iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability

Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do:
Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest
repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10
in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just
6/10 for recent iPhone models
.

The
Fairphone 3
, which was
released in Europe last week
with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs
up across the board in iFixit’s
hardware Teardown
. It found all the internal modules to be
easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools
required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in
the box). iFixit also lauds
visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes
that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s
website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components
inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable
“some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from
the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The
industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device,
via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor
repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their
device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack
of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has
been pioneering
modularity for repairability
for several years now, flying in
the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out
sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let
buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit
Teardown of the Google Pixel
rates battery replacement as
“difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours
required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in
seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to
pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable
backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has
been designed so that its components are accessible and
repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the
startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored
10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation
for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past
replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the
cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards
together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared
towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle
— and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your
next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old
hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful
and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual
enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker
Apple’s increasing focus on services
. A shift that’s sadly
not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in
hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for
example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a
full upgrade.)

At Apple’s
2019 new product announcement event
yesterday — where the
company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed
smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a
new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old
models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more
affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during
some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly
behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on
stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for
thought.

Apple 2019 event

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from
these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the
environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials
that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free
claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process”
and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference
to how Apple handles full
device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will
tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature
recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every
time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller
added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of
marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability
— and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental
impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging
annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly
won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.

Source: FS – All Tech News 2
iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability