iFixit divorces Samsung over lack of real commitment to DIY repair program

CEO tells El Reg the phone titan's 'refusal to be completely candid with us was a major factor'

iFixit and Samsung are breaking up, ending efforts to provide better tools, parts, and resources for DIY repairs that began almost two years ago.

The electronics repair outfit declared earlier today it was severing ties with the South Korean giant, saying Samsung lacked commitment to making repairs of its hardware easier.

"It's with a heavy wrench that we have decided to end our partnership with Samsung. Despite a huge amount of effort, Samsung's approach to repairability does not align with our mission," the statement reads. "As we tried to build this ecosystem we consistently faced obstacles that made us doubt Samsung's commitment to making repair more accessible."

Here's how that partnership was expected to work: Samsung would make replacement parts for its phones available, and iFixit would provide the tools and know-how to install them. Independent repair shops would also be able to get these parts and fix up people's broken kit as part of this program.

In reality, iFixit grew unhappy at the high cost and low quantity of spare parts from Samsung, which it says made repairs so expensive that users would rather buy a new phone than fix their existing model. Which would suit Samsung. Additionally, the phones weren't getting any easier to repair over time and still relied on glued-together components.

There were also other problems, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens explained to The Register. Chiefly, those independent repair shops had to sign a secret contract with Samsung to participate in the program and receive replacement parts.

That agreement, dubbed the Independent Repair Provider contract, required shops to do eyebrow-raising things such as report customers' contact and device details, as well as a description of what needed fixing, to the South Korean giant; immediately take apart those devices if any unofficial components were already inside; and tip off Samsung to the use of third-party electronics. The folks at 404media say they've got a copy of that agreement.

"We repeatedly asked Samsung for the contents of the Independent Repair Provider contract and they repeatedly refused to share it with us," Wiens told El Reg.

"We have never felt comfortable recommending Samsung's Independent Service Provider network or the Wireless Industry Service Excellence certification to independent repair shops," Wiens added. That certification, known as WISE, is a $200 training course required of repair shops to work on Samsung's phones.

"Their refusal to be completely candid with us was a major factor in our decision to stop working directly with them," Wiens continued. He also didn't appreciate that Samsung required the disclosure of customer info to order replacement components, and that buyers of parts needed to sign a statement affirming they have read the manual. Only Samsung, out of all other manufacturers, demanded this level of scrutiny, the CEO said.

iFixit said in hindsight it probably should have seen this coming. In 2021, it tried working with Samsung on a Galaxy Upcycling scheme that ended in failure on the Korean side and led to the aforementioned DIY repair partnership, which has also now fallen apart.

"We clearly didn't learn our lesson the first time, and two years ago we let them convince us they were serious about embracing repair," iFixit says.

"Samsung is committed to providing quality, accessible device care to our customers with flexible options to suit their needs, including walk-in, mail-in, and 'We Come to You' services," a Samsung spokesperson told The Register.

"For people who would like to take advantage of our self-repair program, we offer Samsung-certified parts, tools, and information for our qualified products in one easy place: SamsungParts.com, powered by Encompass. We're proud of the work we've done together with iFixit. We can't comment further on partnership details at this time."

The end of the partnership doesn't mean iFixit won't be offering resources on repairing Samsung phones; it just means the org will no longer be working with the Korean biz directly. iFixit says it will still sell components and repair kits, including original and third-party parts, and will still host manuals and repair guides.

Samsung wasn't the only tech titan that iFixit teamed up with; the biz still works with Microsoft for Surface devices and Logitech for computer mice. So far it seems those partnerships will continue, although in the future iFixit will probably have far less patience for any shenanigans its so-called friends may pull. ®

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