Why Is It Hard to Fix Modern Devices?Baltimore Post-Examiner

Why Are Modern Devices So Hard to Repair?

Modern electronics are impressive in terms of functionality, but they’re incredibly difficult to repair. If you’ve ever tried to open up a smartphone or a tablet, you’ve understood immediately that these were intentionally designed to be difficult to open. Inevitably, devices fail; they stop functioning as efficiently as they used to over time, or they take damage that interferes with their abilities. When this happens, owners are often forced to consider whether to muscle through the lack of functionality or buy an entirely new unit.

There are cell phone repair facilities in almost every major city, and many of them are equipped to make the complex repairs necessary to restore these devices to full working condition. But even so, your warranty may be voided if you visit one of these locations, or you may find out that your issue is beyond the skill of even the best repair person.

Why are modern devices so hard to repair in the first place?

The Complexity of Modern Devices

One possible explanation is that modern devices are simply more complex. Your smartphone has thousands of tiny components, many of which are very delicate, and they’re all tightly compacted together in a hard-to-penetrate form. This makes certain types of repairs almost impossible for anyone with unsteady hands or a lack of repair experience.

Proprietary Parts

Most companies that manufacture electronic devices deliberately attempt to limit repair options by creating proprietary parts. Instead of heading to the store and picking up a generic “screen” to replace your existing model, you have to buy a screen directly from the manufacturer. This reduces your number of available options, and usually means paying more for repairs.

Limiting Warranties

Seeking repairs with a third party or trying to do the repairs yourself often voids the manufacturer warranty. On some level, this makes sense; manufacturers don’t want to be responsible for the mistakes or mishandling of others. But it also restricts consumers from certain types of decisions.

The Cycle of Buying New Devices

Perhaps most importantly, tech companies are incentivized to keep consumers buying new devices at regular intervals. They introduce new, improved models on a regular basis and intentionally stop supporting older models after a certain number of years. This is known as “planned obsolescence,” and it’s responsible for pressuring millions of consumers to get a new device rather than fixing their old one.

Declining Numbers of Repair Shops

It’s also worth noting that the number of repair and maintenance companies in the technology sector is falling. In 1998, there were approximately 4,623 electronic repair companies operating in the United States. But in 2015, that number was down to 2,072.

There are many possible explanations for this phenomenon, especially considering the increasing number of electronic devices should have actually led to an increase in the number of repair and maintenance shops available. One explanation is that consumers are more interested in buying the latest and greatest device, rather than improving their old one. Another is that people are using YouTube and online tutorials to try and make their own repairs when possible. 3D printing and other technologies make home repairs even more accessible.

But it’s more likely that repairs shops and irreparable devices are experiencing a kind of mutually intensive feedback loop. Customers are less able to get their devices repaired (because of the aforementioned factors), so demand for repair shops declines. Repair shops begin to close, so consumers feel like they have fewer options to get their devices repaired. The cycle repeats, and we end up with just a few thousand repair options left in the United States.

Is a Change Necessary?

There are talks of improving customers’ “right to repair” their broken or obsolete devices, but current legislation doesn’t afford many consumer protections. In other countries, this isn’t always the case. For example, in 2015, France passed a law that requires manufacturers to inform customers about how long repair parts for a specific item will be available. For example, before you bought a new smartphone, you would know proactively that additional parts would only be available for the next five years; you can make your decision from there.

Some legislators in the United States have proposed more “right to repair” legislation that would mandate manufacturers to allow third-party repairs, or that would limit the planned obsolescence possible by corporations.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact roots of such a complex problem, and if you’re buying new devices every year, this may not be a problem for you at all. That said, if you’ve ever felt the frustration of owning a broken device that can’t be fixed, you’ve been a part of this issue. It remains to be seen how it can be conveniently solved, or if people are even interested in solving it.


Feature Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

About the author

I'm a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze Contact the author.

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