iPhone Hits Just Keep On Coming For Apple: Sued Over Liquid Damage Sensors

from the we're-not-paying-for-that dept

A consistent source of angst from mobile phone users are the costs they often must incur to replace devices that get broken or damaged. Thanks to the subsidies mobile operators pay on handsets, they typically don't like to replace phones for free, asking users to pay up or renew their contracts. One key part of operators' arsenal in determining if damage has been caused by the user are liquid sensors. These little round stickers often reside under a phone's battery, and typically turn from white to some shade of red when they've been exposed to liquid. So if you've dropped your phone in a puddle and it stops working, the liquid sensor probably won't back up your story that your phone just all of a sudden stopped working. The iPhone is no different in this regard, but a San Francisco woman has sued Apple, alleging that the iPhone's sensors generate false positives, letting Apple skip out on warranty obligations. The woman alleges she's had to replace her iPhone at her own expense twice, after the sensors showed her device had been exposed to water, even though it had not. For what it's worth, Apple says the sensors work just fine. This case may seem pretty pointless, but should the woman prevail, it could set a powerful precedent for all types of phones sold by carriers here in the US, and impact how they carry out their warranty replacement and service plans.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 2:03am

    Well yes and no

    They do work but they also don't. I have been through both situations. I have had a phone drop in a toilet and the sensor did not come up as having been wet and I have also had a WINMO phone show that it had even when it had not. (The phone was later shown to have a bad defect history and ATT did refund my replacement cost)

     

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  2.  
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    inc, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 3:25am

    From what I understand, if you place a drop of bleach on the red sensor to turn it white again you are golden. I've never had to try it myself but that's the rumor I heard.

     

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  3.  
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    NullOp, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 4:39am

    Phones

    It wouldn't surprise me if the lady wins. A lot of people just want to believe Apple would do this. Then again...they might.

     

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  4.  
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    lfroen (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 4:49am

    Happen all the time

    People drop their phone to all kind of places. All the time. And if you think phone should be built for this kind of situation - think again. Phone that can sustain water/dust/droppings will look like military communication device (usually carried on the back). And will cost appropriately.

    You payed $100 for touch-screen beauty - be careful or pay for replacement.

     

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  5.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:00am

    well known false positives

    I think even engadget and gizmodo had coverage previously about how condensation by itself can set off their "liquid damage sensors".

    Whoops, it was consumerist. http://consumerist.com/2009/09/is-the-iphone-3g-liquid-sensor-a-filthy-liar.html

    It should also be noted that the phone can function after being in water too - it just needs to dry.

    So the whole thing is crap.

     

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  6.  
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    mermaldad (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:12am

    My experience

    In my family we've had several phones exposed to water. I can't say anything about the liquid damage sensors, but I can report about the durability of phones. My daughter unknowingly dropped her phone on a sidewalk. The case cracked and the phone sat in the rain for a while. It worked after it dried out, but only partially. My wife has dropped her phone in the toilet--not once, but twice--and both times the phone was trashed. My son ran his phone through the washing machine once and had the phone in his pocket when he immersed himself in cool water after a run. Both of these to the same phone, which works to this day. So water isn't instant death to phones, especially if you disconnect the battery and dry the phone as quickly as possible.

     

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  7.  
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    Lance, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:15am

    I can't recall the link but there was an article I read about a test done on the iPhone awhile back. An iPhone was put in small box and set it outside for one hour during winter. Then brought inside to normal room temperature for one hour. Repeat another two times and presto. Internal condensation tripped the "immersed in water" stickers.

     

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  8.  
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    James (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:32am

    Re: Happen all the time

    Amen Brother. I paid almost 1000 with mount for a gps unit for my Harley. It is built to resist water and vibration. My other buddies with the crappy 150 units from best buy mounted with a bycycle mount have gone through over 1000 dollars worth of replacements over the last two years.

