Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

At iDroid Repairs, smartphone surgeons bring devices back to life

SPRING HILL — The brightly lit, spotless work space at iDroid Repairs and Products resembles an operating room.

Javier Rodriguez, with keen eyesight, steady hands and a jeweler's magnetic screwdriver, hovers over myriad tiny pieces and says, "I'm a smartphone surgeon."

Rodriguez is one of four young and personable geeks who restore functions to iPhones, iPads, iPods, computers and Android-driven devices that have succumbed to accidents and other operating issues.

"There are no retail places in the area that do this," co-owner Steve Bruno, 33, said with pride.

Bruno shoved forward a shoebox-sized container overflowing with mostly broken and cracked smartphone faceplates ready to be discarded.

"That's two days' worth (of work)," he said.

Even though the faceplates are constructed with an acrylic product known as Gorilla Glass, Bruno said, "when dropped, it'll still crack."

Water damage — to rubber power buttons or charging ports — is the next biggest culprit, often happening in a vehicle's cup holders, where phones sometimes are stored.

Then there are screens that go completely black — "just wear and tear," Rodriguez said.

In his seemingly sterile work room, Rodriguez carefully disassembled such a phone, arranging its tiny bits in a pattern on his work mat just as they were arranged inside the device. Among the puzzle parts, he estimated there were 30 screws, each no bigger than a flea, "each with its own purpose, so you have to keep your workspace tidy and clean."

While restoring 10 to 15 smartphones a day, Rodriguez particularly likes the challenge of putting life back into an iPad — "very complex," he said. "You have to lift the glass (to get to the working parts), and it's glued to glass." He applies a hot air gun.

Water is no friend to iPads, frequently dropped in swimming pools, usually by kids. Youngsters are also primarily responsible for nonphysical "illnesses" in iPads and iPods, viruses attached to kids' games and cartoon apps, said Agata Kozakiewicz, 26, co-owner of the business with her fiance. To remove a virus, the device's memory must be "scrubbed."

Customers praise iDroid's quick service — often no longer than an hour and a half — and reasonable pricing, maybe $50. Most bigger stores send out repairs, requiring a three- or four-day turnaround, Bruno said, and costing at least $100 for a similar repair.

On a recent afternoon, Debbie Harris, "over 60," visited iDroid with a child-induced problematic device. Repair completed, she gave Kozakiewicz a hug and said of the techies, "They're really nice. They don't make old people feel stupid."

Toward that end, the technicians offered this advice: For every smartphone, buy a case to protect it; if a device gets wet, immediately plunge it into a zipper-lock plastic bag filled with uncooked rice, then get it in for professional drying out; monitor children's use of computer devices, particularly downloads.

Bruno, who has worked in the computer technology field since 1989, brought his current technicians with him from Sprint when he launched iDroid two years ago. The startup then repaired only smartphones.

Having successfully branched into servicing other computerized devices, Bruno and Kozakiewicz are looking to open additional sites in New Port Richey and Trinity.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

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