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DryBox Rescue aims to absorb frustration from water-damaged phones

Thursday - 5/22/2014, 5:41am  ET

DryBox (Courtesy DryBox)
DryBox uses a combination of heat and pressure to extract moisture from a wet phone in about 30 minutes. (Courtesy DryBox)
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WASHINGTON -- About three months ago, Lucy Berenato ruined her 25th phone in about a decade.

She was getting a pedicure and checking work emails, when she dropped the phone and it tumbled directly into the tub of bubbling water in which her feet were soaking.

"[The employee] asked me to lift my leg and it dropped right in the water," Berenato says. "I couldn't believe it."

The 26-year-old Boston-area resident may be the poster child for a generation of people who lose phones and all of their precious data because of water damage.

A product called DryBox Rescue aims to take away the agony of waiting to see whether a soggy phone is salvageable and its new machine in D.C. is attracting customers anxious to bring wet devices back from the dead.

In the U.S. alone, more than 85,000 phones get wet each day, DryBox estimates.

DryBox uses a combination of heat and pressure to extract moisture from a wet phone in about 30 minutes. The machine is not for individual resale and is more of a service provided to consumers through authorized dealers or at kiosks.

"It's like CPR for your electronic devices," says David Naumann, managing partner of Dry Venures, Inc., the company behind DryBox.

The D.C. DryBox, located at Zagg Phone Repair at 1204 G St. in Northwest, charges $49.95 for the service. There is a $10 fee even if DryBox is not successful. D.C. is home to one of 25 DryBox machines in the country.

Nationwide, the fee can cost between $20 and $50 depending on the location and type of machine. Most locations offer a money-back option if the service was unsuccessful and the customer followed the company's limitations, which include bringing in the phone within 36 hours of the liquid exposure.

Other remedies, such as soaking a phone in rice or using synthetic desiccants, can take days, Naumann says. The DryBox offers the "instant gratification" people want.

"If you're still going to have to pay $20, wouldn't you rather pay the same price and get a resolution in 30 minutes?" Naumann says. "It's not 'why try it' - it's '‘why not try it?'"

Berenato has tried every trick in the book with her water-logged devices. She cradled phones in rice, put phones in the freezer and placed a battery in oatmeal.

"Sometimes it worked, most times it did not," Berenato says. "Multiple times [the phone] worked for a period of time before it would have issues, like it would only work on speaker phone."

Berenato's other phones have met some unfortunate demises. In college, her phone fell off her bunk bed, bounced off a nearby couch and landed perfectly in a cup of water. Many phones have fallen from her lap into a coffee mug during morning commutes. Several times, she has watched helplessly as her phone slid from her back pocket and directly into the toilet.

Most often, Berenato says she has bit the bullet and purchased a new phone. It has grown even more costly after she was booted from her cellphone carrier's insurance policy because of the amount of times she has ruined phones.

In D.C., many people are curious about if DryBox will work for them and save them money, says Zagg Phone Repair D.C. franchise co-owner, Ralph Caparotti.

The Zagg Phone Repair D.C. location has been open for about three weeks and 10 customers have tried DryBox - seven of which found it successful, Caparotti says.

Naumann says since the DryBox was introduced to the market in September 2011, the machine has revived more than 3,000 electronic devices -- a 70 percent success rate.

"I don't want to say we've saved their baby from a burning building," Naumann says. "But it's almost like we've saved the beloved family dog."

Capratotti says the product is meeting a need in the industry and in the D.C. area.

"A lot of people's phones are their life lines and they'd do anything not to lose what's on it," he says.

As for Berenato, she says she'd be open to trying just about anything to prevent her from buying phone No. 26.

"Anything sounds cheaper than buying new phones every time."

Watch a video about how DryBox works:

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