Many of us grew up in households that championed durable goods and repairs conducted at home with your own two mitts. Then cell phones were invented and put us into an endless, maddeningly wasteful cycle of buy-scrap-buy. And while we’re trending back towards an appreciation for the enduring — cast iron, canvas tents, well-kept leather goods — the devices we use most (cell phones, tablets, computers) are still seen as easily disposable once a shinier, newer toy comes along.
Luckily, Greenpeace and iFixit are teaming up to change that. Lesson number one? Showing you how shoddy your “smartphone” really is.
The environmental organization and wiki-based online repair guide took 44 recently released devices from 17 companies (from global powerhouses like Apple and Samsung to the lesser-known Oppo and Fairphone) and rated them based on repairability. The criteria: ease of disassembly, access to repair guides and availability of replacement parts.
In the graph below, the new devices are separated into laptops, tablets and phones. Looks like all you Apple, Google and Samsung smartphone owners are SOL:
Graph via iFixit
All the newest devices from those three electronics giants (except for Samsung’s Series 9 15” notebook) scored 7 out of 10 or less, with most scoring below 4. The takeway here? If something breaks, the answer from those companies will most likely be, “Sorry pal, you’ll have to buy a new one.”
And even if you’re the guy with the military-grade case who never drops his phone in the toilet and actually turns it off once in a while, your battery will eventually die. As iFixit notes, “Of the devices we analyzed, 70% were equipped with difficult to replace batteries, and an embarrassingly low number — just 7% — were intended to be user-replaceable. If the battery can’t be replaced, it’s a matter of just a couple of years before the device needs to be plugged in all the time.”
So what’s a person to do?
Apparently, buy a Fairphone, the only phone to receive a perfect 10 out of 10 rating. The self-proclaimed “world’s first ethical, modular smartphone” is a Netherlands-made Android device built to satisfy the principles of longevity, reparability and a fair supply chain. It’s also as sleek as you’d expect from the Dutch, and will run you just over $600.
The full listing of devices, their ratings and the reasoning behind them can be found on Greenpeace’s website. But should you have absolutely zero interest in repairing your own phone, iFixit has a wake-up call:
“The price of a device isn’t just the sticker, or the monthly payment; it’s also the next device you have to buy because you broke the screen. Or because the battery wore out. It’s also the cost of e-waste and the toll manufacturing takes on the environment."
In other words, there's a lot of smartphone snake oil being peddled out there. Might be time to try a Fairphone.