Would Reparability Ratings Change Your Purchasing Decisions?

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I'm a big fan of iFixIt's teardowns and ratings for tech gear. When I was running an IT department for a school, the ability to repair and upgrade a device easily was a significant factor in hardware choices. In particular, being able to add memory to extend a device's life and easily repair or replace a keyboard (students can destroy keyboards) were important. The European parliament has revealed plans to introduce ratings, similar to those given by iFixIt, as well as other safeguards for consumers.

The EU's proposed rules would cover warranty extensions for significant repairs and incentives for products to be durable and recyclable.

But the move I find interesting is to push manufacturers to make "essential components" like batteries and LCDs easily removed. With many manufacturers hard wiring batteries of making them very difficult to remove in order to reduce device thickness and weight, such a rule could lead to design changes as manufacturers seek to boost their ratings.

The moves are a good thing I think. I always took notice of energy efficiency ratings for hardware. Having a set of standardised criteria for maintenance and repairability makes sense to me.

Do you agree? What sorts of criteria would you like?


    Honestly...no. So long as my phone/tablet doesn't explode (you know who we're talking about), I have no desire to take it apart (and wouldn't want to take apart an explosive phone either). Should it be covered under warranty? Yes, duh, but in Australia, we have consumer rights already which fulfil this role pretty well (and why the hell is there an EU article on an AU site?!?!). Is forcing manufactures to comply with arbitrary rules such as the ability to take out batteries (which most people never do) good? No, it isn't. The reason devices have gotten thinner, more portable, and water proof, is because manufacturers don't have to worry about users pulling their back plate off in the shower, thus killing their device, or possibly hurting themselves (thinking poking their eye out with a capacitor :P ).

    Now, is forced obsolescence good? No. This is really what the article is about, ensuring manufacturers aren't forcing consumers to replace their devices because of hardware degradation. Simply put, if the battery can be swapped, then the system degradation can be slowed due to swapping the battery. However, rather than allowing people who can't figure out how to turn their computers off and on to pull out a super expensive chemical storage system for electrical current and play hacky-sack with it, perhaps we should look into creating consumer protection governance. That is, the batteries in our mobile devices should be forced to last at least three years on a constant charge rotation (e.g. 8 hours out of every 24, the time most people leave their phones plugged in while they sleep).

    NOW, most mobile devices have gotten to this point already! Manufacturers listened to their customers (and likely their own usage too, as I imagine they like using their devices, as well) and have implemented technologies to increase life spans of batteries, as well as overall charge time. Moreover, better battery technology shows up every year, thus increasing overall life expectancy of these devices. The concern then goes back to forced obsolescence through hardware dead switches, or even software dead switches. This is what governments should be protecting from, rather than "repairability".

    Ratings, specifically? Probably not. But repairability definitely factors in to my purchasing decisions.
    My last two laptops were MacBooks - the latest, a MacBook Air - but when I bought a laptop last month, the Macs were all out, because, with the exception of the 13" MacBook Air, which is has only been spared from this delightful "trend" because its design hasn't been updated in years, all the current MacBooks are basically not repairable at all: glued-in batteries, everything soldered onto the motherboard... Even on the largest MacBook Pro, you can't replace anything anymore; even replacing the SSD would require replacing the entire motherboard.
    Which is why, after almost a decade of toting around Apple laptops, last month I bought a ThinkPad.
    Watch the old Apple keynotes and you'll see Steve Jobs gushing over how serviceable their Pro machines were - all the Pro towers let you get at the insides without undoing a single screw - but now the only thing that seems to qualify as "good design" is "making it thinner than the last one", to the ludicrous level of getting rid of all the useful ports just to shave off another millimeter or two. The machines are thin enough already. All these companies seem to be under the impression that we're going to try and fit our laptops in our pockets, or something. Laptops should have replaceable RAM, storage, and batteries as standard. And if you really want to impress me with your design skills, figure out how to get an MXM graphics card and a socketed CPU in there.
    Products that can't be repaired or upgraded might be great for the manufacturers, but they're terrible for consumers, and for the environment.

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