By Megan Ellis
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a premium smartphone known the world round for its beautiful aesthetics, all-glass body — and, of course, its immense fragility. So what happens when the gorgeous handset hits the floor and a crack spiders across its delicate exterior?
Let’s take a look at the different options for owners and the likeliness they will need to use them.
Just How Fragile is the S8?
We’ve heard about fragile phones before: the prettier they get, the less durable they often prove to be. In 2016, many consumers wondered about how easily the Galaxy S7 Edge would break and expressed concerns. But little did they know that a more fragile successor was on its way.
Insurance provider SquareTrade conducted their usual drop test with the Galaxy S8 and S8+ this year. Not only did they find out that the devices are very prone to cracks — but they are basically the most fragile handsets the company has ever tested.
The breakability of a device is measured on a scale of 100: the closer to 100 it is, the more fragile the smartphone.
The Galaxy S8 scored 76 on the scale, while the S8+ scored 77. This is classified as a “medium-high risk.” According to the company, the S8 is the first phone they’ve ever tested that has cracked on the first drop on all sides (e.g. front fall, back fall, edge, etc.).
“While the nearly all-glass design of the S8 makes it a beautiful phone, it’s extremely susceptible to cracking when dropped from any angle,” SquareTrade said.
SquareTrade’s tests were done with a six-foot (1.8-meter) drop onto concrete, which is quite the fall. But it doesn’t take much for the S8 to crack under pressure.
Users have reported cracks from falls as small as two feet. Covers don’t necessarily make the device impervious to damage either. A drop of three feet onto a tiled surface is enough to crack the phone with a cover on.
Seeing that the most minor bout of clumsiness can lead to cracks on your S8, what are your options for repair?
1. Samsung Premium Care/Samsung Mobile Care
Accidental damage to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ is not covered by the normal manufacturer’s warranty.
Furthermore, Samsung’s Accidental Damage From Handling (ADH), which gave owners of previous Galaxy models one free screen repair, does not apply to the company’s latest flagships. In fact, there is very little that is free at all with the new plans.
They are essentially different versions of a product with a central aim — providing cover for accidental damage.
Another common thread is one that will see many Samsung owners already disqualified. You need to register for the extended warranty within 30 days of buying your phone. After this period passes, you cannot buy the insurance policy.
But if you do sign up in time, what exactly do these warranty plans offer?
Samsung Premium Care
Samsung Premium Care is the extended warranty plan that applies to the United States. It comes with some extra benefits that users in other countries won’t be seeing in their policies.
It comes with a monthly fee of $11.99 (with the first month free) and a $99 deductible for each claim.
This allows you to exchange your damaged device for a new one. However, these claims are limited to three per twelve month period. Not handing in your damaged device once receiving your new one can attract an unrecovered equipment fee of up to $1,200.
It also comes with the extra perk of in-person support. Unfortunately, any S8 not bought through an authorized Samsung carrier or retailer cannot be registered for the policy. You also cannot transfer the policy if you sell your device.
Samsung Mobile Care
Samsung Mobile Care has the same core inspiration of its premium counterpart (covering accidental coverage), but comes with fewer bells and whistles.
The coverage plan also comes with a monthly fee (with the first month free). It is slightly cheaper though, at around $5.50 per month depending on the country. You can also opt for a bulk payment of around $100 for the full 24-month plan.
The plan has a 24-month limit from date of purchase, after which it will automatically lapse. And no, you can’t extend it past the 24-month period.
For each claim, which is limited to one claim per year for two years, users will have to pay an “incident fee”. During the first month, the fee for a damaged screen is around $115 and the fee for a damaged back cover is around $30. During the rest of the policy period, these fees drop to around $80 for a front repair and around $25 for a back cover repair.
2. Taking It Into a Samsung Repair Center
If you missed out on Samsung’s extended warranty plans, you can take it into a Samsung repair center for a quote.
Samsung repair centers tend to be more expensive than third-party repair shops, but the warranty of the device is guaranteed by using authorized Samsung services.
We took a cracked Samsung Galaxy S8 into a repair center to see how much it would cost to repair. We were told it would be between $270 and $390.
However, when selling its mobile care plan in South Africa, Samsung has stated that a screen repair could cost up to $780 (more than what the phone is worth in the U.S.). This repair cost is over two thirds the local recommended retail price of the S8, and over half the price of the S8+. It’s uncertain how Samsung estimated the high cost of repair.
The benefits of choosing this option are that you are not limited by how many repairs you can get, and your manufacturer’s warranty will remain intact.
3. Using a Third-Party Repair Center
The cost of taking your cracked S8 into a Samsung repair center may be a bit more than many consumers are willing to cough up — which is why you might want to turn to a third-party center. Though it should be noted though that this option may affect on your warranty, and Samsung won’t help you out if the repair shop damages your phone further.
On the other hand, third-party repairs are usually cheaper. The key is to first know what the warranty implications are, and then choose a reputable repair company with a track record of good service.
The quote we received from a third-party repair service for the same cracked Galaxy S8 amounted to around $235. However, we also received a quote for approximately $390. Some sites put the estimates for repair as high as $500.
You will have to shop around to see the price range in your area and weigh it up with the other options.
4. Claim From Your Insurance
Claiming from your insurance though comes with the risk of your monthly premiums increasing. Depending on your insurance provider, this will also likely come with a significant deductible. On the other hand, it comes with the benefit that the number of times you can claim during a given period is higher than Samsung’s available plans.
Fruit Fixed repair shop owner Justin Carrol told Motherboard in a recent interview that the average insurance deductible is $200. However, you need to take into account subscription and policy fees.
SquareTrade, the company that performed the S8 drop test, states that its 24-month smartphone insurance plan costs $149 and their deductible per claim is $99 — which would put the total of a repair at around $248.
Mobile carriers also tend to offer their own insurance plans. So if you opted for one when buying your phone, consider claiming from them.
5. DIY Repair
This is an option that more consumers are turning to, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
DIY repair allows you to skip the labor fee and only pay for the parts you need. However, this is an option that can put your warranty at risk. While you can find online guides for repairing your S8, the phone is considered moderately difficult to repair and requires a lot of patience, according to iFixit.com.
“While the back glass is tedious to remove because of adhesive, it’s definitely doable for a non-pro to replace,” the company told MakeUseOf. “A screen swap on the S8 is a whole other beast. Just accessing the display requires getting the back cover off, tunneling through the phone, and removing several other components. Then you need to get enough heat on the screen to lift the adhesive. Additionally, the front glass doesn’t use standard adhesive, it uses double-sided tape gunk that is more resistant to heat.”
You’ll have to decide whether you want to roll the dice on this. Replacement part prices also depend on the company you buy them from. Again, you’ll want to choose a reputable company with a track record.
We’ve seen front glass replacements for the S8 for as little as $30 to around $60, while full-service screen replacements are hovering around the $280 to $300 range.
Looking to the Future
On the bright side, it is expected that repairing your S8 will get cheaper in the future.
“Most repairs get cheaper over time as parts become more widely available. Once independent repair shops can get a steady supply of parts and more shops start to offer the service, that can help drive the price down as well,” iFixit says.
However the lack of ADH repair services and the fragility of the S8 might drive some consumers away in the meantime.