Germany Takes an Aggressive Stance on Right to Repair

Posted on September 7, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Apple, iOS, Mobile with 33 Comments

Germany has asked the European Union to require Apple, Samsung, and other phone makers to provide software updates and replacement parts for seven years.

If that sounds far-fetched given the current restrictions on both, consider this: The EU’s European Commission has separately proposed that phone makers should have to provide software updates for five years and replacement parts—at “reasonable prices”—for up to six years. Germany apparently doesn’t think that that proposal goes far enough.

This is all about the impact of phone manufacturing on the environment. Both European proposals both aim to help the environment by keeping existing devices in use, and out of landfills, for longer periods of time; even when devices are recycled, only some of their raw materials can be reused. But if phone makers support their devices with functional updates for three years and security updates for five years, users will be less likely to upgrade quickly. And by expanding consumers’ rights to repair their devices, they will likewise use them for a longer period of time, at least in general.

“The useful life of mobile phones is 2.5 to 3.5 years and is therefore rather short compared to other consumer goods,” the EC notes of its own proposal.

The EC is also looking at requiring handset makers to deliver parts for repairs within 5 days as a hedge against them just exchanging a broken device for another device. It would also like to require hardware makers to transparently publish repair fees, and allow third-party repairs, and it is looking at an energy label for consumer electronics that would grade them on energy efficiency and battery endurance.

News of Germany’s proposal was first reported by Heise Online.

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Comments (33)

33 responses to “Germany Takes an Aggressive Stance on Right to Repair”

  1. rosyna

    The “required replacement parts” only applies to the battery and display

  2. RobertJasiek

    7 years of updates (which is the minimum I have stated for many years), available parts and announced repair prices would be great improvements for sure. However, I miss two things: 1) mandatory battery replaceability by the enduser; 2) such laws not just for smartphones but for all electronic devices.

    • ruivo

      Batteries should be labelled as consumables, imagine if the tyres on our cars required us to replace the entire wheel?

      I go a step further: who among us use their phones without a case? What is the good of having those slim, beautiful phones if we can't enjoy them because they are too fragile? So, what is the real benefit of having integrated batteries anyway?

      Sorry to leave such an angry post as a reply to your comment, especially given the fact that I fully agree with you. I think I just got carried away :-)

  3. red.radar

    I would argue this could benefit apple and Samsung the most. They have the resources to keep a platform alive for 5-7 years. However the startups that sell budget devices on razor thin margins … not so much.

    • hellcatm

      I think you mean to say it'll benefit apple and Samsung users. apple wants their users to buy a new phone every year.

      • Hawaiianteg

        if apple wanted you to buy a phone every year, they wouldn't support the phone for as long as they do which is longer then every phone manufacturer there is. they support and provide repairs for phone for up to 6 years. Also now that you can pay for apple care monthly your phone can be covered under warranty for the support life of the phone. If they wanted you to buy a phone every year those 2 things would not exist.

    • JerryH

      Even Samsung will have to move to their own SoC (which they seem to be looking to do in part with the Google Tensor SoC). Since Qualcomm won't provide driver updates for their SoC's for more than 2 to 3 years, moving to their own silicon will be key to complying if these rules do go into effect.

    • red.radar

      Could have a positive benefit on supply chains as it’s hard to develop sophisticated industrial products if everyone is targeting a lifecycle that assumes the device is obsolete in 2 years.

      • dashrender

        I see this as a doubled edged sword.

        Sure they have to provide software updates for 5 years, but no one should be buying that phone after year 2 because that only leaves you 3 years of support, so I don't see them continuing to make older phones for long. Of course, that said - Apple does make some phone for many years, which is kind of surprising.

  4. digiguy

    Great, this is already the case in France, notably for battery replacements. Hope more countries will follow...

    As for software updates, Apple already complies with that, even if they offer no guarantee, hope Samsung will extent the support....

    • wright_is

      Samsung are already at 4-5 years for premium models post 2019.

      Generally, I get a new phone every 2 - 3 years, but my old premium phone usually gets handed down, my Nexus was bought by a colleague for his mother, my daughter got my Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which now doesn't get any support (since 2019). I'll probably upgrade end of the year / start of next year and I'll give her my S20+.

      Her ex replaced his iPhone 4S in 2019. My brother-in-law and his wife both replaced their Galaxy S3 mini and S4 mini last year.

