Recharge Repair

A survey looking at the rise in battery replacement requests and self-repair interest in response to news breaking that Apple was slowing down older phones to preserve battery life.
Released by: Environment Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN -- A new survey released today by Environment Minnesota, “Recharge Repair,” found a surge in consumer demand for phone repair following the revelation Apple was slowing phones with older batteries. “Recharge Repair” identifies the barriers to battery replacement and phone repair that added to long repair delays for consumers. The findings support the need for Right to Repair reforms to grant consumers and third parties access to the parts and tools to repair cell phones and other electronics.

Among the findings were:

  • We surveyed 164 independent repair businesses nationally who reported a 37% increase in weekly battery replacement service requests since Dec. 20

  • Self-repair interest surged as well – traffic from Minnesota residents to iPhone battery repair instructions went up 173%. 3,246 people from Minnesota viewed instructions in between Dec. 20 and Jan. 22.

  • eWaste is a growing concern. Minnesota throws out an estimated 6,500 cell phones per day, our share of the 141 million phones tossed each year.

“Repair is good for the environment,” said Timothy Schaefer, Director of Environment Minnesota. “Fixing something --instead of throwing it away to buy something new-- reduces needless waste. Repair should also be the easier and more affordable choice but companies use their power to make things harder to repair. This survey shows that people are clearly looking for more options to repair their phones.”

18 states, including Minnesota, have introduced “Right to Repair” or “Fair Repair” laws which guarantee access to the parts and tools needed for repair. A hearing was held on Jan. 19 on the bill, which is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy. Specifically, SF 15 would require manufacturers of digital electronics products to make service parts and repair information available to independent repair facilities and owners of products, just as they are already available to "authorized repair providers."

In December, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. They defended this tactic by saying it was intended to reduce performance issues, but had many people wondering if Apple was covertly pushing people to upgrade to a new phone. Regardless of intent, these issues are resolved by replacing the battery – a battery which Apple doesn’t currently make available to customer or third-party repair businesses.

“These companies go to extraordinary lengths to keep people from repairing their devices. They glue parts to the casing so they can’t be removed, they refuse to sell replacement parts, they digitally lock devices to prevent third party repair,” said Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne. “Apple is telling some people they can’t fix their batteries until April. Certainly, there are people with easily fixable phones who will get new ones instead of waiting. Why won’t they just sell their original batteries to other repair businesses? This problem would be over in a few days.”

As part of the survey, Eric Freeberg of Eric's Computer Service, Minnesota, said, "One customer with an iPhone 7 took the trip up to the Mall of America to go to the Apple Store, waited over an hour just to be waited on. After the tech took almost 30 mins looking at the device in their backroom, they were told Apple could not fix the device and for approximately $130 they could switch to a certified refurbished iPhone 7, and all of their info and settings would simply transfer over to the new device. We found out about the customer through a friend-of-a friend, ordered the new battery and had them back up and running in a few days."

Environment Minnesota supports Right to Repair reforms because they reduce waste by limiting companies abilities to push customers to toss products that still have life.

“We should be free to fix our stuff. People are resourceful, they can find ways to fix things and keep them from going to waste, ending up as pollution in a landfill,” said Schaefer. “But the first things we need to repair are our laws.”