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Right to repair going in right direction.. somewhat


We're getting there but not quite where we want to be just yet.

What is right to repair? The ability to repair something you bought using readily available parts.

I'll give an example of repairable vs. unrepairable.

Repairable: Garmin DriveSmart 66. I can take out the screws from the back of that device, take it apart and repair whatever I need to. Replace the battery, replace the main board, replace the screen, microphone, whatever. All of the internals are accessible and parts are available.

Unrepairable: Most smartphones and tablets. The battery is sealed and the device is usually designed in a way where it's very difficult to get in there. And even if you could get in there, getting parts is either not easy or outright not possible at all.

Google has bucked this trend by stating they will stock spare parts for seven years for the Pixel 8 phone. That's good. Very good.

Two drawbacks to this. First, the Pixel 8 right now isn't cheap, but that's not too much of a big deal since prices will fall since tech always does that. Second, how repair-friendly is the Pixel 8? Nobody knows that right now since it hasn't been out in the wild enough just yet.

What this says about the state of tech in general

Basically put, this 7-year commitment for parts availability by Google says, "It's okay to coast for a while."

At this stage of the game, there are two obvious things going on. "Faster" isn't a selling point anymore, and consumers just want tech that works and stays working without having to re-buy it over and over again.

Regardless of how speedy a CPU is in a phone, what ultimately slows it down isn't the hardware but rather the network it's on. Yeah, you could have a phone with the fastest processor on the planet, but that doesn't do anything to improve upload and download speeds. That being true, it makes more sense to improve software technologies rather than hardware...

...except when it comes to the battery. I'll get back to that in a moment.

Where software is concerned, this phrase should be in every developer team's office: "NO BLOAT". Get that code to be as small and minimal as possible. Make it tiny. Do the same for network transfers, because since the network itself is the choke point, get those uploads/downloads to be super small.

And the reason I say right to repair is going in right direction somewhat is because I'm a firm believer in the following:

Every single thing considered to be a portable computer should have a user replaceable battery.

The only thing anybody cares about when a phone gets older is the ability to replace the battery. We used to be able to do that, but then that was taken away in favor of non-replaceable sealed batteries. Why? "Thin" styling and the very weak reasoning that it improves resistance to water damage...

...but the actual reason is that when the battery dies, it forces people to buy a new phone since they can't replace it.

A commitment to parts availability is great and that is a step in the right direction. But what really needs to happen is BRING BACK THE ABILITY FOR THE USER TO REPLACE THE BATTERY.

Changing the battery in a phone should be DOABLE and EASY. In the past, all you needed to do was crack off the back cover, old battery out, new battery in, DONE. That's what needs to happen again.

From a design standpoint, designers hate the idea of a user replaceable battery because it adds thickness to a phone handset. To that I say that everybody is already thickening up their phones with things like Otterbox cases and phone grips anyway, so the whole idea of thin design is just stupid to begin with. All that ever did was make the handset more fragile.

To really make things right, so to speak, bring back the user replaceable battery across the board. Yes, you can buy a cheap BLU View 2 prepaid phone which does have a replaceable battery, but that handset is considered to be an outlier. User replaceable batteries should be the standard across all handsets.

Published 2023 Oct 10

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