The future of phones is DIY repairability

The future of phones is DIY repairability

The future of phones is DIY repairability

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Performing a highly technical demo in front of a live audience of journalists is always a risky move for a tech company. You can almost guarantee that the technology will fail you just when you need it to function at your best.

But not today, Satan. Today, Nokia’s product marketing chief, Adam Ferguson, replaces the battery in one of the company’s three new budget phones live on camera, while providing the press with a running commentary on what he exactly and why it is so important.

Ferguson promises it will take him less than five minutes to complete the battery transplant, and while we can quibble about a few seconds anyway, he’s basically a man of his word.

“If someone like me – who isn’t particularly good with their hands, as you’ve probably seen from some of my shaky manipulations there – can do it by talking to you all, I hope that it demonstrates that absolutely anyone can,” he told us during the demo, which took place virtually, in the week before Mobile World Congress.

The Nokia G22, now waking up from major hobbyist surgery before our eyes, is designed with repairability at its core. Thanks to a partnership with tech repair company iFixit, owners of this phone, announced Saturday at MWC Barcelona, ​​will be equipped with guides and support for fix their own phones when the time comes. All they will need is a pick and a #00 screwdriver.

That puts Nokia, which isn’t even among the top five global smartphone brands, ahead of the game this week at the world’s biggest mobile show, where sustainability is a major theme. In the context of the global climate crisis, the problem of electronic waste has become an increasingly pressing concern for technology companies and for consumers. Ensuring that the products we use have a long lifespan and are not easily disposed of as soon as our battery starts to fail is a key step in reducing the environmental impact of our use of technology.

“We’re already seeing people holding onto their phones longer,” Steven Moore said in an interview ahead of Mobile World Congress. Moore is the head of climate action at the mobile industry body GSMA, which hosts the MWC. He said the average lifespan of a smartphone has already increased from two to three years. Also, he added, people are showing more interest in fixing their phones and are open to buying refurbished models in the first place.

Nokia is not the first to do so. Since 2013, Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise, has focused on making modular phones with a smaller environmental footprint. Since last April, Apple has also been supporting people who want to take care of DIY repairs on their iPhones, through its Self-service repair program.

But the difference right now is that DIY repairs are starting to shift from a niche benefit to an important feature of new phones. “As consumers increasingly demand longer lasting and more durable devices, the ability to easily and affordably repair smartphones will become a key differentiator in the market,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, in a press release.

Nokia may not have pioneered the repairability trend, but it’s embracing the practice at a key time. This year at MWC, sustainability is front and center as companies across the mobile landscape strive to reduce their impact on the environment in line with the GSMA’s goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions. 2050.

Any phone makers that don’t come to the show this year with a well-rehearsed set of arguments for why they aren’t taking control of their devices’ repairability options should be prepared for the criticism, Emma Mohr-McClune, chief analyst and practice leader at analyst firm Global Data, said in a statement.

“Right now operators stay away from that argument, but at some point even operators will start demanding more choice in this regard,” she added.

With growing pressure from consumers and other sectors of the mobile industry, it will be up to phone manufacturers to respond by making it easier to replace device parts such as batteries and screens, which often bear the brunt of long-term use. But it’s important that they don’t overlook software as part of this conversation either.

When OnePlus came out the OnePlus 11 earlier this month it extended its support period to four years of Android updates and an additional fifth year of security updates. Without the promise of long-term security updates like this, an otherwise decent phone can become unusable.

Good durability also doesn’t diminish the responsibility of phone manufacturers to ensure that devices are already as durable as possible before they even reach your hands.

According to Moore, 80% of a mobile phone’s environmental footprint is already achieved before you take it out of the box. “That really means we have to consider the actual intrinsic emissions and the environmental impact within the device,” he said.

The long-term vision for future phones, as set out in a GSMA strategy paper released last November, is that one day our devices will be 100% recycled and recyclableas well as made with 100% renewable energy.

“Right now, there are no devices that fit that description, but we’re already seeing very promising signs from some manufacturers on this,” Moore said. “There’s a lot the industry can do (and) I think we’re just getting started.”


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