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Are Sony Xperia Z phones cracking by themselves?

Cracked smartphone

Phone screens cracking by themselves? Sounds spooky, but that’s what we’ve heard from some Sony Xperia Z customers. The question is whether Sony’s fixing phones for free under warranty.

Smartphones aren’t invincible, even with developments like the scratch-resistant ‘Gorilla Glass’. A drop from your pocket can result in a broken phone, and an unhappy owner. But what if the cracks weren’t caused by your clumsiness? What if they mysteriously appeared?

That’s what some Sony Xperia Z customers have been experiencing. This is a phone that’s meant to be tougher than your average smartphone, with the added benefit of being waterproof. And yet there are reports of hairline cracks appearing as if by magic, without any force being applied. One theory goes that these small cracks are due to the phone overheating, which is then making the phone unusable.

The cracks are beginning to show

In a lively thread on Sony’s forums, Monsoon comments about his Xperia Z:

‘I pulled my phone out my pocket at the weekend and there were two hairline cracks running diagonally down the screen rendering the top 2/3 of the screen useless.’

Scoops99 says they’ve had the same problem:

‘[I] had the phone in my pocket like I have done for the last four months and found the phone did not work, I cannot unlock the phone or enter the PIN. On further investigation, after removing the screen protector, I noticed two hairline cracks coming from the right-hand side of the screen. The phone has never been dropped or bashed.’

When these customers get in touch with Sony, some have been quoted more than £200 for a repair. One of Social Student’s writers said:

‘I was told that there was a £200 fixing fee as the phone was ‘BER’ (Beyond Economic Repair) and was not covered under the standard warranty. If I didn’t want to accept the repair bill, I would be charged £15 for them to send the damaged phone back to me!’

Replacements under warranty

However, some customers appear to be having some luck with Sony. Some forums and unofficial blogs claim that Sony will replace phones under warranty if there’s only a ‘single crack in the display’, and that there’s no evidence of abuse. However, this is not something we can confirm, as we’ve also read comments from customers who say they’ve had difficulty getting a replacement, like Bettyboo on Sony’s forum:

‘I had the same issue within a day of use, screen cracked by itself with a hairline crack and stopped responding. I sent to Sony UK, got a quote back for over £240 and they claimed it was down to physical damage not a manufacturing defect. […] I literally begged and told him it’s not accidental damage but a problem with their screens. He never admitted there was, but promised as a good will gesture they will on this one occasion replace it.’

So, do you own a Sony Xperia phone? Has a crack appeared as if from nowhere? How has your experience been with Sony’s customer service team?

We reached out to Sony for a comment – a spokesperson told us:

‘We are sorry to hear that some customers are reporting cracks in the screens of their Xperia Z smartphones.

‘We build all our devices to a high quality standard, and submit them to rigorous testing procedures. In the case of Xperia Z this has included evaluation against our Global Reliability specifications. Tests carried out include free-fall, bend, pressure, heat and other simulations to reflect the different uses of our products in the field.

‘Xperia Z’s frame is made from glass fibre polyamide, the same tough material that is used as a metal substitute in cars. The glass used is tempered, and has a shatter-proof coating, making it much stronger than regular glass. This along with its proven water and dust-resistance contributes significantly to the durability of Xperia Z.

‘However, damage can occur to any smartphone screen for a variety of reasons. These include, but are not limited to, a screen suffering a sharp knock, exceptional localised pressure, or simply from being dropped.

‘Assessment within our product returns process demonstrates that only a small proportion of reported cases cannot be obviously attributed to an identifiable cause such as those listed above. Our quality control monitors confirm that the return rate of Xperia Z smartphones due to a cracked screen are at a very low level and, we believe, well within norms for the high-tech consumer electronics industry.

‘In cases where no identifiable cause can be found, we have replaced the customer’s phone quickly and without charge.

‘When a customer has an issue with their Xperia smartphone we urge them to call our local customer service centres – the UK number to reach them is 03705 237237.

‘Our customer care and repair centre agents are required to handle all enquiries on a case-by-case basis and try to determine the most likely cause of damage. We will generally repair or replace the device if there are no obvious signs of customer damage.’

‘Once again, we’re sorry to hear that some consumers are unhappy with their devices, or the service they receive from Sony. If any customer has any concerns we urge them to call our customer service centre on 03705 237237 (8am – 8pm Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm Sat). We commit to assess every complaint on a case by case basis to reach a fair resolution as swiftly as possible.’

