Pushed by customer and shareholder pressure, and by the need to meet their own climate and sustainability goals, some Big Tech companies are finally making it easier for you to fix your phone, on your own, at home.
Apple has been the first to bite, launching its Self Service Repair program in late April, and Microsoft declared its intent to follow suit in an agreement it reached last fall with investor advocacy group As You Sow, writes Grist.
Samsung and Google are also moving to enable customers to perform simple repairs like battery and screen replacements.
The environmental benefits are clear, with an independent study commissioned by Microsoft finding a 92% reduction in waste and carbon emissions when its devices were repaired, rather than replaced.
Emissions fell even more where “consumers had access to local repair options, underscoring the importance of supporting independent repair businesses and allowing capable fixers to repair their devices at home,” writes Grist.
Shareholder pressure has been critical in helping Big Tech wake up to the benefits of repair. Apple’s program grew out of pressure from a shareholder resolution introduced by the mutual fund company Green Century.
Initially pushing back against the resolution, which asked Apple to “reverse” its anti-repair practices in order to bolster its climate commitments, the company ended up making repairs part of its business model.
While the Self Service Repair program is currently “limited in scope, offering spare parts, repair tools, and manuals only for Apple’s iPhone 12 and 13 lineups as well as the third generation iPhone SE—and only for U.S. customers,” writes Grist, the company is promising a considerable expansion later this year.
The program has also galvanized other tech companies to act.
Much more needs to be done, however. “All of these programs—if and when they come to fruition—are baby steps toward a world in which consumers are able to repair and maintain their devices indefinitely rather than being forced to upgrade every few years” Grist says.
In addition to making a greater range of parts and repair documentation available, right-to-repair advocates say tech companies need to “come out vocally in favour of the right to repair at Congressional hearings and when submitting public comments to agencies, and distance themselves from anti-repair lobbying efforts.”