iFixit

Self-repair and the Right to Repair

Despite the recent claims made, most products are still made with deliberate ‘anti-repair’ designs.

Two phones – one uses 8 simple Phillips screws. The other 2 security screws, 55 Phillips screws in 6 different sizes, a glued screen and glue strips to hold the battery.

Apart from the security screws and fixings, and glued in parts, there are other challenges. First, is access to affordable parts. Software and serialised components can cause the replacement part to not be recognised by the device and will not work. Or may have some features disabled.

Then there is the challenge of how comprehensive the self-repair program is. Apple’s repair program has only been launched, and only in the US. Samsung’s program is currently limited to a few models (Galaxy S20, S21 and Tab S7 devices).

There is a danger that such programs simply buy manufacturers more time. Then continue their current practices and defer the adoption of real right to repair. It is good news that manufacturers are, at last, collaborating with repair experts at iFixit. But advocates for repair are not yet out of a job.

So, whilst, the proposed moves are a step in the right direction, it’s a small step. Without continued pressure little real progress will be made.

Progress on Repair

Two bits of encouraging news about repair and our rights appeared in the last couple of days.

First: In the European Parliament MEPs want more durable and more easily repairable products. On Thursday 7 April, Parliament adopted its demands for an upcoming European Commission proposal on the right to repair planned for later in 2022, with 509 votes in favour, 3 against and 13 abstentions.

Second: iFixit and Google are Launching a Genuine Pixel Parts Program. Google is the latest manufacturer to partner with DIY repair specialists iFixit to offer spare parts for its devices. It should make it far easier for customers to get parts to repair their own Pixel smartphone if it breaks. Parts like batteries, displays, and cameras will be available to purchase in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and other European countries. Google says that parts will be available to purchase “later this year”.

Whilst these are both encouraging, there is still a long way to go before we have meaningful rights to repair and manufacturers embrace repairability.

Self-repair programs are not a real right to repair victory. It doesn’t guarantee you will be able to fix your phone.