As smartphones have gotten thinner, more complex and airtight with things like water resistance, the ability to repair them at home yourself has completely vanished, having to take them to specialized services.
It is true that this may not be so bad, as it guarantees that they are not damaged the first time you change, before a fall, or when getting wet after being exposed to water or certain liquids.
But once they break down, in many cases, the price of these repairs begins to be high, in addition to the fact that the patented parts are not the same as the originals, leaving the manufacturer as the only option if you want everything to be like the beginning. .
Now, the EU is preparing legislation that will support the ‘Right to Repair’ movement, giving the consumer more control over devices for which they have paid considerable amounts in order to be repaired and intervened.
We looked at how this could drastically affect the way Apple designs and manufactures iPhones, as going forward, they would have to be more prone to quick fixes like changing their battery or replacing a broken screen.
What does the right to repair say?
If we take a look back years, we see how not long ago before the problem that an iPhone or an Android phone could have, there was the possibility of obtaining the spare part on ebay and replacing it yourself, using a basic toolkit.
These days, sealing products requires heating pads to loosen the adhesive that holds the screen, using specialized screwdrivers, clamps, tweezers and a number of other tools specific to each product or phone model.
It also often happens that if the device to be repaired detects the presence of parts that are not original, it even refuses to work after having been repaired.
The same has recently been demonstrated with the latest iPhone 12. In a YouTube video posted by Hugh Jeffreys, he manages to open the phones and disassemble them without too much trouble, but his fears about the possibility of repair came true.
After swapping the logic board between the identical phones, each developed identical issues that appeared to stem from compatibility, with the cameras not fully working, while the battery percentage was not displayed.
Also True Tone and Face ID had problems and were disabled, with the incentive that the power button did not work unless it was connected to the electrical current.
These problems disappeared instantly when he put the parts back on their original devices, suggesting that Apple has somehow paired or paired components with each device, limiting repair to the company’s own technicians.
Apple isn’t the only company that appears to be making it difficult for owners to maintain their devices to last longer, as the entire industry tends to follow that same direction.
If you open most modern smartphones or tablets, you will find components that are glued together or with special safety accessories that make removal difficult or impossible.
One of the components most likely to be changed over time is the battery, both in mobile phones and in laptops and tablets. It is a consumable, which obviously loses its capacity in a couple of years, which makes the devices last less and less.
In older models, it was still possible to change the battery for a new one, but in modern devices, this is much more difficult. The result is a tremendously advanced phone, but it was born with planned obsolescence.
The shorter lifespan of non-repairable electronic devices is also having a detrimental effect on the environment. According to the website Right to Repair, each year more than 53 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are produced.
The worst part is that it is estimated that only 15-20% of devices end up being recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills or directly in the trash.
To combat this, many citizens believe that devices should be easily repairable, without the prohibitive costs that encourage consumers to buy a new device every so often.
But this runs counter to business strategies that could improve a company’s bottom line simply by pricing it so high that repairs don’t make financial sense, while actively speeding up the upgrade cycle for customers.
The problem has become such that the EU is now considering implementing laws that would make new devices easier to repair because they are built with parts that can be removed and replaceable.
We have already seen legislation coming into effect in 2021 that covers televisions, various home appliances and lighting products, but is now expected to be extended to cover smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Apple and the rest will have to change their current manufacturing modes
If these measures go ahead, manufacturers will have to curb some of the safety restrictions they have put in place for years to avoid the use of unofficial parts, in addition to providing users with technical manuals.
Apple takes a modular approach to making its iPhone 12 (and earlier models). The problem is being able to replace damaged parts with new ones without making the phone unusable or ceasing to offer full functionality.
Some countries, such as France, are at the forefront of these aspects and want to offer repair score in laptops, mobiles, televisions, washing machines and other types of appliances and devices, something that will come into effect in January 2021.
Other countries such as Austria are trying to apply a VAT reduction (by half) on small repairs of devices, although it is something that for the moment is limited to bicycles, clothing and footwear.
If the initiative is successful, it could be expanded to other aspects, with technology being a prime candidate. The idea of tax exemptions for repairs is a smart one, and it could find wider adoption in other countries as well.
Repairable mobiles already on the market
The need to make sustainable and repairable devices has also had some brilliant ideas, as is the case with products like the FairPhone 3 that we had the opportunity to analyze, with a fully modular smartphone approach.
So far, the FairPhone 3 has been the only smartphone that has received a repairability score of 10 out of 10 from the iFixit company, which specializes in disassembling products for repair.
Fairphone allows customers to purchase spare parts on its website, upgrade to a more modern camera, replace the battery and virtually modify any other part of the phone, all with the security of knowing that it will be easy to assemble and will have incompatibilities.
It’s doubtful whether Samsung or Apple will ever follow Fairphone’s approach, but since the EU is an important market for smartphones, the proposed new laws could have a massive impact on how they’re manufactured and repaired in the future.
With the entry into force of these types of laws, citizens also become more aware of the environment and we begin to buy products from a repair point of view and that do not have a planned obsolescence.
Take a look at the article on best sustainable and solidarity gift ideas to get you started with the arrival of Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year.