Comments

Minor defects ( e.g. slight chips when the glass is cut) on the edges of glass can cause cracks to propogate under minor stresses – including maybe too tight a fix in the frame. There do seem to be a lot of failures reported – at some point this could indicate a manufacturing fault rather than misuse. Comments on the web do confirm that Sony may see a single crack as a warranty issue, but multiple cracks as misuse. As phones are subject to rough handling they should be designed to withstand it – perhaps the design is not fit for purpose. Sale of Goods Act maybe?

Peter says:
29 January 2014

Have to say that I think you should change your headline from ‘Sony Xperia’ to ‘Sony Xperia Z’ – there are lots of models in the Xperia range, and if this is a question about a specific (high end, and recent) model, then there could be lawsuits flying from Sony if they consider you’ve questioned the quality of the whole range, as ‘Sony Xperia’ suggests.

A quick search on GSMarena found almost 4 dozen ‘Sony Xperia’ items. Some may not be available in the UK, and there are more than half a dozen with similar names to the ‘Xperia Z’

Peter says:
29 January 2014
John M says:
31 January 2014

My experience with Sony customer care has not been good. I bought a flagship all-in-one from them and within 4 weeks the letters had begun to wear from the keys. Sony suggested that this was expected fair wear and tear even only after a month’s ownership. To be helpful they recommended:- getting my nails cut; not hitting the keys hard and finally learning to touch type. They refused to replace the keyboard.
It took the intervention of a national newspaper to get the decision reversed.
I never have and never will knowingly buy another Sony product because of their after sales attitude

I don’t understand why few people protect their phones these days. I have just been looking at an iPhone 3 that is in daily use. Thanks to a simple leather case it is in better shape than many unprotected phones that are a few months old.

PeterM says:
25 February 2014

I have a ‘fold over’ case for one of my (several) mobiles, and while it does protect, it’s also a bit of a pain, when someone is ringing me, to undo the cover and answer before they divert to voicemail.

A couple of my Samsungs have those rubbery shells which allow access to the screen, USB port and have holes for camera, speaker and microphone, and those are my preference.

Have not yet had a phone with a retail price tag running to 400 or more pounds, but if I did, I’d really expect the maker to “throw in” some free case that protects, while still allowing view of the screen.

Sadly, even the firms like Apple don’t bother to consider this as a ‘standard’ for their ‘luxury’ phones.

I have been using a wallet-style case on a new iPhone for several months and once I got used to it I had no bother. The case does not interfere with use of the camera, buttons or connections and is held closed by magnet so takes no time to open.

Phone manufacturers might not provide cases because different people want different things, though it annoys me that compact cameras come without cases too.

People with robust cases have also reported Sony screen failures. On the face of it the design of the phone might build stresses into the glass screen that cause spontaneous cracking with either no impact, or very mild. What are Sony doing to help customers?

It would be good to have some statistics to show that these phones are significantly more likely to break than similar phones. It might just be that there are a lot of these phones around.

It would be a pity if this is related to these phones being water resistant because that really needs to be a standard feature. At present manufacturers spend time building in water sensors rather than making phones fit to use in the British climate.

Peter M says:
20 July 2014

“would be good to have some statistics … these phones are significantly more likely to break …”

Indeed. I think that while Which? magazine is a good all-round consumer publication, sadly it would not necessarily be on the reading/ viewing list of many younger mobile phone users.

Perhaps it could “partner” with one or more phone comparison/ review web sites to gather information on the subject of phone damage, manufacturer support, and (in future) other questions, so it would get credible numbers and statistically reliable data.

Then it would be in a better position to submit a query to (say) Sony, based on results which are not just those of Which? members/ readers, and any review/ consumer sites or shows (specific such as to do with mobiles, in this case, and more general, such as BBC consumer shows, Money Saving Expert site, etc) could report the results with a higher level of confidence in how the information was gathered.

In the past, some surveys, eg on ISPs, have suffered because there may be very high numbers for certain ISPs, tiny numbers for smaller ISPs, and thus any ‘satisfaction’ results could be skewed too much by the statistically poor sample {relative to UK user numbers for the ISPs… ie the Which? sample is not in similar proportions, so weight in favour or against particular ISPs would not reflect national figures and a significantly [eg 10x to 30x] larger sample of responses}.

I suspect there are many parallels for other areas in which comparisons have depended on Which? readership, rather than straight analysis of products for performance, cost, etc (eg comparing TVs, washing machines, etc).

Distant says:
25 February 2014

I have an xperia z1. I have had it for about four months. The screen is cracked – one single hairline crack in the centre of the screen. I have not misused the phone. On occasion it might of been knocked. The crack does not even break the surface – I beleive it to have been there some time.

