DIY Repair is the Future of Phones

Making a highly technical presentation in front of a live audience of journalists at a tech company is always a risky move. You can almost guarantee that the technology will fail you at the point where you need it to perform at its best.

But not today, Satan. Today, Adam Ferguson, Nokia’s Chief Product Marketing Executive, is replacing the battery on one of the company’s three new budget phones live on camera, providing a running commentary to the viewing press on exactly what he’s doing and why. that it is so important.

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

“If someone like me — who’s not very good with his hands, as you saw from some of my shaking hands there — can do it while talking to you all, I hope it shows that it is possible with anyone, ” he told us during the demo, which took place almost, in the week before Mobile World Congress.

The Nokia G22, which is now waking up from a major surgery performed by an amateur before our eyes, is designed with repair capability at its core. Thanks to a partnership with high-tech repair company iFixit, owners of this phone, announced at MWC in Barcelona on Saturday, will be equipped with instructions and support for fix their phones themselves when the time comes. All they need is a guitar pick and a #00 screwdriver.

It puts Nokia, not even in the top five global smartphone brands, ahead 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 is an increasingly pressing concern for technology companies and consumers. A critical step in reducing the environmental impact of our technology use is to ensure that the products we use have a long life and are not easily replaced once our batteries start to flop.

“We are already seeing that people are keeping on their phones for longer,” said Steven Moore in an interview during the period before Mobile World Congress. Moore is head of climate action at mobile industry body GSMA, which hosts MWC. He said that the lifespan of the smartphone has already been extended from two years to three years. In addition, he said, people are more interested in repairing their phones, and are willing to buy refurbished models in the first place.

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

But the difference now is that DIY repairs are changing from being a niche benefit to becoming an important feature of new phones. “As consumers demand more sustainable and longer-lasting devices, the ability to easily and affordably repair smartphones will be a key differentiator in the market,” said Ben Wood, principal analyst at CCS Insight, in a statement .

Nokia may not be the pioneer of the repair trend, but it is embracing the practice at an important time. Sustainability is at the forefront of MWC this year, with companies across the mobile landscape looking to reduce their impact on the environment in line with GSMA’s goal of the mobile industry achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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

“At the moment, operators are staying out of this argument, but at one point even operators will start demanding more choice in this regard,” she said.

With increasing pressure from consumers and other areas of the mobile industry, phone manufacturers will have to respond by replacing device parts such as batteries and screens, which are often under the strain of long-term use. But it’s important that they don’t neglect software as part of this conversation either.

When OnePlus released the OnePlus 11 earlier this month, it extended its support period for up to four years of Android updates and an additional fifth year of security updates. Without a promise of long-term security updates like this, a phone could become relatively unusable.

Good futureproofing doesn’t lessen the responsibility of phone makers to ensure devices are as sustainable as possible before they even reach your hands.

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

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

“There is currently no device that fits that description, but we are already seeing really promising signs from some of the manufacturers on this,” said Moore. “There is a lot that the industry can do (and) I think we are just at the beginning.”

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