For the owner of Cartersville Cell Phone Repair, fixing screens is just one aspect of a business that also entails drones and virtual reality gaming

UPWARDLY MOBILE Repair shop sees boon in broken, busted phones

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In the tech world, few theorems are as hallowed as Moore's law — the notion that every two years, the number of transistors manufacturers can fit into an integrated circuit doubles. 

Nowhere is that law more evident than the world of smartphones. Released in 2015, the iPhone 6 had about 2 billion transistors in its A9 microprocessor. Then fast forward to last year, when the iPhone 8 launched with 4.3 billion transistors in its A11 microprocessor.

After chatting with the owner of Cartersville Cell Phone Repair, however, one walks away with an impression some might call Nichols' law — that being, no matter how advanced cell phone technology may get, people are still going to find inventive new ways to break them.

"Just keep it in a case," said Chris Nichols, the "owner, president, whatever" of the repair shop at 106 Merchants Square Drive. "If you get your LCD glass fixed, you can purchase the extended warranty which comes with the case and tempered glass."

That extended warranty, he said, also comes with a year's worth of free screen repairs, just in case a customer cracks their mobile device yet again. 

And the probability of that happening seems to be fairly high, judging by how busy Nichols' shop is these days. As of late, he said he's averaging about 10 repairs a day, running the gamut from replacing screens to switching out ear speakers to installing new charging ports to "unlocking" devices from their current carrier.

"If you're with AT&T and you want to go with Verizon or so forth, we can unlock the phone so you can take it anywhere," Nichols said. 

But what if you accidentally drop your phone in the tub, or one of the kids spills a drink all over your expensive new device? 

"If you actually get the device wet, we can perform water treatment on it and hopefully revive it," he said. "If nothing else, we can get your information off that phone so you can put it on a new device before that device quits working completely."

In tandem with those services, Nichols' business also offers assistance for some decidedly less mobile devices. The five-employee crew at Cartersville Cell Phone Repair can wipe a laptop clean and reset it with a fresh new operating system, and his lead tech even builds fully customized gaming computers from scratch.

As for product lines, Nichols also sells phones and laptops, as well as various accessories like speakers and charging cables.

"And for the new law that was passed in Georgia, we have lots of mounts for hands-free [phone use] and we have bluetooth ear pieces, as well," Nichols said.

The Kennesaw resident bought the business last November.

"I had been researching it for a while and it seemed to be a kind of booming, growing business," Nichols recollected. "It was kind of an easy transition because the previous owner did such a good job of setting up all the processes. So I just kind of walked in and he trained me and just kept it going."

Nichols is no stranger to tinkering with hardware. Before taking the reins at Cartersville Cell Phone Repair, he worked as a software consultant for NCR Corp., where he primarily dealt with technology in the convenience store space.

"We worked with clients to get their point of sale set up, get them interfacing with their fuel and carwash, that kind of thing," he said. "The big difference is everything is so tiny with the phones. It's a lot more minuscule parts and microscopic parts — it's a bit of an adjustment."

It's not such a drastic change of pace, however, for 37-year-old lead tech Will Neeley.

"He's been in the business for I want to say 11 or 12 years," Nichols said. "He has tons of experience with many, many devices."

As for the hardest part of his job, Neeley said it's always a chore working on "all-screen" devices and phones with curved glass. "It makes it more difficult," he said and "time-consuming."

Two pieces of hardware he's a bit fonder tinkering on, though, are virtual reality (VR) headsets and drones. In fact, the shop recently opened the first VR arcade in Bartow — a service that seems to be quite popular with customers across the generation gap. 

"The VR, that's something that's definitely going to explode in the next five to 10 years," he said. "It's the future of gaming, of course, so being the first to offer it in Cartersville, I think, is a huge plus for us in bringing the millennials into the store ... but we've had the older crowd, too, in their 40s and 50s in here, just trying it out because they're curious." 

Another emerging market Neeley said he'd like to gain a foothold in is drone repair.

"More and more people are getting drones and they're becoming more affordable. So when you have them when they're affordable and you have inexperienced pilots, then you have crashed drones, so that's going to be a huge sector as well. Just knowing how to repair those will help us and help the consumer, too."

Of course, both Neeley and Nichols said they're keeping an eye on the hottest consumer technology trends. 

"Tablets would've been five or six years ago, but they've kind of gone by the wayside and nobody really cares about them anymore," Neeley said. "I would say it's going to keep trending towards the mobile sector, just mobile phones — it's having a super computer in your pocket."

Nichols, on the other hand, said mobile device-controlled home automation might be the next big thing. 

"Installation set-up and, basically, just teaching and coaching on that," he said. "And getting some of that product in here, a full line of the things you can control with devices."

For the foreseeable future, however, Nichols said Cartersville Cell Phone Repair won't stray too far from its namesake — he fully intends on sticking "with what we're doing," he said. 

But there is at least one thing he wants to do differently: expand operations.

"We have thought a lot about another location," he said. "It's still on the back burner, but I want to say it's definitely something we're going to do soon."

More information on the business and its services is online at www.facebook.com/CvilleCellPhoneRepair.