      All of those phones (apart from the S20+) are a security nightmare waiting to happen. Luckily they aren't "target" users, but they have more holes than Swiss cheese. Getting security updates for the lifetime of the devices, which is often 7 - 10 years, is very important, both for the users who don't/can't upgrade more quickly, as well as for the environment.

      • ivarh

        Just checked my note 10+ and it has still not gotten past the 1st of July security update.. not exactly the promised monthly release schedule being promised by Samsung

  5. jwpear

    I'd like to see at least a five year guarantee, better reparability (especially the battery), and greater access to official parts that won't throw up errors or issues. When phones are $800-1000+, I have no desire to replace them every 1-2 years. Of course, it's silly to do so when you think about the waste this frequency creates.

    I just went through an odd and frustrating experience trying to get the battery replaced in my wife's iPhone X, which is nearly four years old. Our nearest Apple store is a 3 hour round trip journey, so it isn't convenient to just drop in. My next best option for an "official" service provider was one of our local Best Buy stores. I scheduled an appointment and took it in on the scheduled day and time. They wanted me to leave the phone for an undetermined amount of time and provide them with the passcode and Apple account password. The guy even said they may have to send the device off for the battery replacement if additional parts are needed. What? It's a freaking battery replacement! Everything is working well except the battery. Are you an expertly trained tech or whatever that mumbo jumbo Apple cites against independent repair shops? I told them this was unacceptable and walked out. This is the BS I got from an "official" Apple service provider!

    I fired up a chat with Apple Support to try to understand how the battery replacement process would work at the "Genius" bar. They too couldn't give me any details of how the repair process would go or whether it would even be performed in the store. They said only a Genius tech could answer that. So how the h*ll am I supposed to determine how much of a time sink this trip to an Apple store will be for an official battery replacement? Is my wife's iPhone the first to ever get a battery replaced?

    I gave up and scheduled an appointment with one of our local Batteries+ stores for the very next day. They did an amazing job. They asked me to unlock the device so they could inspect the phone in front of me before starting the repair. They talked through each thing they were checking. They then handed the device over to me to lock it. I handed it back after doing so. They told me it would be ready in about 45 mins. I left the store and ran a few errands. Came back at the scheduled time and it was ready to go. The tech again asked me to unlock it and he went through the inspection process again to show that everything was working as it should. Battery is back to full capacity and everything works great. No battery warnings and the health checks out without any "service" messages. Why isn't Batteries+ an official service provider? Why can't Best Buy and Apple be this easy? Why was this routine "repair" such a pain in the a**?

    • wright_is

      One of my colleagues runs a phone repair business outside of work. It is exactly the process you describe, he doesn't need the code or password, he does the work and goes through it with the customer afterwards.

    • Hawaiianteg

      Apple is easier. Go to the store and do a walk in or make a appointment. They check the phone in and quote a hour to replace the battery. They run full diagnostics that both Best Buy and a regular phone repair shop does not have, if they mess up the phone they give you new one, something both Best Buy nor a regular repair shot can do. You'd be surprised how easy it is to mess up the battery repair. The "Authorized repair" Best Buy has was because apple was forced to allow other places to carry parts, thats pretty much it. They don't train them and they go by manuals just like your regular repair shop. Apple Care support doesn't know how the repairs go because they don't do the repair and can't quote for the stores what they will do thats why you have to go to a store to get the appropriate quote and time frame for the repair. Apple also doesn't ask for your password at all, they have systems that can check everything without going into your phone.

      • jwpear

        I would have been happy to take the phone to an Apple store had they been able to tell me what to expect in advance. Given the distance away, I was either going to have to take a day off of work or burn a day over the weekend. I wanted some insight into the process so I could plan that time. Support was so cagey, I gave up.

        The sad thing is, Apple is so operationally-driven that they know the metrics on their processes, including battery replacements. They should be able to offer up more insights to customers before an in-store battery replacement.

        This is our current situation. It's going to take more legislation to get manufacturers to improve this and reduce waste. The market just isn't going to drive this on its own.

      • hellcatm

        If this goes through I can see apple saying "We're getting to many idevice repairs so we're going to let only 3rd party repair shops take them." In the hope, there are screw-ups and people just decide to buy another device. apple is all about the turn over, they can care less about their customers, they're just $$$$ to them. How do you think a company that isn't the #1 phone or computer manufacturer became a trillion dollar company?

      • wright_is

        The problem is that Apple Stores around here, they are often rarer than hen's teeth.

