After all, our phones are about as personal as tech. And if you have to give that device to someone else – someone you don’t usually even know – you should take every precaution. (This is especially true if you need to send your phone in for repairs, as more people could be hit along the way.)
The next time you need your phone repaired, remember to follow these steps before handing it in.
Stay in control of your phone number
Unless you’re pretty sure your fix will be quick, you probably want to make sure you can still stay connected. If your phone still has a physical SIM card — the tiny piece of plastic and silicon that stores your phone number — you can remove it and put it in another phone to use when needed.
Not everyone will be so lucky.
Some newer smartphones — including all of Apple’s new iPhone 14 models sold in the US — use “embedded” SIMs instead of those fiddly pieces of plastic. That means you can’t leave that repair shop and just plug your phone number into another device.
Our advice? The moment you know you need to take your phone in for repairs, call your carrier to find out your options. If you’re lucky, you can temporarily switch your service to another phone that works with an eSIM – this includes iPhones of the XR and XS generations, newer Samsung Galaxy S phones from the S20 onwards and all but the first Google Pixel – Phone.
If that’s not possible, you might be able to temporarily reactivate a physical SIM card that’s still in your last phone. And if all else fails, you may have to head to a carrier store to get a physical SIM card to use in one of your older phones until you get your repaired one back.
Apple’s iPhone 14: Reliable and boring, and that’s okay
There’s only one way to be absolutely sure a repair technician can’t poke around in your files: get rid all of them before handing in your phone. Here’s how to do it safely.
1. Backup your phone. For iPhones, you can either back up everything to iCloud or directly to a computer using a USB cable. We recommend the latter as it’s usually much faster.
It can be a bit trickier with Android phones; You can back up your installed apps, messages, settings, and more to your Google account, but you need to make sure your photos and important files are stored elsewhere. Google Photos and Google Drive are obvious options, but you might want to store files on your computer instead. (For a quick video guide, check out our quick fix videos here.)
2. Erase your phone. Once you are sure that your important files are stored in a safe place, wipe your phone completely. On iPhones, open the Settings app, tap General → Transfer or Reset iPhone → Erase All Content and Settings. Different Android phones organize things in their own way — you can open the Settings app, tap System or General Management, select Reset, and then select the factory data reset option.
3. Restore your phone. Once you get your hands on your repaired (or replaced, or new) phone, start setting it up as usual. At some point during the setup process, you will be asked if you want to restore from a backup. Be sure to pick the right one – in this case probably the latest one!
You see, if you’re giving your phone to someone – anyone – to work outside of your supervision, you should Serious Consider the backup-erase-restore process. But what if your phone is in such bad shape that you can’t even really use it?
Don’t worry – that happens to the best of us. And there are a few more precautions you can take, even without touching your phone directly.
If your phone still turns on
Android phones and iPhones that still turn on and connect to the internet give us some helpful options. If you’ve previously set up your device to automatically back up to iCloud or Google One, you can check when that last happened – here are Apple and Google’s instructions – and wait for the next automatic backup if needed.
It might turn out that you do have a working backup after all, or maybe you just want to play as safely as possible. Either way, you can easily erase an iPhone or Android phone from your computer.
If you’ve got an Android phone that seems like a step too far, there’s one more thing you can try: signing out of your Google account remotely. This ensures that others cannot see anything you have stored in your Gmail or Google Drive cloud storage, for example. Here’s how to do it from a computer:
- View your account settings at myaccount.google.com
- Click on the “Security” option on the left side of the screen
- Scroll down to the Your Devices box, then click Manage All Devices.
- Click the name of the device you want to sign out of, followed by Sign Out.
If your phone won’t turn on
We hate to say this, but there’s not much you can do in this case. If you’re really worried about what’s left on your phone, you can try remotely wiping the phone as above. When the phone turns on and connects to the internet, it will automatically try to reset itself.
For more basic repairs like screen replacements and battery changes, going to a local repair shop or a chain like uBreakiFix is perfectly fine. But if you find yourself in a situation like this where your phone really won’t come back to life, it might be best to contact the company that made it for a repair — if only because it improves the chances of getting a full-fledged replacement.