A.J. Forsythe is only 26. And, in what seems to be a growing rite of passage for twentysomethings, he, too, has shattered his iPhone. Several times.
Then one day in 2010, while still a student at Cal Poly, he got tired of schlepping his broken phone to the Apple Store, where he would have to wait for help. So, he decided to repair the thing himself. “I got tired of paying $200 a pop to have it repaired by Apple,” Forsythe tells Fast Company. “And I have always been relatively good at fixing things.” Why not?
With newly acquired repair skills in tow, Forsythe began fixing iPhones that belonged to other people. This led to him hanging up flyers advertising his services around campus, and, perhaps inevitably, starting his own repair company, which he called iCracked.
Today, iCracked is a legitimate business operating across the country in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Last year, the company pulled in $13 million in revenue, and its business model is relatively straightforward: You request a repair; you’re given a quote; one of its 532 (and counting) iTech repair people will meet you at your home, office, or, say, the local Starbucks; and they spend the next 20 minutes to an hour fixing your busted iPhone or iPad. You can hang around if you’d like, or go off and run errands. And if said phone is broken beyond repair, iCracked can buy the device from you and salvage its parts.
Very recently, the company released its first official app, which summons one of the company’s phone-repair technicians to wherever you’d like. It’s kind of like Uber for broken gadgets.
And like Uber and Lyft, those repair techs are put through a stringent hiring process before they’re actually trained. “We look at technical ability,” says Forsythe, “but our main concern is finding someone you’re going to enjoy meeting and working with. It’s a lot of vetting. These guys are our brand ambassadors.”
There are, of course, limitations to such a business. iCracked doesn’t fix Androids (yet), although it will buy back broken Galaxy S3s, S4s, and Galaxy Notes. (“It’s better for us to stay on this laser focus,” says Forsythe.) And if your iPhone isn’t turning on, or its motherboard is fried, it might be a tad bit difficult to summon an iTechnician on it. (You can, however, order repairs on the web.)
Still, house calls for broken phones fill a nice niche. And Forsythe claims that, depending on the extent of the damage, the majority of the time it is less expensive to go through them than to go through Apple. “We don’t want people to have a sketchy Craigslist experience, or have to go to a crappy repair shop,” he adds.
Which, all said, is something to keep in the mind the next time you drop your iPhone in a toilet.