back to article Got some broken tech? Super Cali's trinket fix-it law brought into focus

Lawmakers in the US state of California are mulling proposed rules that would force electronics makers to allow people to repair devices themselves. The draft Right to Repair Act, introduced by Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would require manufacturers to publish repair guides and diagnostics and offer …

Anonymous Coward

Hoorah !

"The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, a practice that was taken for granted a generation ago but is now becoming increasingly rare in a world of planned obsolescence," Eggman said of the legislation.

Am I missing something - or do we have a politician talking common sense here?

Let's hope all other jurisdictions around the world introduce similar legislation, and that it is extended beyond consumer electronics to include eveything like washing machines, fridges, and even cars, which are quickly becoming throw-away or manufacturer only entire unit replacements.

52
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hoorah !

I hope it goes well. The actual repair people I've seen comment on it (Ok, just the 1), are sceptical. They assume it will be exploited, just as everything else is.

12
0
vir
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

"This battery is no longer compatible with the latest version of iOS. Please upgrade to iBattery 2019."

12
2
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

Unless it mandates a repairable design then it's all for naught.

Getting out the heat gun to peel the screen off and dismantle half the innards to change the battery takes quite a while if you don't want to leave the phone looking like a mess, which makes the repair uneconomical.

12
0

Re: Hoorah !

Speaking for The Repair Association, which I lead, we've worked hard to recommend legislative wording that should constrain most of the bad behavior we see in the marketplace. Some OEMS will undoubtedly attempt to get around any statutes -- but the beauty of state laws is that they do not all have to match. Weaknesses in one state law can be fixed by another -- and so on until the task is complete.

29
0

Re: Hoorah !

Not all repairs will be practical or economical under Right to Repair -- but the OPTION is essential. Apple is only the poster-child for destructive repair monopolies. We're all going to need the option to buy parts, tools, get service diagrams and restore firmware for our digital widgets.

25
2

Re: Hoorah !

The beauty of legislation in States is that there are 50 places to play. Whatever games OEMS play in one state can be fixed by another. It might take a few states to lock down all the bullies, but it will happen.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

"Am I missing something - or do we have a politician talking common sense here?"

The fact that a bill is needed in the first place just tells me that politicians have been asleep at the wheel for too long to get into the situation in the first place. Where possible I try to avoid buying stuff for which I can't find a service manual.

"Let's hope all other jurisdictions around the world introduce similar legislation,"

Here in the UK it seems to be less of a problem than in the US other than for US imports like Apple and their ilk.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

Let me preface this with a disclaimer: I'm a weirdo who doesn't value my own time nearly as highly as I should. I know, admit, and accept this.

Frankly, time-economical or not, I'd probably be inclined to repair my phone myself every single time it broke provided I could get replacement parts for less than the cost of replacing the whole thing. What has kept me from doing so thus far are the dual facts that I'm usually ready to upgrade by the time I need to do any repairs anyway and on the rare occasion that hasn't been the case I've not been able to get parts for a halfway decent price.

9
1
Silver badge

"Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

Maybe check out ifixit.com's repairability ratings before making that claim? iPhones are easier to fix yourself (especially as far as battery replacement) than many popular Android phones like Samsung Galaxy. I swapped the battery on my girlfriend's iPhone last fall, took less than 10 minutes and I'd only done it once before on a different model years before.

If you want to be able to pop the back off and swap batteries, well, there are still some phones out there that will let you do that, but making that a law would be stupid. I am glad the days of having a loose battery door on my KRZR that kept falling off are in the past! Besides, the only things practical to fix/replace in any phone are the battery and display. How are you going to replace a bad wifi chip, or flash with too many bad sectors, when they're microsoldered onto a board with a lot of other stuff?

I await the inevitable downvotes for daring to say something against Reg reader's strange obsession with going back in time to battery doors.

8
10
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

Strange obsession with not having to pay whatever the manufacturer wants, or declare it unfixable and your only solution is a new one, or destroying the environment with an avalanche of landfill? You're right, it's madness.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

> I await the inevitable downvotes for daring to say something against Reg reader's strange obsession with going back in time to battery doors.

I actually agree with you, and have said so here before (and accepted the downvotes). I do not need a battery that can be replaced in 10 seconds via a pop-off door.

What I would not accept, though, is needing to fully dismantle the phone and break out the hot air gun and soldering iron.

