The European Union (EU) and the State of California has some of the toughest consumer and privacy rights rules and regulations. The legislative arm of the has new rules for mobile phone and tablet reparability.
It says manufacturers should make at least 15 components available for at least five years after they release a new phone in the EU. Within that timespan, consumers would be able to replace parts such as batteries, displays, chargers, back covers and SIM and memory card trays, as notes.
The European Commission is also eyeing improvements to battery durability. It says that phone and tablet batteries should be able to endure at least 500 full charges before dropping below 83 percent of their capacity. Under the proposed regulations, phones would need to have a label detailing information like battery endurance, as well as drop and water resistance ratings.
This part really stands out: Within that timespan, consumers would be able to replace parts such as batteries.
The biggest complaint I have about the current Smart Phones (and tablets) sold in the US is the lack of ‘reparability’ or more so the right to repair. By repair I mean something as simple as being able to replace the phone’s battery yourself. This means not having to take your device to ‘an authorized’ or specialty shop. In many cases consumer just end up deciding it is not the hassle of their time and feel their money would be better spent just buying a whole new device. It is hard to remember, but there was time up until the early 2010’s you could easily replace the battery in a smartphone. Here’s the reasons that convenience went away.
The previous phone I had for may be two years when the battery capacity had dropped significantly, plus the physical battery was swollen. The phone still functioned fine (other than needing to be charged nightly), but since it had a ‘non-replaceable battery’ I ended up having to spend a couple hundred dollars for a new phone. I can remember when I had my Samsung S4 Galaxy and ran into battery issues. All I needed to do was purchase a replacement battery on Amazon and swap it out. No need to go to a specialty/authorized shop or replace the entire device.
Back in 2021 LG quietly exited the Smart Phone market. Never really knew about that until back in late May my mother’s LG Phone suddenly stopped working and became nothing more than a paperweight. A key piece of the phone’s OS (LG IMS) stopped working. No matter how many times the device was rebooted or even doing a factory reset it would not function. So we ended up getting her a new phone as she could not be without a phone while we waited for LG and/or T-Mobile to sort out the issue. At least T-Mobile accepted the LG phone as trade-in so she was able to get a OnePlus Nord N200 like I had for free (monthly Equipment Payment Plan with matching credit for 24-months). Though technically it wasn’t ‘free’ as had to pay an upgrade fee and the sales tax on the device (plus the new phone needed a case and screen protector). I wasn’t so lucky with mine as the phone was ‘physically damaged’ with the swollen battery.
I am already concerned the battery on her phone may already be losing capacity as charges don’t seem to last as long as they should for how little she uses the phone. So what happens if hypothetically after a year the phone no longer holds a charge? Again, this phone as ‘non-replaceable’ battery so that would mean she would need yet another new device. Since it less than two-years also that means we likely would have to pay for this device out-of-pocket as our carrier only does trade-ins once every two years. Sure we could switch carries and get a free upgrade (trade-in), but the other two carries don’t have very reliable service where we live. Plus again have to spend more money on a case and screen protector.
I am not one of those consumers that rushes out every time a ‘new and improved’ model is released. Nor, I don’t think most consumers are either. Most are like myself and would prefer to be able to continue using our devices until they die or no longer supported. This was the case of my mother’s 3G phone which we purchased back in 2016 and was replaced last year with the LG phone we hade from 2019. Given the economic situation even consumers who used to want the ‘latest and greatest’ are holding on to their devices longer as money gets tighter and phones get more expensive. Consumers would be much more willing to repair their devices for a fraction of the cost of a new model. Especially families with multiple devices who are already shelling out $150-$200 a month for service. Dropping mobile data on both my mothers (she only makes phone calls and receives texts) and my lines was one of the easiest way to save money. Since I am at home the majority of the day I can use our WiFi connection. I don’t stream music (I have a Sirius XM subscription which costs me annually what I was paying monthly for mobile date) or use navigation apps so don’t need access to mobile data while on the road. In the rare cases I do need to use an app while I am out (grocery stores and Target for order pickup) most retailers offer free WiFi.
Hopefully the EU can pass these rules and force smartphone manufactures to stop there current ‘non-replaceable’ battery and non-consumer repairable practices nonsense. Of course this would also require the US to adopt similar rules as I could see smartphone manufactures only selling devices which adhere to the EU’s rules only in the EU while continuing to sell the ‘non-compliant’ models in the US.