A splash of seawater on Miami Beach was all it took to kill Silvino Castro’s smartphone. He had been sunbathing in the sand when a wave crept up his shorts, soaking his cell.
“I tried to save it,” said Castro, 37, a banker who lives in the Roads. “I put it in a container of rice for, like, three days, to dry it out. But that didn’t help. It was dead-dead.”
His device’s untimely demise helped Florida earn a new dubious distinction: The Sunshine State ranks second on the 2013 Clumsiest States Index, based on how many mobile devices we drop, drown, burn, smash, crack, crush or otherwise disable.
Nationwide, an estimated 17 million iPhones were damaged or destroyed this year, according to SquareTrade, a San Francisco-based provider of mobile-device insurance that compiled the clumsy index. The list, released Monday, takes into account iPhone claims filed by SquareTrade customers between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013.
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Washington, D.C., tops the list, jumping from its 30th-place spot on last year’s inaugural clumsy index. Sporting events are notorious danger zones for smartphones, leading SquareTrade’s analysts to wonder how many Washingtonians busted their phones while cheering on the Redskins, Wizards and Capitals.
Georgia, New Jersey and Utah round out the top five states after Washington and Florida. A 99 percent increase in year-over-year claims propelled Florida from 21st on the 2012 list to second this year, according to SquareTrade.
Accidental drops from a user’s hands or lap make up nearly half of the smartphone deaths that SquareTrade tracks.
But in Florida, water-related incidents like Castro’s are what commonly send iPhones to the morgue.
“We see a lot of claims in Florida regarding pools and beach activity,” said Jessica Hoffman, SquareTrade’s director of corporate communications. “I think people forget that it doesn’t take a full submersion to ruin a phone. Even a pretty insignificant spill can do it.”
Full submersion is a good description of what happened to Robert Range’s iPhone.
Range, of Davenport in Polk County, was recently putting a cover on his backyard pool when he lost his footing.
“I fell into the five-foot-deep section fully clothed, and of course with the phone,” Range said.
Range was not surprised to learn of Florida's high ranking on the clumsy index, pointing out that his pool incident was his second watery smartphone casualty in the three years he has lived in the state.
“The previous time I left my phone in my shorts and put them into the washing machine for a full cycle," he said.
Plenty of other Floridians had phones perish on dry land this year.
Yolanda Bennett of Jacksonville watched her device tumble to the kitchen floor while she was using it to follow a recipe. In Hialeah, a forklift ran over Jose Alejo’s smartphone on a job site, crushing it.
And Castro said he has countless stories of friends who, like he did, lost their phones while enjoying the water.
“It happens all the time,” he said. “People are out on their boats or at the beach, and they’re not careful with their phones.”
While liquid will often kill a phone, drops to the ground can be more forgiving. About 11 percent of smartphone users have a device with a cracked screen, and 6 percent have tape holding theirs together, according to SquareTrade.
They deal with the damage, Hoffman said, because uninsured smartphones can be costly to replace without a new contract plan from a mobile carrier. Her company offers iPhone extended warranties for about $250, which includes a $99 deductible as well as next-day replacement service.
“Growth in the mobile category is exploding,” Hoffman said. “As we get more and more reliant on devices like smartphones and tablets, it’s important that we protect them. That way, we don’t get stressed out if our phone gets wet, and we’re not walking around for months with a cracked screen.”