I just got a new phone. Well, it’s new to me anyway. I’m not overly excited about it because I hate switching to a new phone, and I feel like my old one let me down because it was broken. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes, and it really highlights a really important factor when it comes to buying a new phone: repairability.
Long story short — my Pixel 6 Pro now lives in a drawer, and I have a Pixel 7 Pro instead. It had been giving me problems for a while because the socket where a cable connects to the mainboard wouldn’t stay connected properly. Between that and the volume rocker breaking (my fault; I broke it tearing the phone apart), I was just done. I’m lucky, and we have phones here at AC, so I just swapped my old one for a slightly less old one.
Android & Chill
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It’s a nice phone, and I’m not complaining, but so was my Pixel 6 Pro. It also got me thinking a lot about something that doesn’t get talked about very often: how easy is it to fix a phone when it breaks?
I’m all for the right-to-repair and always have been, but I used to think it was mostly a gimmick when a company would tell us about some program in place to buy parts and build in some repairability. Take it from someone who has torn a phone or two apart — this isn’t something most consumers want to try. It’s not easy; it’s usually poorly documented, and things never go back together easily.
This is what “easy” to repair looks like in 2023:
It’s something best left to professionals. I don’t mean the company that built it because there are plenty of other folks who can repair your phone, and they usually charge a lot less than the manufacturer would. That guy with a kiosk at the mall probably does a fine job as long as the phone you give him to fix is “easy.”
The Pixel 6 was pretty easy to fix, easy enough that I was able to open it up and troubleshoot the problem. My issue is that I couldn’t find the part I needed to replace; places like iFixit and Mobile Sentrix have a lot of Pixel 6 Pro parts and if you need a display or a battery you can buy one pretty cheaply. Nobody seems to carry the actual mainboard, though, so after tearing it open for the third time to “fix” the same problem, I had to move on.
Would I consider it repairable? Barely. Barely is enough though and your next phone should be at least barely repairable.
You shouldn’t need to buy a new phone every year. It’s fine to buy one because you want to buy something new, but spending a lot of money shouldn’t be a yearly requirement. Manufacturers don’t all need to build something like the Fairphone that is something an average consumer can “fix,” but they need to make sure every product they sell is something a qualified person can keep running.
I know using less invasive foam or glue on a display isn’t as sexy as showing off a camera that can take pics of the moon. It’s just not an impressive stat, and manufacturers know that we want to be impressed. This is why every presentation for a new phone spends a few minutes talking about sustainability and repair options, then spends the next hour telling us about the camera or the fast processor.
This can change if we want it to change. It may not seem like it, but companies that make phones try to give consumers what they want. They know we want good cameras and bright displays and that’s what they give us. If they thought we cared about being able to change the battery every year or being able to replace the charging port when it breaks, we would get it.
I know the next phone I spend money on is going to be at least “barely repairable.” That doesn’t jive with the phone I like the most, which is the Z Flip 5, but it’s more important. I plan on keeping it until I have to change, so I need to know that I’ll get my money’s worth.
Samsung and Google already know offering repairable phones is important, and that’s why they put in the effort to make many parts easy to buy and stop using glue that’s impossible to get past. Opening a Galaxy S23 or a Pixel 8 is easy compared to phones made just a few years ago.
The Galaxy S24 needs to be even easier. So does every other phone worth buying.