A new article on the Verge argues that the era of fixing your own phone "has nearly arrived."
When I called up iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, I figured he’d be celebrating — after years of fighting for right-to-repair, big name companies like Google and Samsung have suddenly agreed to provide spare parts for their phones. Not only that, they signed deals with him to sell those parts through iFixit, alongside the company’s repair guides and tools. So did Valve.
But Wiens says he’s not done making deals yet. “There are more coming,” he says, one as soon as a couple of months from now. (No, it’s not Apple.) Motorola was actually the first to sign on nearly four years ago. And if Apple meaningfully joins them in offering spare parts to consumers — like it promised to do by early 2022 — the era of fixing your own phone may be underway. Last October, the United States effectively made it legal to open up many devices for the purpose of repair with an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Now, the necessary parts are arriving.
What changed? Weren’t these companies fighting tooth and nail to keep right-for-repair off the table, sometimes sneakily stopping bills at the last minute? Sure. But some legislation is getting through anyhow… and one French law in particular might have been the tipping point.
“The thing that’s changing the game more than anything else is the French repairability scorecard,” says Wiens, referring to a 2021 law that requires tech companies to reveal how repairable their phones are — on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0 — right next to their pricetag. Even Apple was forced to add repairability scores — but Wiens points me to this press release by Samsung instead. When Samsung commissioned a study to check whether the French repairability scores were meaningful, it didn’t just find the scorecards were handy — it found a staggering 80 percent of respondents would be willing to give up their favorite brand for a product that scored higher.
“There have been extensive studies done on the scorecard and it’s working,” says Wiens. “It’s driving behavior, it’s shifting consumer buying patterns.” Stick, meet carrot. Seeing an opportunity, Wiens suggests, pushed these companies to take up iFixit on the deal.
Nathan Proctor, director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair at the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), still thinks the stick is primarily to thank. “It feels cheeky to say 100 percent… but none of this happens unless there’s a threat of legislation… These companies have known these were issues for a long time, and until we organized enough clout for it to start seeming inevitable, none of the big ones had particularly good repair programs and now they’re all announcing them,” Proctor notes.