Yesterday afternoon, we attended the Australian launch of the LG G5; an intriguing Android smartphone that boasts a modular design with a host of snap-on peripherals. But arguably the most exciting announcement was LG's commitment to replacing smashed G5 screens for free — not questions asked. This is something we're seeing more and more of as smartphone vendors look to win over prospective customers. But so far, Apple has refused to come to the party. What gives?
In a bid to make the G5's $1099 price-tag easier to swallow, LG has announced it will replace broken screens free of charge, regardless of the cause. This will be a one-time offer, so accident-prone users will need to be vigilant after the first smash.
Still, one free screen replacement is better than zero free screen replacements, which used to be the industry standard. If you broke your screen it was down to user error and you were expected to wear the costs. Slowly but surely, this mindset is starting to change.
LG's offer follows in the footsteps of the Huawei P8, which provided a similar 'Screen Promise' program last year. Any Huawei P8 purchased between 21 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 was eligible for one free screen replacement for any screen damage within the first 12 months of purchase. HTC also has its own version (currently US-only) and we imagine Samsung won't be too far behind.
Personally, we think these initiatives are fantastic. There are few things more depressing in life than accidentally breaking a brand-new flagship phone and having to cough up hundreds of dollars to repair it.
You can cry "mea culpa", but when you consider how fragile these things are and how often we use them on an hourly basis, accidental drops are practically inevitable. In a bid to keep customers loyal and happy, vendors are finally acknowledging that their devices aren't actually built to last. Hurrah!
And then there's Apple. Currently, customers who forked out for an AppleCare+ protection plan are charged up to $149 for iPhone screen repairs. If you don't have AppleCare+ the price can go as high as $248.95.
As the company explains on its website (emphasis ours):
Accidental damage isn't covered by the Apple One Year Limited Warranty, but AppleCare+ covers two incidents of accidental damage with a service fee. The price depends on the type of repair. If we can’t repair your product, you might need to replace it.
In other words, while other manufacturers are using screen repair as a customer incentive, Apple is using it to charge more money. And it gets worse. Last year, Apple was embroiled in the Error 53 controversy. This was a much-maligned "security feature" that purposely bricked any iPhone that underwent an unauthorised, third-party screen replacement. Affected users could't turn their phone on, update them or even recover their data.
The official reason behind the move was to thwart thieves attempting to bypass the phone's security lock by removing the Touch ID sensor. However, many affected customers accused Apple of deliberately punishing them for choosing to go with a cheaper repair service over Apple’s official iPhone Repair store. And they kind of had a point: repairing your iPhone through a third-party essentially turned your device into an expensive doorstop with zero explanation.
It's likely Apple really was trying to keep iPhones secure, but the way it went about it was inconsiderate and arguably arrogant. The very least it could have done was issue some kind of explanation before unleashing the update. As it stood, people had no idea why their phones had stopped working.
Following this PR debacle, you'd think Apple would be willing to placate its fanbase with a free screen repair program similar to LG's, Huawei's and HTC's. Instead, it's business as usual.
Doubtlessly, most iPhone users will shrug and turn the other cheek. Apple has some of the most loyal fans in this or any industry — loyalty that is often taken for granted. It would be nice if the company chose to reward this once in a while. In the meantime, keep holding your iPhones nice and tight.
We're keen to hear what you think about free screen replacements. Is this something we should have have been getting all along? Or is it another example of consumer entitlement and attempting to pass the buck for our own clumsy ineptitude? Share you thoughts in the comments!