We depend on our tech devices more than ever, especially our mobile phones. Many people rely on their hand-held, high-powered computers for internet access as well as for communicating. When their phones stop working, it’s a serious problem.
We’re also spending more than ever on our phones, and replacing them at an astonishing rate.
Considering their high dollar value and our dependence on them as a society, you might think that getting them repaired is easy and accessible. However, that’s seldom the case.
There are multiple obstacles to repairing a smart phone, as detailed in a recent article in Consumer Reports. In “People Want to Get Phones and Appliances Fixed—But Often, They Can’t,” author Kaveh Waddell explores the issue with a social justice spin, noting that “Black Americans and low-income people are especially likely to value repairability.”
Obstacles to Repair
So what exactly are the obstacles to repairing a smart phone or other tech device?
There are increasingly fortress-like design elements integrated into our devices, ostensibly justified by superior function. An example cited in the article is Samsung’s decision to glue batteries into phones instead of designing them to snap in and out as they did in previous generations of the devices. Samsung turns it back on the consumer, saying that buyers value and demand qualities like “structural strength, slim design, and water resistance” which sealed-in batteries promote. Other design elements that discourage repair include using non-standard screws and soldering, welding or gluing components together.
Lack of Access to Parts and Instructions
Another obstacle is that both individual DIY consumers and independent repair shops lack access to instructions and parts. Tech companies have a culture of protecting trade secrets and have historically been very stingy with sharing such information, although the article explains that
Pressure is mounting on companies to stop making repairs so difficult. A national campaign agitating for consumers’ “right to repair” their own goods, or have an independent shop or service do it, has made inroads at statehouses and in Congress—and even President Joe Biden is pushing to make repairs easier for consumers.
Right-to-repair bills are being pursued at the state level, Congress members are proposing legislation to make it easier to perform repairs, and the Freedom to Repair Act was recently introduced in the House that would make permanent an exception to copyright law that enables some basic electronics repairs. According to a press release,
Currently, some companies, ranging from Big Tech to Big Ag, are abusing copyright law to deny people the right to repair their own devices or take them to locally-owned repair shops, which can subject these small businesses to civil or criminal penalties. To guarantee the freedom to repair, this legislation would legalize repairing what you own or taking it to the repair shop of your choice.
Will It Void My Warranty?
Another obstacle is the false but widely held belief that we can void our warranties by getting repairs performed at independent shops. According to the article,
Companies can also make it sound like taking a broken item to an independent repair shop will void the warranty, even though that’s not the case. Since 1975 it has been illegal in most cases for manufacturers to void a product’s warranty just because a consumer chose to have it fixed at an independent shop. But a 2021 report from U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, found that 45 of 50 appliance manufacturers made a version of this misleading claim.
Greater Trust in Factory Repairs
Lastly, many consumers embrace the idea that only authorized/factory repairs are safe and reliable. While this isn’t necessarily the case, it’s often true that independent shops lack access to the instructions, tools and parts that would enable them to perform their best caliber of work. There’s good news on this front: many tech giants are loosening restrictions and enabling improved repairability, including Apple, Microsoft, and Google.
The Cost of a Throwaway Culture
The societal, environmental and individual costs of these obstacles to repair are significant. Removing them will have multiple benefits, including increasing competition, lowering repair costs, empowering small business owners, and conserving valuable natural resources.
Here at Tech Discounts, we, along with Tech Dump, are doing our part to cultivate a culture of repair and reuse instead of accepting the status quo of planned obsolescence. We envision a world in which consumers choose to upgrade their devices freely, not because repairing an existing device is impossible or too costly. Thanks for joining us on our mission to improve the planet by reducing, reusing and recycling.
Tech Discounts offers high quality refurbished, vintage, and new technology for every need. From affordable computer systems and parts to rare and vintage electronics and more, Tech Dump has what you need to outfit your home or office. Visit our retail stores or our website to browse our currently available options.