Types of Phone Damage: The Hidden Ways we Damage our Phones

Your Phone Is Fragile

You’re probably already aware of the fragility of your mobile phone. With a glass screen, most of us get a very obvious indicator when a knock, fall, or shake-about has broken our precious phone for good – but especially with the introduction of better and better phone cases, these days a bump to the phone is just as likely to break something inside the phone as on the surface.

In this article, we’ll talk about the most common ways that people unknowingly damage their phones, how to know they’re damaged, and what you can do to fix them.

Is Physical Damage Covered by your Warranty?

Physical damage is only covered by warranty if the damage is the fault of the manufacturer or reseller. Any damage that occurs to your device after it has been dispatched to you is your own responsibility, and will invalidate the warranty. Whilst many warranty policies specifically state that ‘accidental’ damage is not covered, in reality this refers to any kind of physical damage to the device after the point at which it has been sold.

Something to keep in mind is that if your phone is fully working when you first receive it, and then stops working at a later point in time, it’s almost certainly due to an issue caused after it leaves the workshop.

Common Types of Physical Damage

  1. Impact damage
  2. Liquid damage, aka water damage
  3. Heat damage

Impact Damage

Common Sources of Impact Damage

Drops and falls are the most obvious ways your phone can get broken, but there are others. Any time your precious smartphone is knocked against a solid object, there’s an opportunity for something inside it to break. It’s not just the heavy impacts that matter – small bumps can add up over time. The connections between tiny components inside your phone can become damaged, or these small, sensitive components themselves can be broken.

A phone can also be said to have received impact damage if it has been put under stress or pressure, for example if your precious device has been kept in a back pocket whilst you’re sitting down.

What faults can impact damage cause?

As well as the obvious cracks and breaks, impact to your device can cause internal damage. This can lead to the following issues:

  • Disconnected screen: impact to the phone can break the connection between the phone screen and the logic board – which will either lead to the screen refusing to show anything at all, the appearance of coloured vertical or horizontal lines across the display, or a flickering display.
  • Damaged touch sensor: similar to a disconnected screen, damage to the touchscreen controls can cause unpredictable touch responses such as: clicking too many times; failing to respond to taps or swipes; or your phone seeming to act of its own accord, registering input when you’re not touching the device.
  • Damaged circuitry: Broken or shorted connections between components in your phone can change the voltages inside your device. If this doesn’t simply break your phone, it can lead to rapid and dangerous overheating as your battery dumps its energy into broken components.
  • Battery damage: even minor damage to the battery can be catastrophic to your phone, as battery fluid is corrosive to your device. Not only will you have trouble charging or maintaining charge, any leak of battery fluid will quickly damage your phone’s internal components. Damage to the battery could even cause your phone to catch fire.
  • Slowed down device: Any small amount of damage to your phone’s processing circuits can negatively impact the overall performance of your phone – whether this causes your apps to freeze or crash at random, or just slows down every action your phone takes.
  • Issues with connectivity: your phone is a communication device first and foremost, fitted with technology to help it communicate via mobile signals, wifi, bluetooth, NFC and more. Each of these requires different hardware to function, and impact damage to any part of the workings of these systems might cause them to fail.

Ways to Prevent Impact Damage

  • Using a protective case
  • Taking extra care of the device
  • Never putting the device loose in a bag with other items
  • Never leaving the device in a trouser pocket when sitting

Liquid Damage (Water Damage)

Common Sources of liquid damage

Most people assume that ‘water damage’ only refers to the phone being fully dropped into water, such as a bath or into the toilet. However, this only accounts for a small number of water damaged devices. The truth is that any amount of moisture, no matter how small, coming into contact with the circuitry of your phone can cause damage to it. Over time, water damage can build up slowly. Here are a few things that you need to avoid:

  • Direct exposure to rain
  • Prolonged exposure to sweat
  • Keeping your phone in a damp pocket or bag
  • Using your phone in humid places such as a bathroom or greenhouse
  • Using your phone with wet hands
  • Contact with moisturisers and oils
  • Contact with food and drink
  • Condensation forming from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures

Something to remember is that 100% pure water is a relatively poor conductor of electricity. Water’s conductivity (and the damage that it can do to your device) increases when it’s high in electrolytes, for example salt. This means that even a small amount of sweat can be just as damaging to your phone as dropping it into a bath.

What faults can liquid damage cause?

We all know that water and electricity shouldn’t mix. Liquid damage or water damage can cause a number of issues, as water can conduct electricity and damage the device.

Similarly to physical damage, liquid damage can be the cause of any kind of issue, as it can damage any component inside your device. Liquid damage is usually less dramatic than impact damage – it’s less likely to lead to brightly coloured stripes appearing across your screen, because circuitry that has been water damaged is less likely to have cleanly broken away.

Ways to prevent liquid damage:

  • Using a fully-sealed, IP rated phone case
  • Never leaving your phone outside in the car overnight
  • Avoiding humid environments with your phone
  • Never leaving your phone in the pocket of wet or damp clothing
  • Gently wiping down your phone with a dry cloth whenever it gets exposed to water or other liquid

Therm scaled

Heat Damage

Main article: Why is my phone overheating?

Heat damage, like liquid damage, can affect any number of sensitive components within your phone, causing a wide range of different issues. Another similarity is that heat damage can add up little by little over time.

Usually, heat damage is caused by the phone itself overheating, which is a sign of another fault caused by impact damage, water damage or software issues. It can also be caused by battery failure or a charging fault. Heat damage is more likely to occur in hot weather, so avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Never leave your phone in the bed while it is charging.

If your phone overheats, it’s designed to shut off before it causes catastrophic damage to itself – however if your phone is already damaged, this might not happen as intended.

Ruling Out a Software Issue

In some cases, programs on your phone can cause issues that look similar to the issues above. Common software-based issues include:

  • Slower-than-normal operation
  • Unexpected freezing or crashing
  • Stuttering screen or blank screen
  • Frozen or unresponsive touch screen
  • Battery draining quickly / phone overheating

Software issues are almost always caused by an app that you have downloaded. To check, you can try starting your phone in safe mode and see if the issue persists even if you don’t open any apps.

Our Quality Assurance Process

Here at The Big Phone Store, our technicians have been refurbishing smartphones since the very beginning. That expertise means that we know all of the common reasons for faults like those above to develop over time, and how to safeguard against them from happening.

For example, faults that develop slowly over time could, in theory, be caused by loose connections left by technicians after low-quality refurbishment or repair work. That’s why at The Big Phone Store, as each device is put together, each of these connections are checked to ensure that they won’t simply fall apart.