Ask LH: Can I Get My Smashed Phone Repaired For An Unrelated Issue?

Ask LH: Can I Get My Smashed Phone Repaired For An Unrelated Issue?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve owned a Samsung Galaxy S3 for 18 months. It worked quite well until the dreaded (and seemingly common) freezing and rebooting problems. From my understanding this is a problem that should be covered under warranty as I’m on a contract. However, before contacting Optus my phone’s screen got smashed.

After the freezing incident, I put my SIM in an old phone to use temporarily and forgot about the S3. Through my own neglect it ended up with a massively broken screen that only shows random-coloured lines. I can still tell it’s doing the starting-and-rebooting trick though. As it’s still under warranty, can I take it to Optus and get it replaced for just the rebooting problem, while ignoring the screen issue? Thanks, Dropped It

Dear DI,

There seems to be a lot of this going around with the Galaxy S3; a friend of mine recently experienced the same freezing problem. There’s obviously no harm in asking for a replacement. The tricky part will be convincing them that the freezing isn’t a consequence of the phone being smashed.

There’s also a strong possibility that the phone’s internals were damaged in the fall, which will be immediately obvious upon inspection. You can’t retroactively ask for an issue to be repaired when your own negligence has since rendered the phone unusable. Your predicament is somewhat similar to how jailbreaking an iPhone voids the warranty even if the problem you’re trying to get fixed isn’t related.

One possible solution would be to contact Optus and inquire whether the freezing issue is covered under warranty, without mentioning the smashed screen. Once you receive confirmation, you can then have the screen replaced by a mobile repair shop to avoid awkward questions. This is unlikely to be cheap but it certainly beats forking out for an entire new phone. (If Optus decides to repair the phone instead of replacing it, you would’ve had to get the screen fixed anyway.)

If you decide to go down this route, you’ll still be taking a bit of a gamble though. The new screen will almost certainly be noticed and may be called into question — so the risk is up to you. The lesson here is that you should always chase warranty repairs promptly, before other issues have a chance to arise.

If any readers have suggestions of their own or have ever been in a similar predicament, let DI know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • My S3 wasn’t as damaged as that, but had 2 smaller cracks. I had the “sudden death” problem, didn’t tell them of the cracks…sent it in (with a note describing the “sudden death” problem – which was all over the news at the time) and they rang me asking if I wanted the screen repaired for $250, I said no…they said no worries we’ll fix the “sudden death” problem anyway.


  • I was in exactly the same situation – had a crack in my screen, which I had ignored for several months.

    My phone started crashing and I had done everything I could to try and diagnose and fix the problem myself. It was unusable – I was missing phone calls because the screen had frozen, and it would randomly reboot, while sitting untouched on the desk next to me. I ended up paying the Optus insurance excess and mentioning both issues. When the phone came back with the shiny new screen, it was still freezing (I couldn’t even complete the initial setup)

    The Optus store staff were hopeless – they were more interested in selling me a new phone – I was not impressed since this one is still worth several hundred dollars, and even if I did recontract I would want this phone working so I could pass it on to a family member. I will be avoiding that store from now on.

    A colleague suggested taking the phone to the Samsung store in the Sydney CBD. A 15 min firmware update later, my phone is working as well as the day I bought it. The Optus repair technician had said they had applied all firmware updates (even though it was up to date before it went in), but it seems there is something more recent that Samsung have available to them in store. This was all in late November, and I haven’t had any reboots, freezes or crashes since then.

    • As frustrating as it may be, store staff are not technicians, there is no repair centre at the back of the store and they aren’t authorised to provide a replacement phone until its assessed by a tech. I did once (after being berated by a customer for 30mins and not being able to contact the franchise owner) issue a replacement handset. Only to find that they fault was liquid ingress and warranty was void. That decision cost me a cool $700 that i’ll never see again.

  • Don’t do it, you won’t get it fixed under warranty. I work for a phone company, I wont say which one. It’s simple 1 Warranty, 1 Phone. Even if the software issue is unrelated you voided the warranty when the screen was smashed. Bad Luck. If you go the third party repair route, it still wont be covered under warranty as it wasn’t repaired by the manufacturer or a Repair Center licensed by the manufacturer. The moral of the story is take better care of your electronics, and when you do break one, take ownership of the issue instead of kicking and screaming at some poor kid trying to make a living.

  • I rooted by HTC phone and a few months later it developed a common hardware problem. Repair was refused under warranty because of being rooted, but the TIO said that it must be repaired under warranty because the hardware fault is not related to hardware. It got repaired by the phone company after the TIO got involved.

    I guess it’s a hit and miss issue.

  • My partner smashed her S3 screen pretty badly, and she was also having these issues. She rang Vodafone who she was with, and they werent going to cover it or do anything for her. They did however, due to the fact she was half way through her 2 year contract, offer her a new phone, no charge on the spot, if she extended her contract for another 2 years whilst still paying the $8/month for the other broken phone, which works out cheaper then fixing it, and she has no problems with reception with vodafone.

    This arrived within 3 days, so she wasn’t without a phone for long, and it was an upgraded S4, which has been working well ever since.

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