     

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  9.  
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    Telphone Tuff Guy, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:41am

    Re: Happen all the time

    Your a dummy, look at the G'zone line of phones or the casio Exlim. None of them are carried on the back and except for the type v (first US release incasios line) look like they military. The Brigade is bringing full HTML browsing as well as office and pdf viewers to the line up as well. "Rugged" phones have had to sacrifice some of the newest functionality to be as tough as they are but they are catching up slowly but surely.I throw my G'zone boulder in the pool and let the kids dive for it and then make a call. Lets see your I-Phone do that.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:41am

    Re: mobile phones

    Nice job bryan001! You got through the spam filter with actually related spam! Please go die a slow, painful death now as all spammers deserve.

     

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  11.  
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    Deerhuntr (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:44am

    AT&T Too

    My AT&T phone has the same issue. Never been wet, but the sensor is red! Apparently humidity, condensation, and persrperation are all that is needed to turn the sensor red. Wish I had thought of this racket!

     

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  12.  
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    lfroen (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    Condensation humidity is known problem, next question?

    Water is water, no matter wherever it came from. No wonder it tripped sensors - your device was effectively "immersed in water". You probably should not be doing this kind of test on equipment specifically built for this purpose.

     

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  13.  
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    deerhuntr (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:54am

    Re: Re:

    It's not a question. It is yet another way for any of the phone companies to screw you.

     

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  14.  
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    jorvay (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 5:58am

    Re: Happen all the time

    Maybe so, but in fairness, you didn't pay $100. You paid $600 spread over your contract with a $100 downpayment.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:08am

    condensation

    The sensor also turns red in high humidity.
    Also quick temperature changes can cause condensation - much like when your glasses fog up when you are outside in the cold and come into a warm house.
    My old cell phone often generated visible condensation in display window. It only stopped working three months after I had included it in a load of cloths to be washed and dried.

    But nice to see Apple believes their sensors are 100% accurate - maybe they should be in the condom business too.

     

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  16.  
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    mike42 (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:31am

    Sensors are crap

    I've got a Winmo phone with the original battery. The sensor sticker on the phone is red. The sensor on the battery is white. Anyone see a problem here?

    I hope she wins big.

     

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  17.  
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    Tyanna, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:38am

    I've been in this woman's situation when I had my Razor phone. The phone acted quarky and the battery life was very low (about an hour). I took it in to get fixed and I was told that I had dropped it in water, it was my fault.

    I had a huge argument with the sales rep and his manager, b/c I hadn't dropped it in water. Ya, apparently humidity can sometimes trip them....

    I got my phone fixed for free under warranty.

    So, I hope this woman wins her case b/c those stickers are fairly unreliable.

     

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  18.  
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    AdamR (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:45am

    I had the same issues with an LG phone on Verizon. I was so livid with the CS Rep at the Verizon store. They kept telling me the sticker red is and that my daughter dropped it and had it soaked in a liquid(water). I was look at the phone there’s no sign of abuse and that how can you prove that Humidity and condensation didn’t cause the sticker to turn red? They had no real answer and keep repeating it and saying that I need to buy a new phone at retail price! I ended up calling Verizon directly and I told them if I had to buy a new phone I’m taking my account elsewhere. They sent a replacement which I needed to exchange three times because of defects.

     

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  19.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Ex-Apple Friend

    Have a friend who loved his iPod to no end. Would try to tell everyone they needed to get one. He ran with it in the summer. Then it stopped working. Wouldn't turn on. Took it to Apple and the dot was a pinkish color so they refused to help him out.
    Now he will gladly tell you how he will never buy Apple again.
    I love it when my friends vote with their wallets (which is why they most of the time follow my advice about some companies to stay away from).

     

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  20.  
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    Ryan, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:10am

    these indicators are a fair assessment

    Yes, they can be set off by condensation and rightly so considering if your in that humid an area or leave your phone in sub zero temps over night then rapidly warm it. You have broken the normal usage part of the warranty which mentions things like temperature ranges and warnings of high humidity being hazardous to electronics. Because the boards are not potted to protect them from moisture tends to turn the components into a fine white/green powder over time lol

     

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  21.  
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    P3T3R5ON (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:19am

    Blackberry

    I've had my blackberry sensor go red though it was never dropped or exposed to water. The phone never gave me issues but I would say that weather/humidity can definatly play a role in that sensors ability to be truthful or not.

     

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  22.  
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    known coward, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:27am

    Re: these indicators are a fair assessment

    no, they are not a fair assessment. My Crackberry went Red and i did not put it in any extreme changes of temp and humidity.

    Unless you count going outside on a freezing day and then getting into a warm car a usage violation.

     

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  23.  
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    Phillip (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:29am

    Re: well known false positives

    High humidity can also set them off. I'm in Charleston, SC where it is frequently upper 90% humidity in the summer and if you use a device outside it used to frequently set off the moisture stickers.

    I haven't checked lately but i assume they still don't work all that well.

     

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  24.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:59am

    Re: well known false positives

    Good point (and Phillip). Having lived in SF in the past, I had to wonder whether the constant moisture in the air (hello fog, hello ocean breeze) would have exceeded the sensor's tolerance.

    They ought to just check for a high-water mark when they service these things (jk) .

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: these indicators are a fair assessment

    Don't you know that you're not supposed to take a mobile phone out of the house?

     

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  26.  
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    Cynyr (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re: these indicators are a fair assessment

    sub zero could cool a phone in a few minutes. Hell next time it's -40F toss a pot of boiling water up in the air, and watch it land as ice. Yes it does do that. "warm" car at -40F can mean slightly above freezing, ~80F difference.

     

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  27.  
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    Ryan, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 9:07am

    She is suing the wrong entity

     

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  28.  
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    Ryan, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 9:11am

    She is suing the wrong entity

    She should be suing the FCC for not allowing her retailer to open the phone up right there to show her how badly she abused her phone like they used to be able to do. Then all her crying could be over how foolish she was to talk on it in that running through that downpour into the store the week earlier lol It always amazed me how much crap people do to their phones only to conveniently forget it all once it dies

     

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  29.  
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    M68H (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Sensor Placement

    As most have stated the usual place for a water sensor is behind the battery not so with the jesus phone it's placed at the connector dock and/or the headphone socket:

    http://consumerist.com/2009/09/is-the-iphone-3g-liquid-sensor-a-filthy-liar.html

    So humidity will more than likely trigger a false positive.

     

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  30.  
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    known coward, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: these indicators are a fair assessment

    - 40F ???

    Dude or dudette, don't you listen to Al gore, the globals have been warming. I do not think we have seen - 40 F in these parts since the last ice age.

     

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  31.  
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    Sergio, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 11:13am

    Aww Crap

    Great, no more warranties for anyone!

     

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  32.  
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    nasch (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 11:18am

    Re: these indicators are a fair assessment

    If they're going to sell the phones in humid climates, they need to honor implied warranties such as suitability for its purpose. It's not acceptable to sell a phone in Florida that can't handle high humidity and then tell your customer they're out of luck becuase your product doesn't work in Florida.

     

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  33.  
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    Sean T Henry, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Happen all the time

    Lets see I have a Nokia 6061 that I got in 2005. I have dropped it multiple times, kicked it, dropped it in a big puddle of water, and had it in my pocket when stuck in the rain at a concert and used at that time.

    I paid $0 for it use it 24/7 never turning it off and it still works like the day I got it, it just does not look as good as it did.

     

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  34.  
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    Bryan (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    I have worked for a cellphone carrier for the past 4 going on 5 years. Those stickers are not perfect, but keep in mind they are not water damage indicators they are moisture indicators. Your phone does not have to fall in the toilet to get enough moisture in it to cause problems. Yes leaving your phone in the bathroom while you take a hot shower can kill your phone, yes you can drop you phone in the toilet and it may still work, it all depends on variables such as what the phone is doing when it gets wet. Also those indicators are cumulative, a little wet = pink, a lot wet = dark red. If your phone is exposed to moisture a little at a time the stickers will eventually turn red. I tell people all the time, your phone is an expensive piece of electronics, if you would not do something to your new lcd flat screen tv you should not do it with your phone. If more people would be honest about what they did then these indicators would not be neccesary, but 99% of people i have ever seen with wet phones claim it has never been wet, even when there is visible liquid in the phone.

     

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  35.  
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    vyvyan, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: Happen all the time

    Sounds like my own story. I like Nokia phones for just one reason that they are sturdy.

     

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  36.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re:

    If condensation humidity is a known problem, then Apple shouldn't be offering a warranty to people who live in areas where this is normal without at least some sort of warning.

     

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  37.  
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    Ryan, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 7:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ummm they send the product info guide in every box.

    It states in it: Avoiding Water and Wet Locations Do not use iPhone in rain, or near
    washbasins or other wet locations. Take care not to spill any food or liquid
    on iPhone. In case iPhone gets wet, unplug all cables, turn off iPhone (press
    and hold the Sleep/Wake button, and then slide the onscreen slider) before
    cleaning, and allow it to dry thoroughly before turning it on again. Do not
    attempt to dry iPhone with an external heat source, such as a microwave
    oven or hair dryer. An iPhone that has been damaged as a result of exposure
    to liquids is not serviceable.

    How is that not clear enough?

    Besides the lady filling suit lives in Cali where outside humidity is almost none existent lol

     

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  38.  
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    Eric Stein (profile), Apr 22nd, 2010 @ 5:53pm

    Re: Happen all the time

    I completely disagree with both this and the msg from the vibration resistant GPS user, except on the point that drop and vibration resistant gear is much more expensive than standard gear. Think for a minute about what in takes to make a phone water resistant and you'll see that phones are not much more difficult than watches to make water resistant, and some of the cheapest from Timex and Casio are good for 200 meters. How much extra should a water/humidity resistant cost? I don't know precisely but it seems like somebody's ignoring a chance to charge a premium. Unless, of course the wireless companies would prefer to charge people for replacement phones with "water" damage.

     

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  39.  
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    Ryan, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Happen all the time

    Your Timex watch is easy to waterproof because it has no accessory ports for which water can intrude. Even the G'zone line of phones can get wet inside if you forget to close all the rubber port covers they have on it. Yes if the companies used circuit board potting as a practice some of these issues would be solved but you can effectively kill your phone by just letting the charge/data port pins get damp and corrode together. Not sure how you can expect any manufacturer to prevent issues that are caused just by the way we all use our phones.

     

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  40.  
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    James, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 6:14pm

    If available in your area, don't get metropcs. And stay farr away from Samsung.

    So, I bought the Samsung Freeform, and I had it for like 3 weeks , and it crashed. I had to put a piece of tape over the battery to keep it in place, and when I took my phone in to get it looked at, on the way in I took off the piece of tape, IT RIPPED THE TOP LAYER OF THE WATER SENSOR OFF, and because the glossy top was gone, they wouldn't do anything. They should make those little pieces of crap more sturdy.

     

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  41.  
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    Heather Angel, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 4:00pm

    iPhone

    I don't care what anyone says and I have had the same issue but had to get it replaced 3 times now, with having to pay for the last 2 replacements and now Apple is not wanting to work with me in regards to this. The fact is if a consumer doesn't drop their phone in water and it caused water damage, such as condensation, then that right that is a faulty with the iPhone. I had a iPhone 3G and never had any issues with it and now that I had upgraded to the 3gS I have had nothing but problems after problems. I was hyped up about the 4g coming out but that phone has more problems itself. I would love to have my 3g back and skip having video capabiity with the 3gS. If Apple doesn't do something about this then I am just going to go back to Verizon where I never had issues like this.

     

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  42.  
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    SquareTrade, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:20am

    So many people are unaware of the water damage indicator. Protect your iPhone with an extended warranty if you are really going to be that rough with it. I made the mistake of not insuring mine and paid the price.

     

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  43.  
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    Justin Sloan, Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 3:37pm

    Samsung too

    I would like to bring the same case against Samsung. Any others?

     

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