Robert Triggs / Android Authority
- Google, Samsung, Apple and Microsoft seem to be embracing self-repair.
- The announced initiatives are long in promise and short in description.
- Motivations can be more self-preserving than altruistic.
Multiple device manufacturers have recently announced self-repair services, but the reasons behind these initiatives may be more about self-preservation than customer service.
Google made headlines when it announced a partnership with iFixit to make it easier for customers to repair their Pixel phones. The announcement follows similar trends from Samsung, Apple and Microsoft. While some have hailed the announcements as a fundamental change in how companies operate, the real reason may be more about shutting down future legislation than a meaningful change, a view that no company has come up with specific plans to support.
Right-to-repair is a movement that is gaining momentum. Consumers often prefer to have expensive phones repaired rather than replaced, and many groups cite the environmental impact of phone replacement for minor repairs. Despite the building pressures, many companies have made it increasingly difficult to design and repair their devices in the interests of aesthetics. In July, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted unanimously to begin targeting “illegal repair restrictions.”
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FTC Chairman Lina Khan highlights the benefits of the Right to Repair Act:
Such restrictions could significantly increase costs for consumers, stifle innovation, block business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay repairs on time, and reduce resilience. The FTC has a wide range of tools to eradicate illegal repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement will promise us a new impetus.
Interestingly, within a few months, Microsoft announced that it would begin investigating self-repair options, followed by Apple in 2021, Samsung in March 2022, and Google in early April. In the case of Microsoft, it responded to pressure from shareholder advocacy group As You Soar. Interestingly, despite the pressure, Microsoft has promised to release the results of its investigation in early May 2022, with the goal of providing self-repair options by the end of the year. Similarly, neither Samsung, Apple nor Google have committed to a specific release date.
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Taken together, these various factors paint a picture of decision-making in an effort to repeal legislation that could inadvertently force companies to undergo self-repair, or be much stricter than they would like and force them to change the design of their products. Comply. Either way, it is clear that these efforts are not being made out of any real concern for consumers or the environment.
Nevertheless, whatever the reason, the right-to-repair effort is still a win-win for customers. Hopefully, companies will continue to move forward and not find a gap that will allow them to expand and delay such initiatives indefinitely.