Hospitals That Mend The Apple Set–In This ER, Doctors Operate on Pocket-Size Patients

Originally published March 22, 2012

By Ian Sherr

The patient might have been under water too long. Only a few months old, the victim wasn’t responding.

A doctor, in green surgical scrubs, rushed to his sparkling clean operating room, hopeful the patient could be saved.

After thoroughly scrubbing and putting in some new parts, he tightened the last screw and pushed the power button. The familiar Apple Inc. logo filled the screen of the phone.

This doctor works at the iHospital.

 The chain of repair shops is one of many firms that have sprung up and build their business largely by repairing Apple devices. Far from the dingy, box-and-cord littered shops of the past, these businesses have taken on the Apple ethos with slick presentation and savvy brand building. Their customers come hoping to pay less for repairs than at Apple’s own stores.

“There are about 250 Apple Stores in the U.S., but there are millions of customers,” says Ross Newman, the 27-year-old founder of iHospital, based in Tampa, Fla. “They need somewhere to go to fix their products.”

Other repair shops range from iHospital to Cupertino iPhone Repair in the San Francisco Bay area, to Orlando, Fla.-based uBreakiFix Co. which has stores around the country including in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Apple’s own warranties are considered among the best by Consumer Reports. But until recently the company charged a hefty premium to fix broken screens or water damage—all too common problems as people take their beloved devices almost everywhere, even to the bathroom. The independent stores say they can fix devices for roughly half the cost as Apple.

Apple doesn’t have any ties to the stores. An Apple spokeswoman said Apple’s new AppleCare Plus policy for the iPhone costs $99 and will cover up to two incidents of accidental damage at a cost of $49 each time. The service, which lasts for two years from the date of purchase, also includes technical support in Apple’s stores and over the phone.

Mr. Newman says he can compete. A new front screen for an iPhone would cost about $150, including the cost of signing up for AppleCare Plus and the incident charge. The iHospital charges roughly between $79 and $100 for that same repair, depending on the model. And, Mr. Newman added, his doctors offer tech support and a one-year warranty on repairs. Other repair shops offer similar prices and services.

Keith Fredrickson, 34, and his wife Margaret, 35, of Jersey City, N.J., each bought a brand new iPhone 4S a couple of months ago. A few days after Ms. Fredrickson got her phone, it slipped out of her back pocket in the bathroom. “She had already flushed the toilet, thankfully,” Mr. Fredrickson says.

To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)

(Published March 22, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)