Bent Out of Shape

It never occurred to me that my smartphone (an iPhone 6) might be damaged. I thought the Otterbox case was just getting old and stretching out of shape. A guy asked me if my phone was bent and I told him that it was just the cover getting stretched. He looked at me with a doubtful expression.

Looking back on it, I suspect the real problem had been growing (literally) for at least several months. I noticed that the case was starting to crack, so a few days ago, I simply removed it.

The screen of my smartphone had separated along the sides by several millimeters—enough to peek inside and see a long rectangular black shape. That turned out to be the very swollen battery. I had no idea the battery was rectangular and took up much of the middle space of the inside of the phone.

In fact, it was rapidly taking up more space by the day. The long sides of the touchscreen were completely separated from the back and it was secured only by the top and bottom ends—barely. The phone worked fine, though.

I first bought the phone five years ago, at the urging of my residents. I had only just got a flip phone several years before. By the way, I just retired from my position as a consulting psychiatrist at an academic medical center.

I remember the day I got the smartphone in the store. I bought the Otterback case and clip so I could carry it on my belt and, uncharacteristically had filled out the warranty card for both. The phone has not been out of the case since then.

One of the residents created a picture of me and a smartphone in a setting from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The point was my awkwardness with modern technology. Little did I know that the black monolith would eventually come to signify so much more later—in the form of a long black battery that would go bad, eventually warp my phone and possibly even explode. It reminds me of the bowling alley scene in Men in Black 3 in which young Agent K holds a large phone to his ear while Agent J warns “Don’t put that up to your head!”

Anyway, I took it to a cell phone store, thinking I would have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new phone. I must have made a singular impression on the salesman. Because of the pandemic, he was wearing a mask and I was wearing a shield so he could see my facial expressions as well as my white hair as I moaned and groaned about the high cost of cell phone plans and phones. Maybe out of sympathy, but probably also partly because of a desire to get me out of the store away from listening customers, he recommended CPR. That’s not cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s short for Cell Phone Repair and their little shop was right around the corner within walking distance.

I wasted no time and the guys there were very helpful, quickly diagnosed the problem as a swollen black monolith battery, donned Explosive Ordnance Disposal suits, and applied the fix. They replaced the bad battery, squeezed my phone back together and it took less than an hour. They charged me $60, which was a far cry better than the $600 I had initially thought I was going to have to give up.

They also urged me to claim the warranty on my Otterbox equipment instead of charging me $50 for what they carry in their store. They assured me that Otterbox would likely honor the warranty. In fact, Otterbox charged shipping only and tracking information indicates delivery will be tomorrow.

I’m nearly bent back into shape.

ADDENDUM : Actually, Otterbox even cancelled the shipping charge. Delivered, assembled, and back on my belt before 1PM 8/7/2020. I definitely recommend Cell Phone Repair.

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