If you’re a fan of NOH on Facebook, you might recall this rather unpleasant photo I posted a while back:


Yes, I am a complete and total clutz, and managed to drop my phone, screen first, onto one of the many patches of cobblestones around Berlin. Needless to say, that sucked BIG TIME. And it was even more frustrating when I learned that it was going to cost nearly as much to replace the screen as it would to buy a new phone. Sucky extraordinaire!

Over the last 4 or 5 months, I just kept using the phone because it worked perfectly fine. Aside from one major quirk: The phone would suddenly, without any real rhyme or reason, jump out of whatever app I was using, zoom out to the “helicopter” view and then keep hopping around from screen to helicopter and so forth. This might happen 30 seconds. It might go on for a few minutes. And there was no real way of making it stop. Plus it also takes random screen shots of itself while this is going on. Definitely not proper behavior.

So I kinda thought it might have something to do with the phone being dropped. But then I started to look around online and noticed that it is indeed a common problem. There are people talking about it on 02 forums, Vodofone forums, and numerous other websites. And over 800 people have logged their problem in this spreadsheet as well as — and apparently it’s most focused to phones released in Europe as opposed to anywhere else in the world. In fact, Chip, a German tech magazine reported the issue with these phones on October 25, 2012 and claimed that HTC knew about the issue and was rolling out a software update. Unfortunately, most people who did the update (myself included) ended up with the phone going on the fritz for even longer periods of time instead of things getting better.

The Repair Debacles

Stefan had just gotten off the phone with Vodafone because he also has an HTC One S — but his is several months newer and had a few other issues (like the Internet connection being horribly slow — a problem I also experienced when out and about, then connected to a WiFi hotspot). They told him to send in his phone, free of charge, and they would repair/replace it since he’d only had it since October. So a replacement for his phone was sent out, we switched it at the door for his old one and all was well. Until he started using the phone and discovered that you couldn’t actually talk on the phone unless it was on speaker phone. The packaging on the phone claimed it was refurbished but I believe they hadn’t actually performed any service on that phone — and if so, it must have been really screwed up in the first place.

So he had to switch out the phone once again — and now his current one is better than ever. I have to say this is one scenerio when we were really happy with the service from Vodafone — but one day I will post about the ridiculous bait and switch system they love to use on their long time customers. If you’re looking for a cell phone provider in Germany, be very apprehensive with Vodafone.

At any rate, since we’d had such success with Vodafone, Stefan decided to give my cell provider 1&1 (owned by United Internet) a call (the phone is in his name and he has far more grace with customer service people on the phone.) The support at 1&1 has always been really good — and was no different this time. They understood the issue with the screen jumping and confirmed that it is a known issue…and when we said that the screen on the phone is actually broken and asked if that would be a problem with the repair, they said absolutely not. It has nothing to do with the issue. That they would note that they knew the screen was broken and that repairs should continue. All good right?

So they sent us a return sticker and we sent in the phone…and one week letter we got a letter from the repair company arvato BERTELSMANN. And I am fairly convinced that this place is a repair chop shop that has someone managed to buy their way into cooperations with all the cell phone providers in Germany. Because as it turns out, both 1&1 and Vodafone use them. And I’m willing to guess that others do as well. The replacement phones that Stefan received were also from them. And if they received money from Vodafone for that first useless piece of junk that they sent him which was said to be a repaired phone, they should be ashamed of themselves because clearly they never checked the thing out in the first place before sending it to us.

But back to my HTC One S.

One week after sending the phone in, we got a letter stating that the display on the phone is broken (duh) and that the warranty was therefore no longer valid. And then came the real kicker, a detailed list of the costs to repair the phone…

Phone repair 29.00
Cover assembly 106.22
Diverse parts 3.80
Battery (my battery was not broken) 9.14
Camera cover (also not broken) 2.37
“Flex without Ref. parts” (no clue what that even means) 1.97
Shield 2.57
D-Cover (not sure what this is either but I imagine it’s the little cover on the back where the sim card goes — also not broken on my phone) 34.68
Small parts 0.45
Tax 37.26

With a good portion of the costs being arbitrary and/or unnecessary, the fee of EUR 233.36 to have the phone fixed was a real slap in the face. Especially since I wouldn’t have sent it in unless the person at 1&1 had assured me it would all be covered.

And once I’d gotten over that shock, I read that should I choose not to have them repair it, they would send it back to me for a mere EUR 21.30, which includes a EUR 12.00 fee for return, 5.90 for shipping and 3.40 in tax. Awesome. Or they could “dispose” of it for me for free — which basically means they’ll fix the phone then sell it to someone else for EUR 400. It’s just ludicrous.

At this point, we’re not really sure what we will do. I will be double checking my contract with 1&1 because it’s possible that my contract expires in July, which means that although I’ve been happy with their pricing and support in the past, I’m just going to jump ship. Or I will have to get a different SIM card from them to hit the old HTC Desire that we still have laying around.

Because of our chaos with Vodafone, we have an extra phone contract with them as well (I seriously have to write a post about that fiasco) and since we’re not able to cancel it until the end of 2013 (with it renewing in March 2014), we might just use that instead.

But one thing is clear — going another couple of weeks without a phone isn’t going to work.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t be an early adopter unless you are willing to be a beta tester as well. If you are experiencing these problems with your HTC One S, you can try this. I would definitely do plenty of research before you buy a new phone — and although I really loved my HTC phone, I’m not too thrilled about their response to this clearly major problem they had with their phones — so it might be best to completely avoid them in the future.
  2. Think twice about ever sending your phone in to arvato Bertelsmann for repairs. And as soon as you get a new phone in the mail from them, check it out thoroughly so you can send it back should it be a shoddily refurbished phone.

How do your experiences with cell phone companies usually go?

I remember back in the day when Sprint in the US used to offer a 2 year, no questions asked exchange policy. And no matter what went on with your phone, they would take it back at any store and give you a new one right there. Ah, those were the days! Now the phones cost us more than ever (although they only cost a few bucks to produce) and the repairs and service are increasingly worse.