After Apple Slows Phones, Interest In Repair Spikes

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Boston, MA — A new survey released today by U.S. PIRG, “Recharge Repair,” found a surge in consumer demand for phone repair following the revelation that Apple was slowing phones with older batteries. “Recharge Repair” identifies the barriers to battery replacement and phone repair that add up to long repair delays for consumers. The findings support the need for Right to Repair reforms to grant consumers and third parties access to the parts and tools to repair cell phones and other electronics.

Among the findings:

  • We surveyed 164 independent repair businesses who reported a 37% increase in weekly battery replacement service requests since Dec. 20.
  • Self-repair interest surged as well – online traffic to iPhone battery repair instructions went up 153%. 180,000 people viewed instructions between Dec. 20 and Jan. 22
  • eWaste is a growing concern. America throws out an estimated 350,000 cell phones per day. That’s 141 million phones tossed each year.

“We should be free to fix our stuff,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair Campaign Director. “We should eliminate needless waste by repairing things that still have life. But companies use their power to make things harder to repair. This survey shows that people are clearly looking for more options to repair their phones.”

Eighteen states, from Wyoming to Massachusetts, have introduced “Right to Repair” or “Fair Repair” laws which guarantee consumers and small businesses access to the parts and tools needed for repair.

In December, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. Apple defended this tactic by saying it was intended to reduce performance issues, but many people wondered if Apple was covertly pushing people to upgrade to a new phone. Regardless of intent, these issues can be easily resolved by replacing the battery – but Apple doesn’t make the battery available to customer or third-party repair businesses.

“These companies go to extraordinary lengths to keep people from repairing their devices. They glue parts to the casing so they can’t be removed; they refuse to sell replacement parts; they digitally lock devices to prevent third party repair,” said Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne. “Apple is telling some people they can’t fix their batteries until April. Certainly, there are people with easily fixable phones who will get new ones instead of waiting. Why won’t Apple just sell their original batteries to other repair businesses? This problem would be over in a few days.”

“Batteries fail before the technology in smartphones and tablets which is why we are fighting for a law to require repairability of batteries — making advanced technology available to more consumers,” said Washington State Rep. Jeff Morris, who sponsored the bill which was advanced out of the state’s House Technology and Economic Development Committee last week. 

The Missouri bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Tracy McCreery, added, “I’ve put forward a bill in Missouri to make it a lot easier to repair our products, including the replacement of iPhone batteries. Batteries will always wear out; Consumers should be able to replace their own batteries.”

Our survey includes a number of quotes from small businesses owners about the challenges they see repairing products. Ronny Hamida, who runs the Nebraska-based Rontronix, noted: “If a product is being made by a company, the repair tools for it need to be made available as well. Repairing devices using tools created by and supplied from the device’s manufacturer is just another way to ensure product reliability with considerably less environmental waste for a better tomorrow.”

U.S. PIRG supports Right to Repair reforms because they reduce waste by limiting companies’ abilities to push customers to toss still-useful products that just need a simple fix.

“Fixing something instead of throwing it away to buy something new is better for the environment. Repair should be the easier, more affordable choice and it can be. People are resourceful. They can find ways to fix things, to keep them from going to waste, sitting in a landfill somewhere,” said Proctor. “But the first things we need to repair are our laws.”

The full findings, including state by state breakdowns of phone waste and web traffic, and available here.