Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheap Parts vs. Quality Repairs

There's an old hot-rodding adage that goes like this:

Cheap - Reliable - Fast.  Pick any two.

In other words a car can be cheap and fast, but not reliable.  It can be cheap and reliable, but not fast.  It can be reliable and fast, but not cheap.

I would say that this adage can apply similarly to cell phone repairs.
When it comes to parts they are usually divided in to what I would consider three general groups.
1.  OEM = direct from the original manufacturer. 
2.  OEM Quality = from an OEM subcontractor.  Comparable to OEM in quality, fit, and function.
3.  Aftermarket = from a third party company.  Reverse engineered. Usually substandard components. Often online auction specials.

Aftermarket is cheaper than OEM or OEM quality, but often at the sacrifice of form (the parts often don't meet OEM standards), fit (the parts often don't fit properly), and function (the parts often don't work properly).
The reason for this is twofold:
  • First, to keep costs down the manufacturers of these parts almost always have to use cheaper materials, cheaper labor, less quality control, and non-licensed versions of a similar technology.  One example would be an aftermarket manufacturer using a traditional LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED panel in their replacement displays.  Another example would be the use of cheaper, thinner, and non-tempered glass in the manufacture of touchscreens.
  • Second, is reverse engineering or counterfeiting.  Aftermarket manufacturers do not have the OEM schematics or specifications.  Therefore they must figure out how the original parts function, work backward from completed units, and attempt to copy them, often using cheaper components, or even complete design changes, to cut costs.  Not only that, but a secondary industry has developed overseas that actually attempt to copy the copies (again, with their own changes).  At best it is like making photocopies of photocopies.  The end result will never be as good as the original. 

I've had many opportunities to compare parts over the years and have seen the "quality" of many aftermarket parts first hand.  I've seen aftermarket screens crack when simply removing the protective shipping cover.  I've seen aftermarket housings that were simply cast from an original phone and cheaply painted (the manufacturer didn't even remove the stickers or buttons from the original phone before casting the mold).  I've seen fingerprints inside a sealed aftermarket LCD. 
Believe me, I understand the drive to find the best bang for the buck, especially in this economy.  But, I also encourage others to consider the overall value.  In my experience aftermarket parts are rarely worth the marginal cost savings, future problems, or the increased customer dissatisfaction.

When you buy quality, you pay only once.  When you buy cheaply, you pay for a lifetime.


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