The damage wasn't fatal. The phone still worked, but the glass was cracked and all but one section of the screen had gone black. Even black, the touch screen still worked. Amazingly, Balmer found a way to make the phone usable.
To read a text message, he would take a screenshot, go into the Photo Roll, and move the image around to read what it said. Unable to see the keyboard, he typed from memory. To make a call, he had to have a person's number memorized. And to listen to music, he learned to navigate through his collection by memory.
He even uses it as a camera, explaining, "I just have to kinda guess what I'm taking it of but it usually works out and they all turn out normal on my laptop."
It's been seven months, and Balmer is still using his iPhone. At first he didn't replace it because he was broke, but now he's grown attached to it.
"Over time this phone has become almost a part of me (as weird as that sounds). I just can't believe that it has survived this long so I feel bad just pulling the plug on it."
Balmer's experience is not unusual. Oftentimes smartphones are, in the words of Miracle Max, "only mostly dead." You can learn to cope with your hobbled device, you can drop money on having it fixed by a professional or you can attempt to fix it yourself.
While attempting to grapple with a screaming child and a car seat, Brian Buizer dropped his month-old Evo 4g smartphone, and its screen shattered. (If there is a theme here, it is that children are bad for the health of smartphones). The company wanted to charge Buizer $150 to replace the screen on his $200 phone.
He decided to replace the cracked screen himself using instructional videos on the Internet, a $20 replacement screen and a set of small drivers and pry tools. The surgery took just over an hour, but there was a small crack in the frame that held the glass. Over the past year and half, a fine white dust found its way into the phone through that crack, settling between the glass and touch pad, accumulating in the center of the screen where he scrolls most.
"I am guessing this is from static build up. Whatever causes it, I now have a hazy white spot directly in the center of my screen, said Buizer. "Needless to say, I can't wait for my new iPhone to arrive."
Finally, there are the people who bring on the damage themselves. The tinkerers, the geeks, the dreamers.
Designer Eliza Wee likes to mess with her devices, but admits she doesn't always know exactly what she's doing. The first time she tinkered under the hood of a smartphone, everything worked out just peachy.
She decided to root her Evo phone (rooting is a way of getting total control of the operating system, bypassing pesky safeguards and limitations put in place by the company that made the phone). She also put a custom ROM -- a standalone, customized version of the Android operating system -- onto the phone. She got the phone to work on a different carrier and was quite pleased with the results.
Her next phone was a Motorola Triumph. It was on Virgin Mobile, since she was on a mission to try out all the low-end phone carriers. She rooted the phone successfully again, but when she put on a custom ROM, something went horribly wrong. The external hard drive was no longer accessible and her phone was bricked.
"Genius that I am, I did all that two days before a work trip," said Wee. "I went to the Sprint store, and signed my life away for two years, after being license-free for years."