Is your smartphone refusing to switch on? Is the speaker not working or has the display been damaged?

Most users don’t know how to deal with such situations. “As long as the device is under warranty, users go to these authorized service centres. But when the more expensive parts (like display) are damaged and the cost of repair is big, they look for other options like buying another device or continue to use the phone in that condition as long as they can," notes Upasana Joshi, associate research manager, channel research, IDC India.

However, many users also approach third-party repair shops in electronic hubs like Delhi’s Nehru Place and Lamington Road in Mumbai. The reason: these shops charge a lot less and have more affordable replacement options for customers. For instance, the cost of getting the display replaced on the Galaxy Note 9 is 13,840 (according to Samsung’s support webpage) with service charges on top, while in third-party shops one can get a copy at less than half the price.

“Third-party repair shops have both original parts as well as copy. The original parts cost 2,000 to 3,000 less than what authorized service centres charge. That is because they provide warranty for their replacements and third party shops don’t. The copy, which is sourced from China, costs many times less," explains Kailash Babu from Ankit Communication, a smartphone repair shop in Nehru Place. Besides, third-party stores try to repair the faulty parts rather than replacing whole components, thus saving consumers some money.

However, these attempts can often result in a harrowing experience. The phone may not offer the same level of experience and in some cases may stop working as well. Moreover, user data could be stolen and misused. For instance, in December 2018, several iPhone 8 users who had their handsets repaired by a third-party store found the display was not working after updating to iOS 11.3. According to researchers from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, third-party repair shops can record keyboard input and even exploit the operating system (OS) kernel on the handset by embedding a malicious chip in the third-party replacement screen.

“Users need to be careful that they don’t leave a trace of their personal/ official email id. There is also a possibility that the vendor may install a hidden app which could be a virus that may share their personal data with the vendor," warns Sidharth Mutreja, enterprise solution architect, Kaspersky Lab.

Moreover, not using the same grade of components as the original can also mar performance, especially in premium smartphones. “Component selection is a very complicated function. The generic third-party service centres won’t have the competency and skills to certify the components. Brands on the contrary will have that," opines Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst techARC.

Mandeep Manocha, co-founder and CEO of Cashify, though, differs. “Opting for third-party repair doesn’t always mean the performance of the device will change drastically as there are manufacturers who make good quality parts," he counters. Manocha adds, “If customers don’t want to spend 10,000 or more to replace a screen, they have every right to go to a third-party repair shop and get a replacement, unless the spare part has a brand logo and it is violating the IP (intellectual property) laws of that product."

Kawoosa, too, believes brands should not see components as a “revenue-generating opportunity" but offer them at reasonable prices so that users are encouraged to use them. Will brands listen or force users to seek riskier options?

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