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"IPod Doctors" Repair Critical Damage
Leontaris said customers are often surprisingly happy to have their personal DJs back in working order. "It makes people happy." Adding to their sense of satisfaction: Leontaris' one-year guarantee.
As iPods and its competitors shed their girth and the devices rely on ever-smaller components, Leontaris expects his job will grow more difficult. "They're getting more complex. I'm probably going to be obsolete as time goes on."
For now, though, he has found a business that enables him to help support his wife and three children, charging $45 and up to replace a battery and $59 and up for a new screen, for example.
Vronko, 24, founded iPodMods in Kalamazoo, Mich., with a friend after studying business in college; they set up the Web site in 2004. It has drawn customers from more than 65 countries.
With 90 million iPods sold, Vronko sees a growing pool of potential customers.
"We've gone from five a week to 500," he said. "Within a week of the model debuting, we get a phone call saying someone dropped it and broke the screen."
While the repairs could mean fewer iPods are sold, third-party repairers say iPod owners are more likely to feel confident about later buying a new iPod knowing there are options should an accident occur or the warranty expire.
Apple doesn't make repairs to products outside the warranty except to replace the rechargeable batteries. It will offer a 10 percent discount for trading in a broken iPod for a new one. Many third-party repair services buy broken iPods for parts.
Apple declined to comment on the role of third-party iPod repair.
"I think honestly they kind of happily ignore us," Vronko said.
Meanwhile, customers have posted recommendations for Web sites that do repairs in user forums on Apple's Web site.