Broken phone?

Erwin Tesalona works in his Dededo shop.

Erwin Tesalona attaches a new screen onto an old Android phone and hands it back to a customer. The old phone is now as good as brand new. The “oldness” of a smartphone is, of course, relative nowadays. The rapid changes in smartphone technology render a one-year-old gadget ancient. Unlike the old flip-phones and the older ones that resembled TV remote controls, the newer models of smartphones are quite fragile and delicate.

Hundreds of mobile phones stacked up on Tesalona’s working table in his Dededo shop. “Everyday there's a phone that breaks and people just come to my shop for repairs,” said Tesalona, a pioneer in the cellphone repair industry on Guam.

According to IBISWorld’s market research report, the surge in smartphone and tablet usage has triggered a strong growth in the cellphone repair industry during the past 10 years. “The rising popularity of expensive but fragile smartphones has given the industry a significant boost since 2010,” the market report said.

Tech experts, however, predict that in the coming years, rapid technological change, the falling price of cell phones and rising disposable incomes will encourage the replacement rather than repair of devices.

Tesalona agrees that buying a new phone instead of fixing a broken one can be more practical. A screen replacement, for example, costs $190—almost the same as the price of a trip to the doctor if you don’t have insurance. “The cost of repair depends on the extent of the damage. Some people leave their broken phones and never come back to retrieve them,” said Tesalona, who runs a business called Guam Techies. “Some people would prefer to have their old phones fixed because of the files/data stored.”

The dearth of smartphone parts on island, however, poses a challenge to this business. If you really want your phone fixed, you might have to wait ‘til the parts are shipped from off-island vendors.

“The goal is to restore the phone to its working state without the owner having any issue,” Tesalona said. “Ninety eight percent of the entire phone can be fixed, even Apple iPads, Samsung, Nexus, Sony, Asus, LG Tablets etc.”

Tesalona has been in the cellphone repair business for 12 years, starting way back to Nokia days. “Before the smartphones, I started doing computer repairs and maintenance,” he said. Like a medical doctor who is committed to treating a sick patient, Tesalona said he finds pleasure in fixing broken phones—it’s like treating people who experience disconnection anxieties.

Tesalona, who studied Computer Programming at the AMA Computer School in the Philippines in 1995, can remedy almost every smartphone problem: blacked out screens, phone not charging, no audio, dysfunctional camera. Name it, he can fix it. He works on all gadgets and models including Samsung Galaxy, Apple iPhones, iPads and Galaxy tablets among others.

As smartphone replacement becomes less expensive and the market becomes more saturated in the coming years, the demand for repair is anticipated to stall.

Right now, smartphone retailers and carriers don’t usually offer repair services. Naturally, they want you to buy new phones. “In this case, I can help bring their phones back to life, leaving my shop satisfied and happy,” Tesalona said.

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