I have done some reading and am aware of the issues surrounding the screens on the xperia phones. I reiterated that information to Sony who replied with a copy of the standard terms of warranty. I have contacted my service provider with the very same details that I sent to Sony and am waiting for a reply.

I have dealt with Sony before on other minor issues concerning my xperia phone. I found that they really weren’t willing to openly admit anything unless you, having done your own research, confronted them with the information found!

Regarding the current problem I am worried. Not sure that with the costs involved in replacing these screens that Sony will openly admit to the problem. That would open the floodgates; if indeed this problem is widespread.

Furthermore, if I pay for the repair myself, and it is indeed a generic fault, who is to say that it won’t happen on a replacement screen.

Is there any real authority on this matter i.e. newspaper article, legal information – cross jurisdictional that exists.

Regards

Tom says:
25 July 2014

Watchdog on BBC1 ran an article on the Xperia Z2 having the same issue with its screens. My Xperia Z has had exactly the same probl;em, screen cracked for no reason. I sent mine back to Vodafone and they wanted to charge me £195

PeterM says:
28 July 2014

I don’t watch TV, but would be interested to know what Sony had to say about the problems (if they responded at all), please?

I think pressure via the BBC (with respect, gets a bit more coverage than Which? or highlights the reports and includes CA staff in some programme discussions) may get noticed by Sony.

PeterM, Sony have come back to me and quoted £182 to fix my screen. I have informed them that I want this investigated propoerly as it is a common fault with the phone and they need to address this and to stop charging their customers. They said it needs to be esculated and they will get back to me in 5-7 working days. If they say they cannot fix it for free then I will take matters further

Tony says:
26 April 2014

My Sony Xperia Z cracked whilst in my pocket. There is no impact damage, phone was well taken care of as I did not want to damage a $600 phone. I also had a case and a screen protector.

At nine months a small crack appeared. I ignored it, thinking it was a scratch. I was wrong. Two weeks later the crack spread. I could no longer use the phone.

Sony made me send it to Fonebiz for warranty. Last time I checked I should not have received a $350 quote for a warranty. Sony Customer care were not interested as they said there was damage. Of course there is damage, there is a crack in the screen. At no point was that damage caused by me. My friends no longer support Sony. I am also quick to show anyone I can the phone and that there are no white marks where impact damage would have shown up had the problem happened due to me dropping the phone. The reason I bought a major brand was for protection. Protection which I did not receive. I am now happy to be using a cheap phone which has not yet broken itself to my amazement. Sony also likes to pretend to help on Facebook, but does not do anything at all.

PeterM says:
27 April 2014

I’d tend to agree with JohnM – it would probably be good if you (and others with the Xperia Z) wrote to big daily papers, and/or BBC You and Yours about shoddy treatment from Sony. They have some good products (I have had a few of their shortwave radios… good but pricey) but now and again almost any firm can have a manufacturing problem.

When there’s coverage in the national media (rather than individuals complaining direct) they are far more likely to acknowledge a problem, promise to consider every complaint individually, and actually DO something, the initial coverage is bad news, and further complaints (about them fobbing customers off, or not assisting) will be even worse for them.

If they make a promise on national radio or to one of the papers, they know their handling will be under scrutiny. I’m not saying that Sony in particular might have been ignoring most customers, but obviously this discussion is a bit of a “niche” area, and while I know Which? has some clout, if everyone with an Xperia Z problem was in touch with different media groups, it might have more impact.

John M says:
26 April 2014

Tony you really need to go to the National Press about The Sony Corporation’s customer lack of care.
I bought a Sony Vaio Premium all-in-one computer. It cost over £1k. Within 6 weeks the letters started to dissolve from the keyboard. Sont told me to: 1/ cut my fingernails 2/ not hit the keys too hard 3/ learn to touch type. 2 months later they still refused to replace/repair the keyboard..so..
The Sunday Mail got involved. I had a new keyboard the very next day. The Sunday Mail still published the story especially the Sony 3 point action plan.
SONY ARE A DISGRACE I refuse to knowingly deal with them again

Marek Pavel says:
26 April 2014

Hello,

today i found the same problem on my XPERIA Z, there is one big broken line (under) glass. I am sure, there wasnt any fall or damage to that phone. Xperia is in the warranty, but i am worried, there is no chance to sucess.

Juan says:
9 May 2014

I’ve bought an Xperia Z almost 2 weeks ago in Germany and 3 days later, I saw one (only one) line in the glass, not in the display but on the back side.

I’ve tried to contact the store that sold it to me but they aren’t answering. I guess I’ll lose the 14 days of return (I don’t even know if they would have accepted it, that’s why I wanted to be completely sure), so I’ll probably try sending it to Sony, although I have to pay the shipping.

