Fairphone, Dell and HP are the only companies that make spare parts and repair manuals available to the public, while products from brands such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are among the most difficult to repair and upgrade, according to Greenpeace’s latest IT product guide.
LG was once a leader in designing products to last, but its most recent smartphone has several design issues that affect its repairability.
Greenpeace East Asia, in partnership with iFixit, assessed over 40 best-selling smartphones, tablets and laptops launched between 2015 and 2017. Seventeen IT brands were represented in the study.
The assessment is based on iFixit’s repairability score, which considers the time required to repair the product, the device’s upgradability and modularity and the availability of spare parts and repair manuals.
‘Of all the models assessed, we found a few best-in-class products, which demonstrate that designing for repairability is possible. On the other hand, a number of products from Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are increasingly being designed in ways that make it difficult for users to fix, which shortens the lifespan of these devices and adds to growing stockpiles of e-waste.’
IT sector analyst at Greenpeace USA
The product guide reveals a trend of moving away from repairability. Design complexity, combined with the practice of soldering or gluing separate pieces together, makes repairs time-consuming. Samsung and LG’s smartphones and Apple’s laptops have become increasingly less repairable.
Nearly 70% of all devices tested had batteries that were impossible or difficult to replace due to design decisions and the use of strong adhesives to fix the battery to the casing. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 smartphone and Apple’s Retina MacBook demonstrate this bad practice, with batteries thoroughly adhered to the device panels.
While the Note7 was not considered in this analysis, Samsung might have been able to avoid recalling millions of devices if the phone’s design had enabled easy battery removal.