After days of fear and uncertainty, a crumb of good news returns to Houston this week. If your Google Pixel or Pixel XL phone has been damaged by the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, you’ll be able to get it fixed absolutely free at 7 Houston locations.

Google has joined forces with specialist phone repair company uBreakiFix to commit this refreshing act of corporate largesse, in acknowledgment of the terrible losses suffered across the north-eastern coast of Texas.

Since their 2009 launch, uBreakiFix have built a track-record of success as a leading bricks-and-mortar repair shop. They tunneled into the competitive tech repair market by enlisting genuine experts, opening up inviting shop fronts and placing affordability and transparency at the heart of their ethos. They’re prepared to fix just about any phone from iPhone to Samsung and the headline claim is bold: “Everybody has standards; ours are just higher”. It’s great to see their actions rise up to their words.

Seven stores will be open to receive water-damaged phones in the Houston area. The Heights, Rice Village, Pearland, Pasadena, West Chase, Sugar Land and Webster are the sites offering free fixing. The expert care would usually be delivered at a cost befitting parts and labour, starting at $80 for a battery fix before gently climbing to $130 for a more hefty screen & LCD repair. The offer is extended until the end of September. hurricane phone fixing

Google have partnered with uBreakiFix for out-of-warranty repairs since 2014 and should be credited for their open-minded approach. Now post-Harvey, their in-store services provide a fast and detailed response when fundamental infrastructure is under stress. We’re impressed that in a tech world that so often discourages collaboration, Google are able to recognize the power of third-party experts.

In these times of widespread catastrophic damage, it is important that large manufacturers stand alongside their customers rather than resting aloof above the floodwater. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, we’re delighted to see apartment rental giant Airbnb compile a database of homeowners that will happily spare a shelter from the storm, rent-free. While the situation in Florida remains too fluid for a guarantee, uBreakiFix have assured us that they “are working closely with Google to determine how to best support customers in the affected areas”.

The very need for such a service is, of course, a shame, with almost all phone companies opting to build devices that are designed to be tough to fix and only a short lifespan in mind. If home-fixing was made to be more simple, these lifespans would soon start to rise, bringing both financial and environmental benefits.

140 million phones currently go to landfill each year, and their rare metals go with them to be buried under a town’s worth of potato peelings. This could all be turned around if the USA wholeheartedly adopted the modular genius available in Europe, the Fairphone. When phone repairs become as cheap and easy as buying a spare part or simply finding the spare part handily tidied in your cupboard, then the industry will have made real progress.

September 13, 2017 — James Bates-Prince