There was no fall, no accident. There is a single line but one of the corners has the film like “less sticked” around the first 2 mm of the line. I hope they don’t say it’s my fault… I would be really disappointed of Sony if so :S.

And also, I have 3 dead pixels… I would like to have them repaired/changed also.

If they said that the problem with the glass is my fault, would they change the screen at least? Or also not?

Thank you! It’s really ironic that this “indestructible” phone has these problems…

will says:
14 May 2014

i have a crack in the middle of my scrren. i did not drop it or dammage it on purpose, in my oppinion the sony phones are crap and i do not recomend them

dani says:
14 July 2014

today my phone got two hairline fractures, one at the top and one going diagonally down the screen. my phone is now completely useless. I havnt dropped my phone, it has only ever been in my pocket.. my phone is still in warrenty, but after research it seems like sony takes no liability. plus charges you to have it sent back to you. as this is the case does anyone know where or how much it would cost to be repaired.

I’ve had the z1 compact for 3 months and all of a sudden a hairline crack has appeared from the top of the screen running down the middle, but it hasn’t been dropped or abused. You can’t even see it unless you shine a light directly on it but it’s enough to stop the keyboard working completely.

Sony have agreed to look but no guarantee of a warranty fix. They have told me they’ll definitely wipe my phone in the process though which is a pain because I can’t swipe to unlock to perform a backup so I’m gonna lose everything since I last backed up.

Great phone until this happened, but not impressed by this and will be even less impressed if they charge me for it.

I work in the glass industry and something similar happens with something called Nickel Sulphide Inclusions which is known to cause spontaneous breakage. I will let you Google the technical details but the problem manifests itself after heat cycles and membrane stress ( such as being in a pocket) where the screen can spontaneously shatter. I live in the middle east and my Z2 lasted less than 24 hours before the back shattered completely while in my pocket. I was playing golf at the time not sitting down. When glass shatters in a bonded frame the glass expands. (there are gaps in the glass where before it was monolithic) this causes the frame to bend, This occurs across the weakest point of the frame which in this case is between the Sim Card and SD card flaps.
The retailer agreed with me that there was no impact damage, the staff all produced their own phones from their pockets just as I had been carrying mine and yet Sony have said I have caused the damaged to my phone and would not assist.
I have never broken a phone in the 20 something years of owning a mobile phone. The odds of breaking this Z2 on day one would be over 7300 to 1.
Next time I will buy another Samsung and I would recommend anyone else in the market for a new phone to do the same. I’m a bit disgusted by this and it will reflect in my purchasing decisions from this point forward. Looks like my new TV will be a Samsung.

Rachel says:
28 June 2014

The exact same thing happened to my Z2. It had not even been a week and I got a single hairline crack on the backside of the phone. I had not dared to put it in a pocket since it was a grad gift and they ran out of cases. I didn’t even try to run it under water yet. Although I have noticed while using it for the short period of time, that the phone itself heats up to a noticeable temperature when I have opened enough apps. Upon taking it back to the Sony Store I bought it from, the sales associate recognised me as soon as I walked in, when I presented the phone and explained what happened they immediately proposed to have it sent to maintenance to determine whether or not it was impact damage. I understand the need for this but since I have only recently bought the phone, upon a request for a possible exchange or refund, they were quick to immediately deny of such options and worst off, during our heated conversation and negociation as to why not since they didn’t even provide a timeline for now long maintenance or the assesment of the cause pf damage would take, what made me so furious was how the manager of the store ‘handled’ our problem. He sounded as though he had absolutely no desire whatsoever to help, feeding me with one liners like: “Sony’s not going to rip you off. Do you really think so?” and then proceeded to leave THREE times during the time that we were there. We had to ask another sales associate to fetch him the second and third time. Upon asking for a business card and the information of their head office of that branch, he took his sweet time getting it and the info of the head office he write down was messily scrawled and included only a street name and an abbreviated ONT for Ontario. He didn’t even give me a reply the first time when I asked where it was. Only pointed at the card. Well if I could read it I obviouly would have asked. In addition, excuse me for thing long rant, I wasn’t alone when I took the phone back. My mother was with me to help as she has had over a decade pf experience handling sales of such items as she sold watches. He IGNORED her the ENTIRE time she was there. Even avoided looking at her when she asked him questions. He only bothered answering mine and even his responses clearly sounded as though he only wanted us to leave. “Promising” that he will do whatever he can. I doubt he was even planning on shipping the phone to maintenance. Those were the two things that frustrated me the most. The manager was rude and they could not even provide an approximate time as to when maintenance will have a look at it. I mean you can claim to ship it the next day but there should be not excuse to not provide a time estimate. Even a “oh it may take two months if you get lucky” or “it will probably tale half a year” would have been nice. The sales person even said “I don’t know” three times. Well clearly since phones are breaking, you would be able to give me an answer had you actually handled previous similar issues PROPERLY. I was completely done with the service at the end when my mother and I walked out. At least the sales person gave an apology while the manager himself did not even see us off nor offered a word of apology. We thanked them on our way out as common courtesy but that treatment was just unacceptable. Lack of knowledge and feign concern. I swear the storage room the manager came out of and hid in during our stay was probably where he spends most of his time in during his shifts. I am never buying another Sony product.

