Break an iPhone or other device? They fix it - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Money

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Break an iPhone or other device? They fix it

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 3:45 pm

Fixing electronic devices is big business in the Valley, and around the country.

The uBreakiFix Tempe location is busy with at least 20 clients each day, said store manager Robert Viator, and the consumer electronics repair company plans to open three more stores in Arizona by the end of 2012.

The company repairs smartphones, computers, tablets and game consoles — aiming for short turnaround times and affordable prices. It opened its first location in August 2009, and now has 28 locations in the country. All uBreakiFix locations are corporately owned, said Viator.

The Tempe store, 699 S. Mill Ave., opened on Jan. 13 as the company’s 22nd location. It is planning to open its next Arizona store in Scottsdale by June, Viator said.

“We are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, company in the country that does what we do,” Viator said.

The Tempe location has three managers, who are also technicians. They work on two-person shifts, and fix broken electronics for up to 50 clients on a busy day, said Viator.

Tempe was chosen for uBreakiFix’s first Arizona spot because of its central location in the metropolitan area and the large number of students at Arizona State University, Viator said.

“No one uses technology as much as college students,” Viator said.

Samuel Moya is one of those students. He broke the screen glass on his Apple iPhone 4 device when he dropped it while hiking. He traveled from ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus to Tempe to seek help from uBreakiFix.

“I just got my phone fixed,” Moya said. “It looks brand new.”

But the fast-growing company is not free of challenges. The biggest one is the lack of name recognition.

“We don’t do traditional marketing.” Viator said. “Word of mouth is the biggest advertising means we have.”

The company also uses search engine marketing, which ensures uBreakiFix is one of the top results as people search terms such as “fix iPhone” and “iPad water damage” on Google, said Ryan Ottaviano, also a Tempe store manager.

That’s how Moya found the store. He Googled “iPhone repair,” and the positive customer reviews convinced him to give it a try.

Good reviews are not there by accident; satisfying clients is the ultimate goal, Ottaviano said. Quality work is one reason the stores are all corporate owned, Viator said.

“Whenever you start franchising, you lose the control on quality,” Viator said. “Quality control is really making sure that all the employees and all the staff are aware that customers come first.”

But reliable and consistent quality of service is not the only draw to the repair store. Short turnaround time is equally vital, said Matt Warters, a Tempe store technician and manager with Ottaviano and Viator. He said he can fix an iPhone 3 in 15 minutes and an iPhone 4 in 30 minutes.

So instead of dealing with the insurance company or mailing the device to the vendor — and waiting days or even weeks in the process — clients get their electronics fixed in, at most, a couple hours while relaxing in the lobby or walking around Mill Avenue, Warters said. Ottaviano believes this drives the company’s success.

“These are personal devices,” he said. “People don’t want to not to have them for a long time.”

Affordable pricing also brings clients to uBreakiFix. The store offers free diagnostic service before fixing any broken devices.

Rohda Howard of Mesa brought her LG Double Play smartphone to uBreakiFix because it refused to read the SIM card. The store did not charge her because it was a SIM card problem they could not repair, according to Warters.

And usually the cost of a repair at uBreakiFix is less than the manufacturer would charge. Moya said he contacted the Apple Store about fixing the broken screen and was told the cost would be $200, plus a fee of $120 to his insurance company. He ended up paying uBreakiFix $89.99 for the repair.

“I’m very satisfied,” said Moya. “Cheaper price is an important reason.”

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