There is a happy medium, involving 20 minutes, a few screws (or clippy catches) and a micro JST connector, which would allow replacing of a dying battery easily, without requiring the design compromises of a "user replaceable" battery.

Since this compromise is rare, and since it is difficult to assess before buying a phone, I've always ended up with phones with a replaceable battery (Moto Gs of various generations, a Wileyfox Swift, an old HTC etc).

8
1
Silver badge

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

"I await the inevitable downvotes for daring to say something against Reg reader's strange obsession with going back in time to battery doors."

The downvotes will probably be for failing to actually read the comment you're ranting against, which actually read "Apple is only the poster-child for destructive repair monopolies." - ie. Apple is often named as one of the worse offenders, but if far from the only one that engages in such behaviour. In other words, the exact opposite of what you apparently decided it said to the extent you actually changed it for your title instead of just copy and pasting.

6
1

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies" @DougS

"I await the inevitable downvotes for daring to say something against Reg reader's strange obsession with going back in time to battery doors"

Well, in the 20 or so years, and six or seven phones I've had (I don't change them often, and many of them have been second-hand), I've never had a battery "door" come off. Most, if not all, required the entire back to come off, usually requiring incantations and dead chickens to do it smoothly. I admit that all my phones have lived (and four of them still live) in leather cases, and I rarely, if ever, drop a phone. So I've given you a down vote because I don't see why I should lose the convenience of swapping out batteries easily just because some people don't look after their phones.

8
1
Silver badge

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

needing to fully dismantle the phone and break out the hot air gun and soldering iron

The problem is form and function. The market wants phones to be thinner and lighter yet to be more powerful and have better battery life.

The end result is a mass of tightly-packed components with little room for traditional screw-type fasteners (since they can come loose and then the phone falls apart).

2
2
Silver badge
Windows

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

DougS

"inevitable downvotes for daring to say something against Reg reader's strange obsession with going back in time to battery doors.

"replaceable" does *not* require a "battery door". I'd be quite happy if dismantling the phone was a 4/6 microscrew option and required some mental oomph to get the battery out (such as the LG SWMBO has) rather than having to tear down the phone to basic parts, use a heat gun and have appropriate glue handy. Who said damn thing about doors?

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

Unless it mandates a repairable design then it's all for naught.

So socketted DIP chips for your next phone.

0
3
Silver badge

Re: "Apple is the only poster child for destructive repair monopolies"

"How are you going to replace a bad wifi chip, or flash with too many bad sectors, when they're microsoldered onto a board with a lot of other stuff?"

This isn't as difficult as people assume. It is a skill that takes a bit of practice, but it's easy enough that in many countries there are street vendors who will do it right there in front of you. So while it's not the sort of thing that your average user would do, it is the sort of thing that can be done economically by a small business in a strip mall, for example.

I've made such repairs myself (on my bench, not on the street.)

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

"Repairable design" does not mean it has to be socketed DIP chips. It means having access to the information that you need in order to repair the thing, the absence of mechanisms and software specifically intended to prevent repairs, and the ability to open the device up without destroying it.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

SMD boards are pretty easy to fix if they don't have any heat sensitive components that were soldered on by hand. Laptops may have some but cellphones are just too tiny for such work. Rework stations are small enough and inexpensive enough that, with a skilled user, they could show up at a mall phone repair stand. It's a programmable hotplate and small programmable hot air wand. The hotplate is set a few degrees below the solder's melting point and the air wand a bit above it. Any component under the hot air wand can be added and removed with tweezers. Maybe a bit of flux and solder paste is needed on the new parts. After that, it's booting the phone with the secret button pinch to put it into low-level firmware programming mode to restore any data missing on the new chips.

Of course, phone makers can ruin this by using those RF shields that are both mechanically latched and soldered.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Hoorah !

"Let me preface this with a disclaimer: I'm a weirdo who doesn't value my own time nearly as highly as I should. I know, admit, and accept this."

The mistake many people make is thinking that value=money and discounting the educational value, the fun and the sheer sense of satisfaction at doing stuff for yourself. That sort of value doesn't translate into cash. Obviously different people value different things in many different ways. I really could never be arsed to go play football or rugby every weekend like some do, or cycle rides etc.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

From the article:

though some of these, like a bill proposed in New York, have been defeated by tech industry lobbying.

