Hold the phone! Report shows that repairing your smartphone can save you money and protect the environment

Media Contacts
Nathan Proctor

Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

BOSTON — We rely on our smartphones. When they break, we need them fixed — fast. Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers to fixing our phones. Manufacturers might offer a dearth of repair options or digitally lock our phones so we can’t repair them. And when we can’t fix them, and have to get rid of them and buy new ones, that has a big consequence on our environment.

According to the new report, “The Fix Is In” by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, independent shops offer repairs that some manufacturers won’t. Together with iFixit, we surveyed 302 independent repair technicians and found that 78% of them offer additional repairs beyond the four types that Apple offers in-store. 

89% of surveyed technicians would benefit from diagnostic software

“An independent repair shop doesn’t have an incentive to upgrade you to a new phone; they want the repair business. We shouldn’t be preventing these businesses from accessing critical parts, diagnostic software and repair documentation,” said U.S. PIRG Education Fund Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “Making and shipping a new smartphone takes a lot of raw materials and generates a lot of pollution. It’s time we removed barriers to fixing phones, so we can keep them in our pockets and out of the waste stream.”

The report calculates that if Americans held onto our phones 1 year longer on average, the emissions reductions would be equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road each year and would reduce manufacturing material demand by 42.5 million pounds per day – which would be like cutting a jumbo-jet’s weight in raw material use every 17 minutes.  

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be using our phones a lot longer from a technological perspective,” added Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. “We’re seeing an increasing number of digital locks against repair, which unchallenged, could effectively end independent repair.”

Digital locks are just one way that manufacturers can prevent repairs by third parties. When the only option for repair is the “manufacturer-authorized” shop, that presents a lot of challenges. These authorized providers might be a long distance away, or offer limited repair options. For example, Apple told Congress last fall that it offers only four varieties of phone repairs in-store — battery, screen, camera and speaker replacements.

The lack of diagnostic software is increasingly a concern for independent shops. Even for screen and battery repair, which amounted to 47% of the repairs done by surveyed technicians, the latest iPhones will warn consumers if repairs are authorized by diagnostic software, and will remove certain features from the phone if consumers proceed with the unauthorized fixes.

“The more ways we can empower repair, the better. Lawmakers should pay attention, and help people fix their stuff,” said Proctor.

View more findings, and download the full report here.