Surface Laptop 3 13.5Source: Windows Central

What you need to know

  • The CEO and founder of iFixit discussed how difficult it is to repair popular gadgets at a recent hearing.
  • Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung were specifically called out for making it difficult to repair smartphones, laptops, and other devices.
  • It can be difficult or impossible for third-party repairers to obtain parts and tools required to fix some devices.

Microsoft, Samsung, Apple, and other major tech companies have been called out by iFixit co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens regarding how difficult it is to repair hardware. Wiens explains that it's difficult for third-party repairers to obtain the required tools and parts to fix popular smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets.

"We've seen manufacturers restrict our ability to buy parts," said Wiens at the Productivity Commission's virtual right to repair public hearing on Monday (via ZDNet). "There's a German battery manufacturer named Varta that sells batteries to a wide variety of companies. Samsung happens to use these batteries in their Galaxy earbuds … but when we go to Varta and say can we buy that part as a repair part, they'll say 'No, our contract with Samsung will not allow us to sell that.' We're seeing that increasingly."

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Microsoft's Surface Laptop is among the devices that are difficult to repair. In fact, iFixit gave the Surface Laptop an unprecedented score of zero, which is below the company's normal range of one to 10. "It had a glued-in battery … we had to actually cut our way into the product and destroyed it in the process of trying to get inside," explained Wiens.

Microsoft isn't alone in making devices that are hard to fix. Apple has a charging chip on its MacBook Pro that's "tweaked enough that it's only required to work in this computer," according to Wiens. The CEO explains that the company that makes the charging chip is under a contractual requirement with Apple, so it won't sell the parts to third-party repairers.

In California, a recycler allegedly destroyed spare parts rather than selling them. "California Apple stops providing service after seven years, so this was at seven years and Apple [had] warehouses full of spare parts, and rather than selling that out in the marketplace — so someone like me who eagerly would've bought them — they were paying the recycler to destroy them," said Wiens.

One proposed solution to this situation is to introduce a labeling scheme similar to one introduces in France and Australia. This would inform customers about how difficult it is to repair a device. In France, a repair index applies to smartphones, laptops, televisions, washing machines, and lawnmowers.

People have also called for laws regarding the right to repair devices to change.