        Here, it is either a 4 - 5 hour drive each way to the nearest store, or you send it to an Apple approved repair centre and you get your phone back 2 weeks later. No loaner, no replacement, just 2 weeks without a phone.

        If an Android phone has a problem, I call the carrier and they swap it out the next day, no charge. If it turns out that it was user fault (broken display), I get an invoice for the cost of a screen replacement.

        • Hawaiianteg

          If you mail in your phone for a battery replacement through apple care its 3-5 days after you send it in. If you have apple care plus and your phone has a broken screen or doesn't power on etc... you can ask for express replacement which sends you a new phone within 1-2 days then you send the broken phone in after you get the new phone.

          • wright_is

            Yet, for most other manufacturers, that service is free or the service is much better/quicker.

            even 5 days is a lot longer than it being swapped out for a refurbished phone next day - and that is a free service. Why should I have to pay Apple a small fortune to match the free service I can get with other brands?

            • Hawaiianteg

              Im not aware of any phone manufacturer that will same day or next day ship you refurb phone because of a battery or without some sort of extended or expanded warranty coverage. They will either take longer then apple when it comes to same day turn around repair time or there is some sort of extra fee required to get that kind of expedited service. Also swapping out a full phone just because of a battery is not the best way of doing things for environmental sake, especially since apple gets hammered over the head about that constantly. Fixing just replacing the battery and mailing back is the obvious way to do things if you are concerned about the environment. Apple only offers advanced replacement when the phone itself is damaged and could potentially have more then one issue with the phone i.e cracked screen, no power, etc.. which makes sense because those repairs may not be fast when it comes to repairing the same unit in a timely manner.

              • wright_is

                This is with T-Mobile (Germany). If an Android device stops working, they swap it out and work out afterwards, if you need to pay anything to cover repairs (E.g. damaged screen is not covered under the warranty). If an Apple device stops working, they pick it up and return it 2 weeks later.

  6. proftheory

    How many want to back to dial-up speeds? That is what a 7 year life cycle will be like since what good is a phone if the network no longer supports it? That will require carriers to maintain old tech on their side longer.

    I just received another notice from TracFone to upgrade my device since it will no longer be supported. The phone still works.

    • ruivo

      Your argument fails to consider that networks already have cycles longer than that.

      As for the devices themselves, it is down to personal choice. Besides, phones nowadays are holding up better than before, the industry is not moving forward as frantically as it was before. A 3 year old phone in 2011 was already a relic in a time of heavy innovation and experimentation, today is a good enough daily driver. In fact, I would still use my last Lumia, had it allowed Android on it...

    • wright_is

      I have a 5G phone, but I still have dial-up speeds on it. I get around 300 baud at work, if I am lucky. The provider's own speedtest app claims there is no internet connection - although Signal manages to receive message, if slowly.

  7. vladimir

    in my opinion, very good

  8. north of 49th

    I understand keeping phones out of landfills but something about this fixed date obsolescence strikes me as going about things the wrong way.

    I think if phones are no longer secure from a hardware perspective for whatever reason, then they need to be replaced. I also think that phones need to be designed from the beginning in such a way that they can be completely recycled with the manufacturer forced to incur the cost.

    • red.radar

      Security is often a boogie man used to stir up unsubstantiated fear to manipulate groups of people in ways that benefit the manufacturers more than the risk of comprise.

      smartphone security has been fairly stable since forever. The transports are encrypted and the data at rest is encrypted. Not much more to accomplish. There are weaker places to attack.

      • wright_is

        Apart from the monthly zero days in Android and the regular zero days exposed in iOS, plus the responsibly reported bugs for both. Any device that uses software is vulnerable, if it isn't kept up to date and all security holes closed.

        My daughter still uses a smartphone from 2017 that hasn't had any updates since 2019. There are literally hundreds of exploited vulnerabilities on that device that have been patched by Google, but have not been pushed to that device.

        A friend of my wife's gets hand-me-down phones that were budget phones in the first place. She can't afford a new phone and generally runs around with a 5 - 7 year old model.

    • IanYates82


      However the hardware security protects against fairly sophisticated threat models.

      The typical security issue a consumer needs protection from are mainly malware-based (browser exploits), sms message corruptions, etc

  9. nbplopes

    Don’t think this solves the underlying problem. Which is some companies refusing to repair their products right out of the gate. I mean, repair, not replace. 

    Battery replacement is not a repair. A repair implies that something is broken. Would you say an Xbox Controller needs repair when the battery runs out of juice?

    So indeed some companies are only repairing cracked glass.

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