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What business to start in 2012: Smartphone repairs

Driven by the meteoric rise of the smartphone – and the forbidding cost of off-contract handsets – smartphone repairs represent another key opportunity this year

1. Career coaching
2. Cycling
3. Dance and Zumba
4. Frozen yoghurt
5. Hobby and crafts
6. Independent coffee shops
7. Mobile apps
8. Smartphone repairs
9. Social gaming
10. The Olympics

Why is it so promising?

As we said in the mobile apps section, the smartphone market is growing out of all proportion. Around half the UK population now owns a smartphone, and with each unit costing up to £600, people are extremely reluctant to throw broken or faulty devices away – it’s much cheaper to get them repaired.

As smartphones become ever more complex, so the likelihood of faults increases, raising the prospect of even more demand for repair services in the coming years. And unlike the IT repair industry, which is populated by thousands of small businesses, the smartphone repair market is still at an embryonic stage, and you can realise real gains by being early to market.

What are the specific opportunities?

If you want to build a successful smartphone repair business, you’ve got to be familiar with the most popular models, and understand exactly how they work. The Android remains the dominant player in the UK smartphone market, but the iPhone is regaining ground fast, having increased its market share by 10% over the three months to November 2011.

In terms of your business model, you’ll need to decide whether you want to open a physical shop, or work from home and generate sales via your website. The choice will depend on your location, the volume of sales you need to generate to turn a profit, and your own profile. If you’re already established as an IT specialist in your local community, you may not need a shopfront to make people aware of you.

“If you want to start a smartphone repair business, you need to be really hot on screens and digitisers, because these seem to break quite a lot”  

Who’s doing it?

Steve Pollitt, NokiaFix

“We’ve actually been going quite a few years now, but smartphones have changed the complexion of our business. They now make up a huge chunk of our business, particularly as we offer accessories too.

“We’re seeing a trend that people are buying fewer new phones. I think part of that is down to the networks – before the recession, people were getting a 12-month contract and a brand-new phone, but a lot of contracts are now 18 or 24 months, so phones are replaced less often. Plus there’s kind of a ‘mend not spend’ mentality in the current economic climate. A £30 phone might not be worth repairing, but with the iPhones, HTCs and BlackBerrys, people can’t afford to just buy a new one.

“If you want to start a smartphone repair business, you need to be really hot on screens and digitisers, because these seem to break quite a lot. It’s not rocket science – as the screens get bigger, there is a larger surface area to scratch or smash, hence the increased chance of wear and tear.

“When it comes to sourcing replacement parts, you need to get good quality where you can, because you only want to do the job once. Don’t try and scrimp; once you’ve found a supplier with good quality stuff, stick with them. Everyone uses eBay, and they see 3GS touchscreens for £5-£6, and they think you’re overcharging when you ask for £35. But good-quality replacement parts aren’t cheap.”

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