained your smartphone via a postpaid plan with repair and replacement coverage, then your first choice should be your cellular carrier. Or file a claim to your insurance provider if you’re smartphone has an insurance plan. Depending on the type of coverage, you may hand over your device for repair for either factory defects or accidental damages with minimal to no additional cost.
If your smartphone is still within the manufacturer’s warranty period, then go to nearby authorized service centers for repair. As they are recognized and deemed qualified by the manufacturer to service smartphones, you are guaranteed that these service centers offer the best customer service.
Another alternative is to look for reputable third-party repair shops that have genuine parts for your smartphone. Check if the shop employs technicians with relevant training and regularly receives good customer feedback.
Disclose everything you know about the damage
Just as how a doctor needs to know all symptoms to give the correct diagnosis, a smartphone technician needs to know all issues you’ve noticed on your device so he can fix all of them as well as determine and address any underlying causes.
Inquire about warranty options
Technicians may claim to have fixed the issues and return your device, only for you to experience them again or new problems to arise after a short while. To avoid additional expenses on repeat repairs, check the repair policy of the repair shop or service center before availing of their services. See if they will honor repeat repairs for free or at reduced costs.