Rachel says:
28 June 2014

I just want to add that the phone was in perfect condition besides the crack. Not a single sign of being dropped or bumped as such things did not happen.

Andy says:
20 May 2014

Had my sony experia z1 compact for two weeks. Front glass cracked in my pocket while driving to work. phone was in a leather case and never dropped or banged. Was unable to un lock phone or use the screen. Sent for repair and await to see if they will fix it under garentee. Not happy.

Adam says:
13 July 2014

Hi, did Sony end up taking care of you. I have same issue… Hairline crack in LCD under the glass. It’s been with Sony for over a week and no word yet.

Jennifer Neal says:
25 May 2014

My daughter had her Xperia M for 2 days and the screen shattered in her hand while texting. 3 witnesses, no scuff marks or impact mark, just a shattered pattern running across the screen.. but still Sony refuse to accept this was damaged without impact. Any suggestions on how I can convince them otherwise?

Jennifer Neal says:
25 May 2014

Want to add that they also had me agree to pay a fee of $50.00 before they would even examine it under warranty….. now they have deemed it damaged by impact they are quoting me $150.00 repair bill, which if I don’t accept I have to pay the $50.00. My thoughts are why would I pay $150.00 to get a phone fixed that I no longer have any faith in??? Throwing good money after bad or…..

Juan says:
25 May 2014

Hi! I posted a few comments before my problem with my cracked back glass.

I live in Germany and sent it to w-support (as part of my Sony official warranty). I had to pay shipping costs, but the service was great and really professional. In less than 4 working days after receiving my phone, they repaired it (without extra costs) and sent it back.

I just had to write a short description of the problems it had (5 dead pixels, I draw something quick so as to show where they were) and the cracked glass at the third day of use, leaving clear that it was only one line, without any “external help”.

I already have it and am using a TPU protector.

My experience was not that bad this time. I hope you are all lucky too!

Jennifer Neal says:
26 May 2014

Thanks Juan, I live in New Zealand, and am not sure if we have something called w-support but I intend to check it out. Fingers crossed!

Juan says:
26 May 2014

Welcome and good luck! W-support is the official repair centre for many manufacturers here in Germany. I contacted Sony and they just sent me the contact.

Joe Peters says:
1 June 2014

I purchased a Xperia Z-Ultra some 6 month ago. It is a great phone, but the build quality sucks!
The back has cracked horizontally at about half of the heights, the front screen had a V-like crack from the top towards the middle. I went to Sony and was advised that there would be nor repair under warranty, altho there was not a single sign of damage on the frame or any scratches on the glass at all. Right from the beginning, i purchased a string PD-AIR leather cover for it, best protection i could find, especially compaired to theat crappy piece of plastic Sony is selling for it. Would i buy another Sony Phone?

I leave it to your Imagination!

Same thing happened to me (but a Samsung Galaxy S4). The phone was completely fine; I put it down on a table, picked it up again a few minutes later, and the screen was cracked internally, no surface damage whatsoever.

There are many other people reporting the same issue with Galaxy S4s too, so it’s not just a Sony thing.

I returned it to Carphone Warehouse but (at the moment) they’re refusing to do anything unless I pay the full cost of the repair, because “you must have damaged it somehow”.

Very annoying.

sony and carphone warehouse refuse to fix this problem says:
7 June 2014

yes my xperia z has the same problem ,two cracks appeared out of nowhere both sony and carphone warehouse are refusing to fix it .said a cracked screen is not covered under factory warranty , clearly theres a major fault with this model .but carphone warehouse staff are so stupid and rude its just puts people off dealing with them ,any wonder their so mad to sell you private phone insurance to cover something which is already covered by factory warranty and the sale of goods act
all i can say to people is dont let them off the hook .always write or email never go face to face its to easy to slap them lol .or do what i done give them 28 days to sort it or you will cancel the contract as their in breach of it ,,