How sustanaible is asking smarthphones OEMs to provide spare parts

I was reviewing the petition for " Demand the Right to Repair your smartphone".
The third point asks OEMs to “Make affordable spare parts available to all repairers and consumers”.

I wonder the consequences of this request.
For instance, automotive OEMs are requested to provide spare parts for at least a period of 10 years after they discontinue any product.
This puts a lot of pressure in the manufacturers and to some extent avoids adapting the products to the demand more quickly.

As well, I wonder the sustainability of the stock of the spare parts that this demand is asking for. In particular, for high tech products like smartphones.

What are your comments on this?

Hi, Jesus,

You raise a very good point - but it is absolutely fundamental to all hi-tech. No-one in the world (not even the guy who originally made it) can REPAIR a zapped silicon chip - and this is also true of many of the other components - so the product lifetime of all hi-tech is limited by the availability of spares.

It is extremely expensive to set up manufacturing for a batch of silicon chips - typically millions of dollars. For this reason, semiconductor manufacturers call an “all-time-buy” when they want to stop manufacturing - to give product manufacturers an opportunity to purchase all they will ever need. The quantity to purchase is usually very hard to judge. Once they have gone, the product is no longer repairable.

All integrated electronics is like this.

When the Victorians designed products (think the steam locomotive), they designed them to be repairable indefinitely, as any one component could be re-manufactured from scratch even as a one-off. To my mind, we need to re-think electronics to have this same characteristic. Steam engines will still be running when all our electronics is scrap.


Hi @Jesus_Castane,

Welcome to the community and thanks for your question!

What we are trying to address here is the availability (to everyone, not just authorised repairers) and the affordability of spare parts. Unfortunately at the moment this is not the case, and it often leads to missed opportunities: repairs that could have happened, but don’t because price/access to parts, and devices being replaced prematurely.

We’re not demanding that manufacturers take care of directly distributing all these parts directly, as this could be also done via spare parts suppliers (companies such as iFixit and eSpares, for example). Also, we’re not necessarily suggesting that smartphones parts need to be supplied for 10 years after the last unit of a product is taken out of the market.

Manufacturers can effectively predict the amount of spare parts needed for their products, and organise logistics in such a way to have them available where needed without having to manufacture a big excess. They’ll need to adapt and focus on product maintenance (and software support) for a longer period of time, rather than focusing only on the next big thing. It’s possible, and we argue highly desirable!

The issue at the moment is that some manufacturers (Apple in particular) are doing things to restrict the availability of parts. Changing the address value on a common part and restricting access to that part. Or bricking phones that have been independently repaired using parts from genuine doner phones.

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I think that the price of manufacturers being in the market is to do public good. Government police business so can insist on behaviour. Manufacturers only allowed to market certain goods if made indefinitely repairable - simple!

Central heating boilers are explicitly designed to be effectively immortal. Every part can be replaced. Often replacement parts are of better quality and\or cheaper - new spares can use technology not available when the original device was designed. Really matters as boilers can kill. There are internationally-agreed standards for heating devices, validated procedures, recognised qualifications for training etc even though it’s still an industry not a profession.

Cars are not as good but there is a growing realisation that almost any car is repairable by locally manufacturing new parts due to the wide availability of 3D printers. Old cars are being upcycled. Many cars are actually pretty identical inside, using one of several ‘platforms’ - a VW platform for example, ‘powers’ many SEAT-branded vehicles. Open source hardware is the way to go.

As restart parties grow, maybe a future for us is to help found producers of ‘print it yourself’ open source spares centred around maker spaces. So as to help government legislate that some goods are designed with ‘print your own repair’ in mind. I think producers of throwaways are polluters. The polluter to pay through schemes that survive individual bankruptcy, so actually, the industry pays. Better to not pollute in the first place.

Industry can and should invest in innovation to make immortal goods. I reckon today’s graduates are up for the challenge. Governments can make it worthwhile to manufacturer based on repairability saving the wider society the cost of picking up the pieces.

Let’s hope an entrepreneur or two founds ‘immortal’ companies (producing immortal profits) :slight_smile:

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