Date
22 October 2017
Broken smartphones with damaged display screens. The screens of top global brands are hard to replace or expensive to fix. Photo credit: Fred Dott / Greenpeace
Broken smartphones with damaged display screens. The screens of top global brands are hard to replace or expensive to fix. Photo credit: Fred Dott / Greenpeace

Mobile devices from top brands hardest to repair: Greenpeace

If you are using a mobile device made under popular brands such as Apple and Samsung, you’d better prepare to pay a lot of money to have it fixed or even buy a new one if it encounters problems.

According to Greenpeace’s latest IT product guide released Tuesday, a number of products from Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are increasingly being designed in ways that make it difficult for users to fix, which shortens the lifespan of these devices and adds to growing stockpiles of e-waste.

Collaborating with iFixit, which provides free repair manuals for electronics on its website, Greenpeace assessed 44 best selling smartphones, tablets and laptops launched by 17 brands between 2015 and 2017, with an aim to compare the ease of replacing the battery and display, whether special tools are needed and whether spare parts are available.

It found that the screens of 30 of the products are hard to replace or expensive to fix. About half of them come with built-in batteries that are not replaceable, meaning users can only ditch them if their batteries are out of order.

Among the hardest to fix or upgrade included some globally popular products made by Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.

Fairphone, Dell and HP are the only companies that make spare parts and repair manuals available to the public, according to the Greenpeace report.

“Improving the repairability of electronic products is technically achievable and brands should be prioritizing this in their product design”, said Gary Cook, IT Sector Analyst of Greenpeace USA.

A survey conducted by Greenpeace last year showed that nine in 10 consumers hope their mobile devices can be easily fixed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Andy Chu, a campaigner from the environmental group, said that quite a number of smartphones are designed to have a lifespan of little more than a year.

This reflects manufacturers’ “planned obsolescence” strategy, which aims to force consumers to buy new ones from time to time, Chu said.

While some of the devices abandoned can be recycled, recyclers tend only to keep valuable components and dump the rest like garbage, he said.

The Global E-waste Monitor 2014 report from the United Nations University showed the amount of discarded electrical and electronic equipment reached 41.8 million tons that year, but only 6.5 million tons of e-waste were documented and recycled with the highest standards.

Mobile phones, personal computers and other small IT and telecommunications equipment accounted for three million tons of e-waste that year, it said.

Greenpeace is urging the IT sector to design products that can be more easily repaired or upgraded and offer adequate post-sale support.

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