And exactly how do tech industry execs like Tim Cook have the nerve to make big public product launches whilst keeping a straight face with this kind of our-job-is-to-screw-every-cent-from-you attitude being publicly displayed by such lobbying?

If this kind of law became commonplace, there is no reason why they couldn't turn upgrades, repairs, spares into a money-spinner. It's very clear that no one has any idea what the next mega feature should be, or why anyone would now buy a new phone when the existing one does everything anyway.

So if selling new phones becomes increasingly difficult, perhaps selling spares or upgrades to existing users is the way to keep selling hardware. Want a new camera with better resolution? Why not just buy the module instead of buying a whole new phone?

This might appeal to the high end enthusiast.

16
0
Anonymous Coward

And exactly how do tech industry execs like Tim Cook have the nerve to make big public product launches whilst keeping a straight face with this kind of our-job-is-to-screw-every-cent-from-you attitude being publicly displayed by such lobbying?

Because that's what he's paid to do? Apple investors (the people who own the company) want him to make as much profit as possible. If he won't grow the profits, they'll find somebody else willing to try.

Spares and repairs have always been an area where the original manufacturer tries to rip off customers. Not just in tech. Panasonic bread makers have replacement mixing pans that its often uneconomic to replace. Bosch hand blender spares are so expensive that it is often better to buy a complete new device. Branded car spares are often a rip off - especially if the badge on the car is Nissan.

0
0
Silver badge

"Apple investors (the people who own the company) want him to make as much profit as possible."

Sortof. Most shareholders (day-traders excepted) don't often want to see "as much profit as possible" if that profit comes at the cost of the health of the business in the future. What shareholders really want to see is the business growing and staying healthy, and tend to value growth over immediate profits.

Generally, the notion that the CEO's job is to maximize profit above all else is not true. The reality is more complex than that.

1
0
Facepalm

Knock Knock Knock

Hello... May I help you

Man at door: Are you Susan Talamantes Eggman?

Yes I am

Hi, we're from Apple. Here's a suitcase full of money, please kill that bill.

Oh, Thank you very much.

19
1
Silver badge

Re: Knock Knock Knock

Exactly what I was thinking.

I am sure the lobbyists are circling with election campaign funds for those that oppose the bill.

America where we have the best government that money can buy...

21
0
Silver badge

Re: Knock Knock Knock

America where we have the best government that money can buy...

Which, by it's very nature implies that all your[1] politicians are crooks - or at least corrupt.

[1] Ours are too - just in a slightly more obscured way. No up-front money, just the prospect of nice non-exec directorships when they leave office.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Knock Knock Knock

Hi, we're from Apple. Here's a suitcase full of money, please kill that bill.

Why? Apple can offer to repair the phone for a fee they like at one of their stores

While blocking imports of all phones that don't have any instate approved repair facilities and parts suppliers as required by the bill

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Knock Knock Knock

Which, by it's very nature implies that all your politicians are crooks - or at least corrupt.

If you ever find a non-crooked, non-corrupt politician who has attained any level of power make sure you take a picture. They won't stay that way for long. Either the power will corrupt them, as it is wont to do, or they'll get knocked down by other politicians who play dirty.

1
1

Sounds fine, but:

Anything in the legislation to prevent available spares from being prohibitively priced?

22
0
Silver badge

Re: Sounds fine, but:

I seem to remember reading that Henry Ford said something along the lines of:

I will give everyone in the US a car on the condition that they come to me for parts and servicing.

He knew where the money was to be made...

14
0

Re: Sounds fine, but:

This is how the automobile industry works. The profit on a new car sale is small and one time, the profit on a used car sale is larger and but one time, repair and maintenance is more profitable and recurring. Well, until the customer realizes that the dealer is probably trying to take advantage of them...

8
0

Re: Sounds fine, but:

Yes !! The bill includes a provision that pricing is to be Fair and Reasonable with a series of tests of how Fair and Reasonable is to be determined. This bit is copied exactly from the Automotive Right to Repair Agreement just taking effect now in Model Year 2018.

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Sounds fine, but:

In practical terms, the only repair likely to be made, for nearly all owners, will be the battery. These should be generic enough that if the OEM prices them to high other manufacturer will compete.

