Apple and Samsung tussle over whose gizmos are hardest to fix
Chromebooks earn 'Least Likely to Survive a Screwdriver' award
The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has published a study showing that Apple has work to do to make its laptops more easily repairable. At the same time, Samsung snatched the bottom place when it comes to cellphone repairability.
It wasn't all bad news for Apple, however. Mac laptops were graded bottom by PIRG for repairability, yet its phones improved markedly thanks in part to advances in dismantling the devices.
The grades in non-profit PIRG's research are calculated from several criteria: the availability of documentation, the simplicity of taking the device apart, and the availability and cost of spare parts (relative to the cost of the product itself). PIRG also removed points if manufacturers were members of organizations that resisted Right to Repair demands.
With laptops, the findings were not pretty. PIRG noted that the average disassembly score had dropped from 7.5 last year to 7.3 this year, indicating that modern designs are getting harder to get into.
The outlier, however, was Apple. Although its computers had improved slightly compared to the previous year – in fact, it registered the largest grade increase, according to PIRG – it still trailed all other manufacturers in the report. A drop in Dell's disassembly score meant that Acer was able to take the top spot.
Worse than laptops were Chromebooks. The software lifespan of the devices has increased, but PIRG noted that the average repair score was lower than for all other laptops. The organization said: "While often considered an affordable choice for individuals or schools, Chromebooks are on average less repairable than other laptops."
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Cellphones, on the other hand, showed signs of improvement, according to PIRG's figures. Apple trailed the pack in terms of laptops, yet it was second only to Motorola when it came to making iPhones more repairable. It is worth noting, however, that iFixit recently lowered the iPhone's repairability score over Apple's insistence on parts pairing.
Samsung was let down on its cellphone repairability mainly due to a woeful disassembly score. The score, which climbed a little, was dwarfed by Apple's improvements.
Despite some movements in the scores, there is a sense that all manufacturers can do better.
PIRG is a member of the Right to Repair coalition, which includes iFixit, and believes that repairability should be a factor in consumer purchasing decisions. It's not alone; France requires that manufacturers publish a repairability score for their products, and regulations around the Right to Repair elsewhere in the EU are set to be finalized in 2024.
The movement in the US has been moving along for some time, with the Right to Repair Act and the Delete Act signed into law in California last December.
PIRG recently petitioned Microsoft to extend the life of Windows 10 to avoid millions of perfectly functional devices being sacrificed on the altar of the Windows 11 hardware requirements. ®