I drop my phone…kind of a lot.
It’s not that I’m clumsy, it’s just that my fingers sometimes don’t like holding on to a digital appendage for almost all of the hours that I’m not asleep or at a keyboard.
Every time it happens, there’s a moment of brief panic that sets in as I bend down to pick it up. “Please don’t let the screen be cracked, please don’t let the screen be cracked,” I plead. And 99.9% of the time, I find a pristine screen staring back at me and a sigh of relief exiting my mouth.
But last weekend, my girlfriend’s 80lb dog Alfie decided that it wasn’t my lucky day. As he greeted me with his patented bear hug, my phone was knocked out of my jacket pocket and its screen shattered against the sidewalk below.
However, as said girlfriend began apologizing and fretting, I told her not to worry. I had insurance. It would all be fine.
That magical Get Out Of Jail Free Card that assuages our anxieties when our phones are broken or stolen. That little voice that tells us everything is going to be fine.
So I’ve spent all week feeling fine about the spiderweb in my screen because I was sure that when I went to the Verizon store this weekend, a technician would wave a magic wand and I’d be back to dropping bingos in Words With Friends before I knew it. Everything would be fine. It felt like Verizon had my back in all this. And as someone who may or may not have also had a few phones stolen, I always felt like I was getting the better end of this deal.
That is, until today, when I learned that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon claims to have emails showing how phone companies are blocking the introduction of a so-called kill switch (essentially a way to remotely disable a phone completely) that would undercut the value of gadgets now trading on a global black market, which would hypothetically mean a reduction in thefts (you know, the whole supply/demand thing).
But why would Verizon, who just wants to make sure my friends could hear me now, and the other top 3 wireless carriers do such a thing?
Because they will earn a combined $7.8 billion this year in insurance premiums from their customers. Asurion, a phone insurance company that pays wireless carriers for each policy they sell, made an estimated $98 million in profit in 2010. And that’s a lot of Monopoly money.
But roughly 1.6 million Americans had their phones stolen/left them on a bar after happy hour. And that doesn’t include the countless others like me who, THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, have broken or damaged theirs. What are we supposed to do, cough up hundreds of dollars for a brand new phone each time tragedy strikes?
Apparently we’re supposed to go to Craig’s List, where replacement phones can be found for the same price as the often-refurbished replacements that carriers provide through insurance. “The plans are expensive and not really worth it for consumers,” said Mike Gikas, who covers electronics for Consumer Reports.
I guess in life, there are no Get Out Of Jail Free Cards. Sure we may all pass Go, but it’s the phone companies that are collecting the $200.