As wearable technology replaces its antiquated predecessors, the need for repairs is inevitably set to increase. In search of answers Rob Horgan investigates the cost of damaging the wearables currently leading the market
Smashing a smartphone screen is an all too familiar inconvenience experienced by a large majority of the population. Such is the epidemic of cracked screens in the UK, that some 7.5 million consumers in Britain use damaged devices with a recent O2 survey revealing that as many as 61 per cent of us have smashed a screen at one point or another. And while it is a pain, the options available for repair are plentiful, relatively simple and (if you search around) not too expensive.
The same however cannot be said for damaged wearable tech; and I can say that with full confidence, having been left pulling my hair out while trying to construct this article. I set off with the simple aim of comparing the repair prices of Apple’s line of watches, Fitbit’s range of fitness trackers and Snap’s Spectacles. Simple, right? Think again.
As I quickly found out, repairing wearables is far from straightforward. My first port of call was to contact the vendors directly. A not-so-quick scan of each respective company website quickly revealed to me that tracking down the information I wanted was going to be harder than I had first thought. While it was relatively easy to recover a warranty policy for all the devices in question, exact pricing was not so easy to obtain. While neither Snap nor Fitbit offered up repair costs online, Apple did at least publish some indication at how it would cost to go through its official repair channel. An out-of-warranty service repair for a Series 3 Watch is listed as costing between £226.44 and £322.44 – a fairly hefty price when you consider the Series 3 sells from £329. Meanwhile, the Watch Sport fee was £196.44, the original Watch is listed as £246.44 for a repair and the Hermes special edition will set users back £246.44 to repair.
Surely these prices are too high I thought. So I ventured to the company’s flagship Regent Street’s store to seek advice. After initially being told that if I didn’t have a damaged device with me then I couldn’t be given an answer to my question it was eventually revealed to me that ‘the majority of smashed Apple Watches are not covered by the warranty’ and then I was referred to the prices online.
A spokesperson later told me that: “If your Apple Watch screen breaks accidentally, you might have the option to replace your Apple Watch for an out-of-warranty fee. The Apple warranty doesn’t cover damage caused by accident or abuse. If you have AppleCare+, it includes up to two incidents of accidental damage, each with an excess fee. You can use each incident for screen damage.” (Long story short, if you break it, you are going to have to fork out a small fortune to replace it.)
My hunt to find an official repair price for a damaged Fitbit or pair of Snap Spectacles proved even harder to uncover. While a Snap spokesperson told that the Spectacles ‘warranty does not cover damage resulting from accident or from normal wear and tear’, Snap refused to delve into the world of hypotheticals. “Our warranty does not cover damage resulting from improper storage, misuse or abuse, neglect including scratches, cracks, or surface damage, or exposure to extreme conditions including extreme heat, dirt, or sand,” the spokesperson added. “Without assessing the damage, we are unable to give a cost of repair.”
Fitbit’s response was much the same, with the official support chat service unable to provide me with pricing without assessing the damaged product first. However, a scan through Fitbit’s ‘Community Board’ quickly shows that I am not alone in my struggles to find repair costs. However, responses appear to be positive for Fitbit users with resolutions ranging from a free replacement to 25 per cent off the price of a replacement if the screen is cracked beyond repair.
Aside from going to the vendors themselves, there are few other options to repair wearable technology. Struggling to come up with many leads online, I went through the usual channels for repairing a cracked phone screens. To my great surprise of the 10 repair shops I contacted, only three said that they offered repairs to wearables and only one was able to offer me exact prices.
My initial enquiry was put to Team Know How at Currys PC World. Unable to repair the products in question a spokesperson said: “Should a customer inform us that one of the below requires a repair due to a hardware fault, we would provide a resolution within guidelines provided by the manufacturer (e.g sending off for a repair/assessment to an authorised agent or providing an exchange).”
However, after searching high and low for a cheaper alternative to the official channels, I finally hit the jackpot. The Mobile Device Workshop quoted me from £39 for a Fitbit Screen repair and £29 for a band replacement. Meanwhile Apple Watch screen repairs start from £99 and any repair of Snap Spectacles cost £69. All in all, not bad prices when compared to the device cost and official repair prices.
The lessons learnt from my time spent searching for repair costs are three-fold. First of all, there is a huge gap in the market for repairing wearable technology that I am sure will be filled as the sector grows. Secondly, if it isn’t filled or signposted more clearly, then users will take to self-repair videos which could do more damage than good. And finally, for consumers wanting the best deal, it will take some searching but decent repair prices are there to be had.