What’s your worst smartphone nightmare? Dropping your investment into a toilet, lake, ocean or a cup of Mountain Dew is at the top of the list for many of us.
You could be looking at $599 for a replacement phone if yours has died and you have no insurance that covers liquid damage. Here’s one more option: Close to 300 stores in The Cellular Connection’s chain of TCC Verizon Wireless stores have a machine for hire that claims an 80-plus percent success rate in reviving submerged phones.
The device, called Redux, looks like a miniature mechanical toilet (a coincidence?). The developers and TCC, a part owner, reveal little about the technology, which has been described as a pressure cooker for smartphones.
Two other companies offer drying-machine service in limited markets: DryBox is available in North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, New York and Connecticut. TekDry is available in California, Colorado and Michigan.
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Compared to a smartphone replacement and possible data loss, a spin through the Redux machine looks like a bargain. The only certainty is a $10, nonrefundable diagnostic fee. If the machine fails to restore the phone, that’s the only charge.
A smartphone revived costs an additional $90, or $50 for a basic phone. TCC stores are also selling Redux “memberships,” essentially an insurance policy, for $29.99 that covers two drying attempts in a two-year coverage period.
A TCC store I visited recently had treated eight smartphones, six successfully, with Redux. The store manager offered to test a donor, a sad but working LG model that he left to die in a cup of water. When the screen announced the phone was in emergency mode, where it remained stuck, it was time to enter Redux’s flip-top chamber.
After a little more than an hour, including a brief charging from a USB on the Redux’s exterior side panel, the phone fired up as normal, ready to go.
“The damage isn’t caused by water,” says Shrake. “It’s caused by water and electricity that can go through the device.”
If that happens, short-circuiting the phone, it’s all over.
The LG phone, dying but not dead, might have been revived through more conventional, less expensive, treatment. Uncooked rice might work, but starchy dust could get into the phone’s ports and cause more problems. Silica gel, a desiccant often found in new-electronics packaging, is preferable.
If your smartphone has been exposed to a liquid briefly but you’re unsure if it has been damaged, check the device’s water-damage indicator. Every Apple device made after 2006 has one. The indicator, either silver or white, turns red when exposed to a liquid.
The iPhone 6 has sensors in the headphone jack, dock connector and, inside, on the logic board. (Check bit.ly/16Uj5vd for the location of indicators on other Apple devices. Android owners should check their device’s manual.)
A submerged phone rendered useless is no better than a lost phone. Think of the costs of replacing a phone, mid-contract, that’s not covered by insurance. It costs $10 to find out if Redux can save a waterlogged phone or other mobile device. I’m predicting a busy summer season at the local Redux machine.
Phone first aid
Whether you try Redux or a DIY remedy, follow these emergency procedures after retrieving a smartphone from a liquid dip:
▪ Turn off the device immediately.
▪ Do not plug it in or try to charge it.
▪ Remove the battery, if possible.
▪ Remove the case, where applicable, and the SIM card.
▪ Clear water from the ports: Turn the device upside down, shake gently.