European Commission regulators have suggested that smartphones and tablets sold there provide 15 different types of spare parts for at least five years, as part of a broad effort to reduce their environmental impact.
A draft regulation of the “Ecodesign Requirements for Mobile Phones, Cordless Phones, and Tablets” published on August 31 states that phones and tablets are “often prematurely replaced by users” and “not sufficiently used or recycled” ( For example, junk drawer -ed) at the end of their lives. The cost is energy and new materials mined from the earth for new phones, and non-recycled materials found in homes. Extending the life of smartphones by five years — from their current usual life of two to three years — would be like taking 5 million cars off the road, according to the commission’s findings.
The most well-known proposed fix (listed in Appendix II) is for phone makers and sellers to provide “professional repairers” for a period of five years after the date the phone was removed from the market. These repairers will have access to parts including the battery, screen, cameras, charging ports, mechanical buttons, microphones, speakers, and hinged assemblies (including foldable phones and tablets).
Phone companies also get a choice: either provide phone owners with replacement batteries and back covers, or design batteries that meet minimum standards. This includes 83 percent of its rated capacity after 500 full charge cycles, and then 80 percent after 1,000 full charge cycles. Apple, for example, currently claims that its iPhones are designed to hold 80 percent capacity after 500 charge cycles.
Smartphone buyers also get access to screens, SIM and memory card racks, microphones, charging ports, and hinges under the proposed regulations. And repair instructions for all of these parts must be available for seven years after the last day of marketing of the devices, with systems relatively open for professional repair workers to register and gain access. Repair instructions should also be fairly extensive, including blown displays, board schematics, wiring, if necessary, and access to the software required to allow any parts to be locked.
There are a lot of proposed regulations, both in repair and reliability. Of particular note is the requirement that companies provide security updates for at least five years, and “function updates” for three years, both of which were offered two to four months after the public release of security patches or “updated the operating system itself… on any product.” Another from the same brand.” For Android vendors, this would be a seismic shift in software support.
Smartphone regulations in Europe have been pushed progressively forward in recent years, with initiatives such as the Repairability Assessment in France and the adoption of USB-C nationwide by 2024. But the Commission’s draft regulations would override even the most aggressive targets of the US right-to- reform movement. Repair invoices filed at the state and federal levels typically require manufacturers to provide the same parts, tools, and manuals that they would provide to repair technicians or licensed stores. Apple, Samsung, and Google recently moved to offer more parts and repair options, but nowhere near the scope of the commission’s proposed regulations.
Comments on proposals will be collected between now and September 28. A version of these proposals is due for adoption in the last quarter of 2022, most of which are written to become effective 12 months after approval.
It’s still too early to comment, but manufacturers aren’t excited about mandatory overhaul considerations.
Technology trading group Digital Europe told the Financial Times that “potential overproduction and subsequent warehousing and parts destruction” would lead to wastage and higher prices for customers.
Xiaomi Netherlands provided feedback on the broader goals of the European Commission initiative in January 2021. While recognizing the importance of software updates, “OS support often relies on third parties who may sometimes fail to provide software versions that are compatible with the software,” wrote one representative. All versions of the operating system are preserved.
Xiaomi also stated that the repair “must be within our authorized repair network and use original spare parts” to ensure “quality and reliability”. Providing parts and manuals to “professional third-party repairers whose level of technical skill, repair time and cost as well as success rate is “unknown” would result in “serious risks to consumers in terms of quality, safety and security.”
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