Repair Stories

Self-Repair Means Never Having to Say “The End”

For lots of people, when a device breaks, that’s the end of the story. Glass is shattered. Battery’s dead. Connectors aren’t connecting. Lights aren’t turning on. Chapter done, book closed. Get a new phone.

But for repair folks, the break is just the beginning. Fixers are the sort of people who pick up the pen again, who rewrite the end after the story is supposed to be long over.

Thus begins Darren Vance’s story: “While at work one day,” he recalls, “my iPhone 4 slipped out of my top pocket and smashed the screen.” It wasn’t the first time he’d broken a phone—his iPhone 3GS died when it got wet on a fishing trip. But this time, the phone was fairly new, and he wasn’t ready to upgrade. Since the warranty didn’t cover drop damage, his options were slim. So he decided to fix the phone himself.

water damaged iPhone 3GS

When he was a kid growing up in Ireland, Darren watched his dad repair the family PC. He’d pull out parts and replace others. When the screen turned on again at the end of it all, it was almost magical. And together, both in Ireland and then later when they moved to Australia, Darren and his dad did a lot of car repair. “I’ve never sent my car to a mechanic,” he says. At the heart of it, car and electronics repair aren’t too different—they’re both mostly diagnostic testing and parts swapping. Plus, Darren had already jailbroken his phone; he wasn’t new to the idea of circumventing Apple’s rules.

A Google search brought Darren to iFixit, and he bought a screen. Following the guide took about two hours, but once he’d finished, he felt triumphant: “The feeling I got when I turned it on was amazing, such relief and pride!”

He couldn’t wait to share his experiences with his friends on Facebook. When he did, they suggested he start fixing other people’s broken devices, too. He thought that sounded pretty good. He even had a name in mind—iPair. So he bought a bit driver kit and a few other tools, made up some business cards, and started promoting himself. His home office became the iPair office. He launched a Facebook page. Soon, he was fixing two or three phones a week.

He doesn’t yet have enough business to quit his day job as a store manager for an international supermarket. His son turns one year old next week, so he understandably appreciates having a steady job. But he has made enough to reinvest some in the business. iPair now has an official website. He has added other services: he also fixes game consoles and does jailbreaking.

Self-repair of a mac mini

“Manufacturers need to know that there are a lot of consumers that actually care quite a bit about their belongings,” he argues. “If it breaks, we want to know how to fix it.”

Perhaps the most satisfying repair he’s done, however, surprised even Darren. He’d long ago given up on the iPhone 3GS he’d dropped in the lake. But with his new skills and some replacement parts, he was able to get it up and running again. He rewrote the end of a story he’d all but forgotten.

If you’d like Darren to help you rewrite your phone’s story, shoot him an email: