What to do When Your Cell Phone Falls Into the Sink

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Yeah, that happened. I was an idiot and set my phone on the counter while I was washing my hands, and the inevitable for a klutz like me happened: my smartphone slipped into the water. It was only submerged for a millisecond, but it was dead. It would turn on, but I couldn’t access any information since the touch-screen no longer recognized my touch.

Quite the stat.  Ironically, this
picture was taken on my cell phone
only months before it became
submerged itself.

The first thing to try in this situation is to take your phone and battery apart and soak them in dry rice.  I tried.  It didn’t work.  The damage had been done.

The next thing I did was some research, which quickly led me to search for a refurbished phone.

What is a refurbished phone?
A refurbished phone is one that’s been previously used, but has had a bunch of good parts put in it like Frankenstein.  They’re fully functional, may have a few scratches, but are a heck of a lot cheaper than buying new when you’re not up for an upgrade (generally one year after your contract begins,) or a contract renewal.

Where can I buy a refurbished phone?
You may consider buying from your wireless provider or a big box store like Best Buy, but beware.  The prices on their refurbished items are likely to be marked up far higher than the price you need to pay.

Amazon was one of the places that I looked, and, frankly, I found the best prices there.  Amazon has an amazing return policy, so I knew that if I purchased a product that didn’t meet my expectations I’d be able to return it relatively hassle-free.  The problem was waiting for it to ship; I needed a phone immediately, and without paying for expedited shipping that just wasn’t happening.

My third option was the most viable, but can be the hardest to access.  I looked for a business whose sole purpose is to buy and sell used cell phones.  These businesses can be really sketchy, so I was relieved to be referred to a mall kiosk by my Verizon store.  They said I could trust these guys with prices, quality, and ESNs.  I’ve found it to be true.  The prices were good; not as good as Amazon, but I was still able to find a good phone for well, well under $100.  (They had iPhone 4s and 4Ss for $200-250.)  I had to take it back to the Verizon store to get it activated, but that was no big deal.

What is an ESN?
The ESN is the number they use to identify each individual phone.  No matter where you buy from, you want to make sure your phone has a CLEAN ESN.  If it’s not clean, it means the phone was lost or stolen, and any money you’ve spent on it will be for naught as you won’t be able to use it.

What is an unlocked phone?
If a phone is unlocked, that means you can easily swap SIM cards and have your phone number in the new phone.  Even if a phone is unlocked, it may only be unlocked for one carrier.  (Ex.  You’re not able to use a Verizon phone if you have a service agreement with T-Mobile.)  AT&T makes this process the easiest in my experience.  Every time I’ve switched phones with them, all it’s required is switching the SIM card out; no complicated activation process.  (For this reason, you may want to look into just getting a goPhone smart phone that works on the AT&T network if they are your provider.  Heck of a lot cheaper.  Can be found at places like WalMart.)  With Verizon you can switch SIM cards, but generally have to go through the activation process again.  Sprint’s SIM cards are built into the phone, so the process isn’t easy at all.  4G phones do not have SIM cards.

Save your memory card.
If your phone has a microSD card, SAVE IT.  You should be able to easily use it in your new phone and still hang onto your pictures, etc., and if your phone has only spent a second in the water, odds are that your memory card will work just fine even if your phone is dead.

Why didn’t you just buy insurance?
I don’t generally beat up my phone.  The fiance does, but I don’t.  So we didn’t buy insurance.  We got him a super resilient case.  Well, actually, it was a Christmas gift and didn’t cost us anything.  It’s served us well so far.  If we had purchased insurance, it would  have been $8/mo/phone.  I would have already spent well over what I spent on my refurbished phone already had I purchased the insurance.  While it’s nice to have peace of mind, it didn’t make financial sense for us.

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24 thoughts on “What to do When Your Cell Phone Falls Into the Sink

  1. Holly@ClubThrifty

    Greg dropped his cell phone in the toilet (I think) and got it soaked. Anyway, someone told us to put it in a bag of white rice…..and it worked. It was back up and running the next day….although it never worked quite the same!

  2. Manda

    I am terrified of anything happening to my phone, mainly because smartphones can be so expensive. I bought mine at a little vendor in Beijing and love it to death. It’s in a case and I take very good care of it 😀

  3. Budget and the Beach

    Ugh I hate when that happens! I had a water bottle leak and drown my phone in my purse once. Luckily I was due for an upgrade with my iPhone so I got a new one at a decent price. Since I like the phone I wasn’t worried about a signing a two-year contract.

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules

    I don’t know how, but we have managed to get by with three little ones and not having this happen. I am convinced one of them is going to make it “swim”. Thankfully it has not happened yet.

  5. debtblag

    How sad 🙁

    I nearly panicked when a friend knocked her wine (People get clumsy when there’s wine around, who knew?) on my iPhone. I panicked for a second because the battery’s tough to remove, but hit the off button as quick as I could, then let it sit in rice for a couple days and it worked when I turned it back on.

    How long can you wait until getting a full replacement? A couple months before the end of my last contract, my smartphone pooped the bed, so I spent $10 on a five-year-old not-very-smart phone on Ebay that would work with my SIM card. I wasn’t able to use it to play angry birds or land airplanes or program my DVR, but it was good enough to get me until I could get a new contract.

    I’d also check Cowboom, which is Best Buy’s used electronics website. I’ve had very good luck with things I’ve bought from there and saved a ton on stuff that didn’t look used at all. You could also check out Craigslist or Ebay. I’m always able to find decent quality used stuff because people are upgrading to the cutting edge stuff all the time so models that are a year old cost nothing.

    1. femmefrugality

      I needed something fast and couldn’t wait for shipping; we don’t have a house phone. I could have gotten a dumb phone, but the difference was $20, so I figured I’d just go for it. Good tip about Cowboom!

  6. Sheila Simmons

    OMG, I would fall out. I need to download all my pictures for sure. I’m sorry to hear about your phone. No one really wants to spend extra money for a new phone when they weren’t thinking about upgrading.

  7. jefferson @See Debt Run

    I have been there… And yeah, losing pictures can be the very worst part. My phone is often a little picture documentary about the current goings on in my life.

    At this point, I won’t have a phone without insurance. I know that I am clumsy, and I will eventually break any phone. It is only a matter of time.

    1. femmefrugality

      I didn’t lose any pictures luckily. I find that with my standards for a phone (which are pretty low,) it’s cheaper for me to buy refurbished than to purchase the insurance plan.

  8. canadianbudgetbinder

    I don’t own a phone but the wife does. Once she was getting out of the vehicle and had her cell on her lap. She forgot about it and it fell right into the sewer grate as her side of the vehcle was right over top the sewer lol. The first thing she says after a few choice words was… hw can we get it out? lolllll I think she was in shock that she did something so silly not realizing she said something worth a bigger laugh.

  9. Maggie@SquarePennies

    I am a klutz & would so do this. It’s kept me from buying a smart phone all this time. Maybe I’ll check out Amazon for some older models to begin with! Best of luck to all my fellow klutzes!

  10. Monica

    OHH NOO! I’m so sorry that the rice trick didn’t work for you!! I’m actually a walking disaster and have had luck with it in the past. Great post and info though! xx

  11. Jordann

    Ahh that sucks! I’ve never done that to a cell phone, but I know many people that have. I’m glad you were able to replace for a fairly low cost!


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