(UPDATE: Due to misinformation provided by TekDry, we got the price of its phone-drying service wrong. The actual price is $99.99. We’ve updated our post accordingly, and our edits can be seen below in bold.)
It’s a bad moment. You dropped your expensive smartphone in the toilet. By the time you fish it out, it’s really soaked. It won’t turn on, and it seems quite dead.
In the past you’d probably freak out and maybe drop the phone into a bag of rice, hoping it would dry out. Maybe it would, but the chances weren’t good. Getting a phone wet voids your warranty, so you’re out a nice chunk of change and any data that you hadn’t backed up. A startup called TekDry may be able to help. The company developed a way to salvage wet smartphones, and after watching a live demonstration I can say that the process appears to work quite well.
To use TekDry’s service, you have to mail your wet phone (or tablet or laptop) to the company’s office in Denver – unless you live there and want to carry it in. It costs $70$100, but the company will refund the $80 of your money if it can’t restore your device. Sending your device across the country could be more convenient, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new phone — and a lot less aggravating than losing all of your photos, music and contacts. You get your phone back by mail in a few days. (You pay the cost of shipping the phone to TekDry, but the company pays for the return.)
I was skeptical when a PR company pitched the service to me, so I said I’d consider writing about it if we could do a live test. TekDry’s co-founder Eric Jones came to San Francisco, carrying two working iPhones and a suitcase-sized drying device.
Jones dropped both of the phones into a pitcher of water and let them soak for about a minute. One phone, an iPhone 5c still worked, but the more expensive iPhone 5s wouldn’t turn on when he pulled it out and odd white streaks appeared on the screen.
Jones opened the box and showed me how it works. There’s a small pump and a small pressure vessel inside. The pressure vessel contains a material that conducts heat and connects to the pump. Simply put, the pump sucks moisture out of the heated pressure vessel, drying the phone. It takes about 30 minutes. Both test phones worked after we retrieved them.
Jones says TekDry averages a recovery rate of about 75 percent for phones that get to them within 48 hours of their drops in the drink. The faster you get the wet phone to TekDry, the better your chances. If you have a phone with a removable battery, you take it out immediately after it gets wet; of course, you can’t do that very easily with an iPhone, and Jones says you shouldn’t try. You should also never attempt to recharge a wet smartphone or tablet; the current may cause further damage.
TekDry is working on kiosks that contains its drying device, and the company hopes to place them in various cities to make its service more accessible. For now, if you need TekDry’s help, go to the company’s website and follow the instructions to get your device to Denver ASAP.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.