My team from Repair Cafe Toronto and FreeGeek Toronto worked together with CBC Marketplace to bring this narrative to life – what does it take to get my mobile computing device repaired?
The short answer – a hell of a lot more than the typical consumer has available to them in terms of finances, skills, and time. Considering the typical repair, a modern laptop that may need a screen replacement can easily expect replacements to be in the $100 CAD range. This isn’t including tool costs needed to deconstruct overtly complex enclosures with torx and tri-wing screws, all the while exercising surgeon-level patience and skill.
Criticizing CBC in the comments? Sure. Criticizing the tech and the repairs? Come on, now I’m a little hurt.
CBC does an okay job at bringing to light that there’s an issue, but doesn’t quite elaborate on it in detail, something I wish they would’ve done. Guessing they did so to adhere to as much of the general public as possible? Eh, who knows.
Either way, my hope was that everyone took away 1 thing at minimum – that repairability of electronics has gone down the drain. Instead, I scroll down and find that some of the most popular comments are those criticizing the evidence, the repair, the expectations:
“10 years for a laptop is pretty good… I’d be satisfied”
“‘They almost feel like make the battery not to last’ That’s how lithium ion battery works”
“How do you expect for an phone or any technology to last forever?”
Well damn, when did we start accepting that garbage endurance/durability were the price of innovation?
I cannot fathom the individuals who would use this mindset in other fields of science. Today, the lifespan of humans has grown tremendously from what it was decades ago thanks to the same mindset shared by my team – we need to be better than we were. No exceptions.
Those who are okay with devices and components having significantly less lifespan than their predecessors, those who are okay with being unable to repair their device as long as it is future-tech, you need to check yourselves. This is toxic mentality that goes against progress, and your normalization is letting the big players know that it’s okay to get away with this nonsense.
Our family owns and regularly uses a blender about as old as I am.
I’m afraid the day this thing kicks the bucket and I can no longer repair it, it’ll be disposable blenders from there on out.
Bill 72 – Right to Repair Electronic Products
Now here’s something I wished more people talked about. For the uninformed, Bill 72 is an amendment to the consumer protection act in Ontario. It requires a company to give a consumer or repair shop what they need to repair the electronic products themselves. The company can charge for this, but within limits.
Some key takeaways from this include:
- Upon request, companies NEED to provide most recent versions of documents (for free if digital), replacement parts, software, and other tools needed to diagnose, maintain, and repair.
- Replacement part costs must be fair, and should not be used for prime profit gain.
Now this is the good stuff. We’re talking some major quality-of-life improvements for electronics owners!
- Able to extend the longevity of your own electronics, by yourself.
This builds brand loyalty and trust – something severely lacking in the modern market.
- Ability to learn more about your electronics.
I’m a big sucker for learning new things, and this is a great way to exercise a lot of the theory we learn in school on practical systems. Furthermore, ethical white-hat hacking of these systems today can bring about improvements tomorrow.
- Less environmental impact from more sustainable systems.
The more devices we can repair ourselves, the less end up in landfills. Simple math, and anyone that feels the need to fact-check this is an idiot.
- Better adherence to industry standards.
Repairability of devices involves modular design. This helps product holders both adhere and contribute to standards.
Now these are just a few benefits. There are so many more if you give it a quick search and/or observe it yourself from various grassroots such as ourselves, Fixit Clinic, IFixit, and more.
There’s not to say there aren’t any cons – the major one being concerns about intellectual rights violations. But really, these pros outweigh those cons you selfish bastards, you should think twice if your product loses its integrity the moment the lid comes off.
To round out the narrative, why were only 2 of the dozen or so devices we saw that day repaired successfully?
A lot of our repair setups were improvised the day-of, replacements weren’t available, we had 30 minutes per device (take was done in 1 afternoon), not to mention that some of these were plain irreparable (severe water damage, physical trauma, etc).
It’s really unfortunate that CBC didn’t show this stuff, because they should’ve had it all recorded – a majority of our interactions as fixers were very descriptive and informative. That’s just how we work – we’re not some 3rd party repair shop, we’re skilled volunteers contributing back to the community, teaching others how we’re doing things, why it’s that way, all while learning more ourselves.
To summarize, repairability is pretty neat, thanks CBC, and looking forward to doing more of this in the open once COVID-19 settles down.