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How I Broke My Last Five Phones

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I do not have an iPhone anymore. I don't plan to buy another one. I adore Apple's wonderful hunks of glass and aluminum, but I'm like Lennie with a bunny when I have one in my hands: I love it so much and so intensely that I kill it.

I remember when I was about 12, a music shop deadbeat told me he liked putting the first ding on a new guitar. Once it has a scratch, you can stop worrying and rock. This does not apply to smartphones. Cracked screens are not charming patina. Dents are not impressive life experience indicators. In 20 years, I have never killed a guitar, but amazingly, five iPhones have died by my hand since 2009.

Here's how, that it may help you walk a less destructive path than I have.

iPhone 3G

January 2009-June 2010

It's impossible to forget the first time you ding a $300 gadget. My friend Ben was visiting San Francisco, and after a night of drinking beer in another friend's kitchen, we went to get tacos. I was trying to show him on my fancy toy where we were on a map, and as I was handing him the phone on a dark street, it just fell out of my hand. It hit the sidewalk face down with a crunch.


But my poor 3G didn't die until a few months later when one night I fell asleep drinking a 40 of King Cobra. Upon waking, I found my phone drowned in a pool of malt liquor.

iPhone 4 (#1)

July 2010 - December 2012

Luckily, the iPhone 4 had just been announced when my first phone bit it. It took me about a month to get off the waitlist. That was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I don't mean getting the new iPhone; I mean using an old Samsung flip phone for a month and realizing I didn't need the entire internet in my pocket every waking second.


Over a year passed uneventfully with my first iPhone 4. Then the third Gizmodo Gallery happened. The week-long pop-up shop in the Lower East Side was full of awesome gadgets and fun interactive toys. It was a fun exhibit during the day, and at night we threw parties. After one of them, I woke up, and the glass on my phone was crushed through the LCD and it wouldn't turn on. I can't recall exactly which party killed my phone, or what mysterious impact caused it to die. But it was possibly the Nerf war reader meetup where this photo was taken:

Image for article titled How I Broke My Last Five Phones

Yeah, that looks about right.

iPhone 4 (#2)

January 2012- June 2012

I got dumped in 2011, and it took me over a year to really move on. It required a lot of alcohol get there. When I was finally ready, after a date when everything was going right, I closed my eyes and went for the kiss and fell through the wrought iron gate I was leaning on and threw my phone straight at the ground. Technically the phone worked for a while after that, but it was shedding glass at all times so touching it was a hazard. Eventually, the touchscreen stopped working altogether.


iPhone 4 (#3)

June 2012 - July 2012

This phone wasn't really mine. It was an spare handset that was passed around the Gizmodo staff whenever somebody needed a temporary phone. It was already in rough shape; the power button barely worked so you couldn't really put the phone to sleep. The battery only kept its charge for about half a day. I managed to make things worse by dropping it almost immediately, opening a gash in the glass back that left the guts exposed. Eventually the battery just stopped carrying charge altogether. I used it for a total of about a month.


iPhone 5S

September 2013-August 2014

After murdering three iPhones in less than a year, I decided I wasn't going to get another one for a while. Plus, I'm a gadget blogger, and I wanted to get acquainted with the other operating systems besides the iOS platform I knew. So I split the next year between different phones as they passed through the office, including a Nexus 4, an HTC One, and a Nokia Lumia 1020. I dropped all of those phones, but somehow I never managed to destroy them.


I bought an iPhone 5S the day it came out. I thought I had learned my lesson. But even if the construction of the iPhone 5S was better than the build of its predecessor, my new phone seemed to fare worse than any of the others. I started torturing it almost immediately. Within a month all of the corners were slightly crumpled. By the end of the year, the screen had a crack. By the spring, I'd chipped off the glass in the corner exposing the front-facing camera. A totally different accident left a blob of dead pixels floating around the top right corner, too.

I think ultimately my iPhone 5S just gave up on me. After returning to my desk from a coffee break, I found it dangling from its lightning cable, and just barely touching the floor. I thought for a second that it was still alive. It wasn't. The phone hit the ground right on a corner, ripping off the front glass panel.


I could probably fix my busted iPhone, but for now, I'm just using the Galaxy S5. I feel like I need to pay the price for my carelessness.

Sometimes I look at the shiny iPhone 6 my coworkers own. It looks beautiful. It's so tempting. But I'm not going to buy one.


I know how that ends.

Image by Sam Woolley