Disclaimer: This first-person account attempts to imbibe the takeaways from my conversations with a number of cell phone repair pros – who wish not to be named. The actionable crux of the narrative centers on the current ground situation in the field, and the opportunities for starting a business therein.
Cell phone repair is a promising, lucrative field. With one of the lowest learning curves of all the repair verticals, it promises fast returns. But like with any commercial domain, it has its pitfalls. So, if you’re starting out fresh and hoping to make it big here, being mindful is key. And no – an overt reliance on repair shop software will not do; you will have to sweat your metal to gain results.
As a long-time field vet, I had to learn these things the hard way. Back in the early 90s, we didn’t have a lot of ‘experts’ around to guide us on our way. Experience, I’m glad to say in retrospect, was our teacher. And every stone proved to be a signpost – forcing us in the right direction.
Now, in this piece, I’d like to list a few cell phone repair stats for your perusal. These provide a good approximation of what you can expect from this ‘allied industry’, as it’s called. Also, they are great for forecasting – providing certainty about making a career in the space.
So, without any further ado – onto the nitty of the affair!
For ensuring data trustworthiness, I don’t think anyone can do better than the latest IBIS World report. This document, in no uncertain terms, provides the following (US-specific) insights on the cell phone repair industry:
1. Total Market Size – $4 Billion
2. Market Growth Rate – 0.9%
3. Annualized Market Growth Rate (2017-2022) – 0.3%
4. No. of Cell Phone Repair Businesses – 9253
5. Total Field Wages Paid in 2022 – $1.3 Billion
The U.S Census Bureau estimates the country’s population to stand at 332, 403, 650 – as of January 2022. Taking the figure with the fourth pointer above, this means:
For roughly every 35, 923 Americans, there’s one cell phone repair shop available to do the fixing.
This assumes, of course, that all of these people will break their devices at least once within the year. Something that would translate into almost 40,000 repair gigs per repair shop!
That’s not very realistic, obviously.
But, even if we were to take a mere 10% of this population division:
that’s still a lot of annual business for one outlet.
And if we divide this figure on a per-day basis (including the weekends):
That’s around 9 to 10 cell phone repair jobs every day per business.
These conservative estimates speak for themselves. As may be discerned, there is a lot of opportunity to be encashed here. Steely resolve, deep learning, and commitment are all the traits needed to claim it; I speak with conviction.
And sure, you can make use of your favorite cell phone repair shop point of sale software to deal with the daily, workflow monotony – nobody will judge.
As may be apparent, the figure for market growth, while entirely modest, is still promising. And when paired with the annualized growth rate, it indicates a trend. The COVID-19 pandemic, now drawing towards a close in some parts of the world, also continues to play a role. Further, it’s important to consider the backdrop of unprecedented global inflation here.
These trends, in unison, have both reinforced and resulted from a consequential bottom line:
Cell phone device costs, today, are higher than they’ve ever been.
Smartphone costs, in particular, with many considering the gadgets to be luxury items, have literally gone through the roof!
In a survey conducted by Statista, up to 46% of Americans (an extrapolated figure) reported using their smartphones for 5-6 hours daily in 2021. And this timeframe did not factor in the study respondents’ work-related usage – easily an additional 4-5 hours.
The range for 2022 would surely yield even more impressive numbers.
More prolonged mobile phone employment, of course, naturally corresponds with a greater frequency of breakage.
Even the most careful users report hardware issues at least once within a given season. And since most people don’t prefer getting their repairs serviced from device manufacturers because of the wild expense (surprise, surprise), the allied repair industry provides the only ‘fixing’ alternative.
This dynamic, then, is what is revealed in the growth figures listed. A gradual entrenchment of an unofficial, but much more affordable, cross-border collaboration of sorts (the industry) moving in to fill the vacuum left by its more haughty branded competitors.
When considered from this vantage, there’s even an enrapturing ‘robin hood’ type feel harbored by some regarding the space; seen as a popular contender against moneyed (read: lobbied; the legislative movements against Right to Repair ring a bell?) interests.
I’d also like to focus, somewhat, on the figures that deal with the monies up for the taking. Starting with the ideal case, let’s assume that there is an equitable distribution of customer-gleaned revenue – distilled in wages:
- Total Wage Figure (with all the zeroes) – $13, 00, 000, 000
- Divided among Total (US) Businesses – $13, 00, 000, 000/9253
- Makes for (approx.) – $140, 495 per business
Now, putting reality into the mix, we can easily make the following conjecture:
The median wages of a typical cell phone repair business, irrespective of worker number, fall in the $70, 000 to $120,000 per annum range.
Put in months, this equates to around $5833 to $10,000 per field worker. This latter number would obviously correspond with the wages received by the more experienced cell phone repair techs – if not the business owners themselves.
If you were already interested in entering the field and these stats have only served to strengthen your resolve, you need to take stock of some prerequisites.
For starters, you really need to acquire some technical repair knowledge pertaining to the domain. Nowadays, online tutorials are your best bet to get going, because many field practitioners aren’t normally all too willing to dispense with their trade secrets.
Also, you need to have starting capital in the $5000 to $15000 range. Because even if you’re going with a virtual setup, there’s still taxation and marketing spend to pay.
Further, you’ll need to brush up on your commitment reserves. Don’t expect the hefty remuneration figures mentioned at the outset to just start pouring in; they’re largely a function of work quality and niche popularity. Customers need to come to you instead of the competition, and getting there takes time.
Good customer service is also a big one in the field; you won’t gain much commercial milage without it.
Work on all of these things, and you’re guaranteed to have a headstart over the other newbies also making their repair debut.
Stay humble, but stay hungry…and never stop learning.