Breaking your phone is the worst. Whether by dropping it in the sink or, say, jumping off a boat with it in your pocket, the aftermath is always anxiety inducing. You’re without a phone until you get a new one, and often go through that long phase of “will it still work or not?” Plus, you risk losing all of your data if you didn’t back it up. But there’s also the economic loss of having a water damaged phone. The good news is if you happen to own an iPhone or Galaxy, even water-damaged, it’s still worth something.

Getting the newest generation iPhone or Galaxy can be expensive, and the cost only gets worse if you’re getting a replacement for a broken phone and don’t sign a new contract to get a subsidized device. Trade-in services like Gazelle help defray the cost, but the value of a phone drops significantly once it’s broken. So the question is: how much is a water damaged iPhone or Samsung Galaxy worth, and how much money do I lose out on by breaking it?

For the purpose of comparison, let’s look at two similar phones, the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S III, both with 16GB of capacity and on AT&T’s network. They were released within about seven months of each other (October 2011 for the iPhone 4S, May 2012 for the Galaxy S III), so their ages are comparable, and the initial, subsidized price for both was about $200.

How much value would my iPhone lose?

Right now, according to gazelle.com, a locked iPhone 4S 16GB on AT&T in good condition is worth nearly half of its carrier-subsidized MSRP, compared to the same phone in broken condition, which is worth about 20% of its original $200 price tag. That means that the iPhone loses more than half of its remaining value once you break it, but at least you can still get some decent change for a phone, even if it’s waterlogged and nearly two-and-a-half years old!

What about my Samsung phone?

A similar used Samsung Galaxy S III phone (16GB, on AT&T’s network, in good condition) is also worth about half of its carrier-subsidized MSRP, with a bit of a bonus for the fact that the phone is seven months newer. However, the penalty is more severe for broken Samsung phones than it is for the iPhone: that same phone in broken condition, which could include being water damaged, having a cracked screen, or any of the other stupid things we do to our phones to make them stop working, is worth only about 15% of its MSRP. Dropping your Galaxy S III into the toilet cuts out about two-thirds of its remaining value.

The moral of the story is that breaking your phone is both annoying and bad for your wallet, but at least you can still get some money back for that useless, waterlogged rectangle. And either way–with an iPhone or a Galaxy–you’re going to lose about two-thirds of the value of the phone once it gets a drink. But the iPhone still retains its value a bit better when broken, so if you’re accident prone and want to be able to get money back for that broken phone, Apple may be the way to go for you. But there’s even simpler math: great technology + liquid substance = mental anguish + unpleasant costs. So do yourself a favor and keep that phone dry!


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