Machine vaporizes moisture in phone in vacuum chamber


FARMINGTON — Wet electronics in Four Corners may get a second chance at life, thanks to a new drying technology available at Verizon stores in Farmington. 

A Wireless and TCC Verizon stores in Animas Valley Mall, as well as a second TCC location on East Main Street, recently began offering the service using a high-pressure vacuum machine called Redux.

“What it’s going to do is it's going to turn the water into vapor and then once it’s vapor, that’s when it sucks all the water out,” said A Wireless store manager Kristin Seibel. 

The machine, which is about the size of a VCR, is a vacuum chamber that decreases the air pressure to drop the boiling point of water so the moisture in the device can be vaporized without causing any further damage. As the moisture is vaporized, the machine sucks it away, according to the Redux website. 

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It costs $10 to diagnose a device and approximately $100 to go through the process, though Seibel said a $30 membership, including two free uses and a discounted price after, is available. 

“(Since September) for the store, we’ve had six phones come in and use our machine, and all six have been successful,” Seibel said. “Successful would mean at least getting the content off your device, it actually being capable of making phone calls, texts and be able to be normal use.”

The other Verizon stores have seen between 10 and 12 devices, according to employees who answered the phones on Monday. 

The success of the procedure depends on the extent of the damage to the phone, Seibel said, giving the example of a phone that was submerged in a swimming pool and hit the pool bottom might have damage that the Redux machine could not fix. 

Seibel said the purpose of the machine is to revive phones to save customers the cost of replacing a water-damaged device, as well as to recover data — contacts, notes, pictures and video — that might have otherwise been lost. 

“We’ve had people come in here, and they dropped their phone in the lake, and they were able to get it, but their husband or one of their loved ones just passed away and all their stuff was on it,” Seibel said. “We had to tell them, before we had this machine, ‘Man, if it doesn’t turn on, we can’t transfer anything.’ A lot of people don’t know to back up their phones or to use any kind of cloud (or other online data storage) because people are scared of that, so that’s hopefully one thing we can resolve with this.”

In the case of water damage Seibel, and Redux materials, advise users to bring the wet devices directly in to start the vaporizing procedure. They do not advise trying solutions like putting the device in a bag of rice, attempting to microwave it or plugging it into a power source.

The machine can be used with most hand-held and tablet devices — even smartwatches, Seibel said — and the service is available to everyone, regardless if they’re a Verizon customer. 

Seibel said she predicts the machine will stay relevant even in the face of tech companies releasing waterproof and water-resistant devices. 

Being able to revive wet devices could make an environmental impact by reducing waste. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Americans generated 3.36 million tons of obsolete electronics in 2014, about one percent of the municipal solid waste stream.” 

Many tech retailers offer in-store, event and online recycling programs, according to the EPA, and the City of Farmington has special recycling opportunities twice during the year. 

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department hosted a Dumpster Weekend from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 21 and 22 at Berg Park. The city collects and recycles electronics, among other things, free of charge for Farmington residents, said Farmington Clean and Beautiful Specialist Debbie Homer of the PRCA Department.

The department hosts Dumpster Weekends twice a year during the fall and the spring, Homer said. 

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

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