Repair Service’s Grazi Benedet: Improving the Electronics Repair Game
Could improving the electronics repair business help curb the e-waste problem?
As many people in or around big cities have noticed, there seems to be a growing amount of electronics repair shops opening up across the country. This is the result of a couple decades of increased sales by consumers of products that were not built to last. The reasoning goes deeper though, as the economic client and “reuse” mentality have helped people to realize going green can directly mean savings.
In particular, the phone, computer and gaming world has seen a spike in the number of services offering repairs for broken screens, water damage, software malfunctions and a variety of other things that can go wrong. Cell phones are of particular interest for repairs due to the sentimental value the product itself and the information stored within. Still, not all is peaches and cream for the tech-repair world.
Here are five significant problems that need to improve for the phone repair industry to flourish:
Cost of repairs
The cost of a repair depends on what the problem is. For stores to order parts at a reasonable price, they must look to wholesalers in China. The problem is, even from China, the cost of some parts is extremely expensive. For the iPhone 4, HTC and Motorola smartphones, the LCD display can cost close to $100. This is ridiculous. The older models of iPhone (3G, 3Gs) had the screen separated from the LCD. While this could cause dust to get in between, it makes repairs much cheaper. With those models, just because the screen cracks does not mean the LCD is harmed. So, instead of spending $150 or more to get it repaired, it only costs $60. If a repair costs more than $150, the customer will likely consider starting new.
Too many parts
The reason there are a million Apple repair stores is simple: The parts are easy to find and generally speaking less expensive than its competitors. This is because Apple does not spread the iPhone operating system out to a million different phone manufacturers. Everything is kept “in house,” so the parts needed remain consistent. There is always some variation, but compared to the Android, the iPhone keeps it incredibly simple. This makes the products easy to repair because the sheer volume is so much smaller.
Once you buy a phone, switching from one carrier to the next should not be difficult. In fact, in a perfect world, all that would be needed is a new SIM card or simply different programming. As it stands, carriers are making threats and doing all they can to keep phones from being “open” to competition. Eventually, this will change, but until then, the “jailbreak and unlock” method is the way to go. While this is legal, not everyone knows how to do it, and there is always the fear something could be broken.
DIY repairs are too hard
The growing amount of videos and manuals are very encouraging. Unfortunately, DIY repairs themselves are still very difficult for the average Joe. It does not have to be this way. It would be awesome if people knew that if they broke their phone, they could easily order a cheap part and fix it. As it stands now, most phones require and intense amount of organization and know-how that most people do not possess. Additionally, many who try end up erring and are left with a junk phone.
Many accessories that are sold don’t do much to protect the phone and can actually cause more damage. If a phone cover is not designed correctly, dirt can collect, scratching and even cracking the phone down the line. Others are just plain misleading, such as the bumpers sold for the iPhone 4. These were once called “protective” bumpers but don’t protect the iPhone at all. Seriously, not even a little.
Even by taking the “protective” out of their marketing pitch, the name “bumper” in itself is misleading. When the iPhone 4 antenna problems came about, Apple started giving these things out for free to correct the issue. While it can help with reception issues, other protective cases can help with reception as well as protect the device. Now there are a bunch of users walking around thinking they have a protected device, but this is not true in the slightest.
It is a great thing that an increase of repair shops is helping to curb the immense problem that is electronic waste (e-waste). But there is a long way to go to make them highly profitable and beneficial to the wide variety of products that exist. It all starts with the manufacturers, who need to keep both the customers and the repair shop in front of their minds. The problem is, this does not help their bottom line.
Grazi Benedet is the eCycling Consultant at the Repair Services Network, urging everyone to Save Responsibly. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.