Shame on those pushing this law if they did not think of that and include language to head it off. On the other hand, the US Supreme Court in Impression v. Lexmark (581 U.S. 1523 (2017)), gives potential competitors some legal backing.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Sounds fine, but:

...repair and maintenance is more profitable and recurring

Which is why any time I buy a new car I go out and buy a $75-$100 book to go with it. One thing I love about the automotive industry: it's not all that hard to get the parts at the same price that the mechanics pay, and it's not terribly difficult to learn enough to do all the basic repairs yourself. Anything too big for me to fix by myself over a weekend is probably enough of a problem to justify replacing the whole car anyway.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Sounds fine, but:

In practical terms, the only repair likely to be made, for nearly all owners, will be the battery

You're forgetting screens. These days batteries have gotten good enough that broken screens are more common than flat batteries.

0
0
Silver badge

John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

"Many of the leading states are agricultural hotbeds like Nebraska, Iowa, and Oklahoma, where farmers have been fighting against restrictive repair policies on the embedded hardware used in farm equipment."

This would make a good article in its own right.

Farmers are using cracked diagnostic software from Ukraine so they can fix their John Deeres.

A senator in some state - can't remember which...maybe Nebraska? - proposed a right to repair bill focused on farm machinery. Apple turned up to some small-town meeting to lobby against the bill.

21
1

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

"Farmers are using cracked diagnostic software from Ukraine so they can fix their John Deeres."

I don't know if they do that or not. But I remember the complaints were the new John Deeres and other high tech farm equipment would pop a need service notice and only the local brand dealer would be able to check that it was just an air filter or some such easy for farmer to replace item that he could have spares of to keep his operation moving. And when bad weather is due in a few hours a farmer gets cranky for any down time that might delay finishing planting or harvesting for a week or more.

18
0

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

Consolidation in the farm machinery dealer arena is also driving up prices for service in rural areas. Less competition if the same guy owns every authorized repair place in 50 miles.

9
0

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

Farmers are using non-John Deere software is a fact. See this recent documentary by Motherboard for some insight into the reality of having a monopoly on repair. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/pamkqn/watch-tractor-hacking-john-deere-right-to-repair-documentary

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

Being from California, one could argue that Stockton is our version of Iowa. (Bakersfield... definitely Oklahoma.)

1
0
Silver badge

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

@Jim Mitchell:"Consolidation in the farm machinery dealer arena is also driving up prices for service in rural areas. Less competition if the same guy owns every authorized repair place in 50 miles."

That was the point made in one interview I read. The dealer consolidated all repair work to a central location, so when a piece of machinery broke you couldn't even get a local guy to come out. The choice was to pay a huge callout charge, or pay a huge amount to send the machinery to the repair center and back on a trailer.

Who's got the time or money for that?

2
1
Silver badge
Windows

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

oh look

A Register article that might be interesting reading.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

Speaking as someone who spent my teen-aged summers working on my grandpa's farm, spent a couple summers during my college years on another farm, then grew up and married a farm girl, I can't imagine any farmer I know buying a tractor that they couldn't repair themselves. Maybe a corporate farm could manage to have the professionals do all their repairs, but they generally hire their own mechanics for that. All the farmers I personally know are still running family owned farms. They'd go bankrupt in under 5 years if they couldn't do the work on their tractors themselves. And as much as those things cost they've got to get decades worth of work out of them to break even.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: John Deere and Apple Make For Strange Bedfellows

I can't imagine any farmer I know buying a tractor that they couldn't repair themselves

That's why the major manufacturers don't want to sell tractors. They lease them, with restrictions including those against unauthorized repair work.

For the US, at least, I understand there's been a fair bit of consolidation. CNH own both Case and New Holland. ARGO own McCormick and a bunch of other brands. AGCO own Challenger and Massey Ferguson. So

0
0

"Super Cali makes a fix-it law come into focus"

*standing ovation*

8
1
Silver badge

Re: "Super Cali makes a fix-it law come into focus"

While you are clapping, I went to a Mary Poppins-themed restaurant last night.

Super cauliflower cheese, but lobster quite atrocious

14
0

Re: "Super Cali makes a fix-it law come into focus"

Well, um-tiddle-iddle-iddle, um-tiddle-eye

0
0
Anonymous Coward

This article is lacking walrus. Goo goo g'joob

2
0
Angel

Hat doffed for the head and sub. Superb.

3
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018