iCracked: The rise of an Uber-like repair service for smartphones

Cracked smartphone? A startup that meets customers anywhere to fix their damaged smartphones provides a convenient alternative to repair shops. 

Rogelio V. Solis/AP/File
A customer looks at the screen size on the new iPhone 6 Plus while waiting in line to upgrade his iPhone at a Verizon Wireless store in Flowood, Miss.

Ever drop your smartphone, watch the screen shatter into a million tiny pieces, and wish it could magically be fixed right then and there? Don’t worry – there’s an app for that.

iCracked, a startup based out of Redwood City, Calif., matches customers dealing with a busted smartphone with a technician who comes to their house to perform a quick fix. 

The concept is similar to services like Uber, which facilitates rides between private drivers and customers in need of a lift. With iCracked, users enter information about their smartphone repair needs and location into an app, and a nearby “iTech” shows up at their doorstep for same-day service.

iTechs, independent contractors who make their own schedules and choose which requests to respond to, typically fix between 30 to 50 devices each week. They pocket 100 percent of the money earned from repairs, earning around $70,000 to $100,000 a year, according to CEO and co-founder A.J. Forsythe.

“I meet people in coffee shops, at their homes, offices, parties – anywhere,” iTech Taha Jahmi tells Mashable. “I’ve even fixed smartphones in bars at 10:00 p.m., after someone has drunkenly dropped a device on the floor."

While a local repair shop may be the cheaper option, it is this kind of flexibility that attracts iCracked customers. 

"iCracked is not likely to be the least expensive repair option for your broken iPhone, though...at least, it's very competitive," CNET's Rick Broida writes. "By paying a little extra, you're getting the convenience of fast, on-site repair – something you can take care of on your lunch hour." 

Gizmodo’s Leslie Horn says she prefers iCracked over the Apple Store, where “people are surly” and “you have to wait forever,” or “a random electronics repair place” where “you have no guarantee” of the results. 

“With iCracked, on the other hand, you know exactly what you're getting,” she writes. “You know the cost right out of the gate, and you know that an actual qualified human being is coming to fix your phone. That human touch is one of the best parts."

iCracked generated $25.2 million in revenue in 2014 through the resale of traded-in hardware and the sale of technician repair kits (ranging in price from $700 to $1,500), which iTechs are required to purchase. Currently, there are over 3,000 iTechs in 13 countries, and the company is on track to reach 5,000 by the end of the year. 

Mr. Forsythe says iCracked is now looking to expand into a full-service smartphone sales service, starting by automating the entire smartphone trade-in process, from contract renewal to data transfer. The company is partnering with large distributors of smartphone plans and anticipates that the service will launch early next year. 

“There’s going to be a day where you press a button and an iTech shows up, delivers you a new phone, trades in your old one, and attaches a damage plan,” Forsythe tells TechCrunch

For now, the company is beginning its expansion with the launch of iCracked Advantage, a warranty program where members pay a $7 monthly fee for unlimited phone repairs costing a flat fee of $25 each. Forsythe says only about 30 percent of roughly 2 billion smartphone owners currently have an insurance plan. 

“Our goal is to complete the end-to-end lifecycle for consumer electronics,” Forsythe says. “Repairing stuff when it breaks, delivering new products and buying back your old ones, and finally a membership plan so you never have to worry about your device.”

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