Broken smartphones have cost us $23.5B

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That $199 price Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly announces every year for the latest and greatest iPhone every year doesn’t include lots of stuff: larger monthly payments to pay off the remaining cost of the phone, all the data that phone is going to gobble up — or the hundreds you may spend repairing it.

Americans have spent $23.5 billion on repairing or replacing damaged smartphones in the seven years since the first iPhone debuted, according to a recent study by SquareTrade, which sells consumer electronics warranties. For some perspective on that number, the Manhattan Project that employed 130,000 scientists and workers in a race to create the first nuclear bombs cost about $26 billion in today’s dollars, according to Wikipedia.

How can that be? Despite the fact it’s often made of so-called Gorilla Glass, the big, beautiful screen that made smartphones a must-have is prone to breaking — a lot. The study found that more than a quarter of all iPhone users have cracked their screen at one point, and some 15 percent are using a phone with a cracked screen right now.

Those cracks don’t just look ugly — they make the phone much less useable. In the study, 27 percent with cracked screens said they can’t use apps, and 29 percent said they can’t use some letters on their keyboard.

So what’s a smartphone addict to do? A sturdy case may help to minimize the damage done by drops, but no case is 100 percent effective. You could try getting a warranty or insurance, but the high deductibles and monthly premiums mean those services may not be worth it unless you’re a “serial dropper.”

The only solution to a broken phone may be to find a repair service either locally or online and consider the $100 to $150 price tag as part of the cost of smartphone ownership. Or just try to tolerate that cracked screen until you’re up for a phone upgrade (putting a clear plastic cover over the screen may help).

Because unfortunately, until someone invents an unbreakable smartphone (or manufacturers decide it’s time to stop making money hand-over-fist on replacement parts), that $23.5 billion figure is going to keep marching northward.

What do you think? How do you deal with a broken phone?

Follow me on Twitter: @claesbell.