5 Strange Ways iPhones Die: Insurer Hears it All

What do toilets, beer and elevators have in common? They all send many iPhones to their death, says consumer electronics insurer Worth Ave. Group, which shared some unfortunate tales of iPhone disaster.

Fri, September 10, 2010

CIO — iPhones meet their doom everywhere—on tabletops, in the bathroom, and even in elevator shafts. People are using iPhones (and iPads) more than ever. Apps are becoming part of the fabric of our daily lives. Location-based apps are merely the latest rage.

It's no wonder that iPhone accidents and disasters are on the rise, too. Like a car, the more you drive it, the more likely you'll get into a wreck. The more places you go, the greater the odds that your car will be stolen.

Lately, Aaron Cooper, marketing director at Worth Ave. Group, a company that insures consumer electronics against accidental damage, theft, vandalism, fire, flood and natural disasters, has seen some odd cases come through the door.

(Worth Ave. Group offers insurance for the iPhone at $80 a year with a $50 deductible, as well as the iPad coverage at $37 a year with a $50 deductible—iPad being cheaper because it's used less often.)

Two-thirds of all claims fall into three categories, says Cooper: Liquid damage, cracked screens and theft. But exactly how iPhones get wet or why screens crack can be, sadly, entertaining.

Flushing the iPhone: Public enemy number one of the iPhone is water. I ruined an iPhone after accidently putting it in the washing machine. But perhaps the most odd form of liquid damage is when people drop the iPhone in the toilet.

Cooper has seen a rise in this type of claim. He figures people are using the iPhone while they're, um, unavailable. They're reading the newspaper or a book on the iPhone, or maybe texting. Last year, Harris Interactive (on behalf of Intel (INTC)) surveyed 2,625 U.S. adults about what they consider proper smartphone etiquette during the holiday season. Three out of four respondents said it's perfectly appropriate to use your smartphone in the bathroom.

Yet one twist on this disaster has Cooper stumped. "Women seem to be the ones dropping them in the toilet more often," he says.

iPhone and Beer Don't Mix: Many of Worth Ave. Group's customers are college-aged kids, and their iPhones don't mix well with their habits. A night of hard partying can easily lead to a missing or damaged iPhone, Cooper says.

iPhones often get stolen, he says, when someone plugs their iPhone into a stereo system at a house party. The unattended iPhone goes missing after the music stops. iPhones also get lifted at bars when the iPhone owner isn't carefully watching it, like the iPhone 4 prototype stolen from an Apple (AAPL) engineer at a Silicon Valley watering hole.

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