April 17, 2024

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The next big must-have phone feature? DIY repair

Doing a high-tech demonstration in front of a live audience of journalists is always a risky move on the part of a technology company. You can almost guarantee that the technology will fail at the exact moment it needs it to perform at its best.

But not this time. Nokia’s head of product marketing, Adam Ferguson, made the rather brave and bold move of replacing the battery in one of the company’s three new budget phones right on camera, all the while providing the knowledgeable press with running commentary of exactly what he was doing and why it’s so important. .

Ferguson promised it would take him less than 5 minutes to complete the battery transplant, and though we could argue a few seconds either way, he basically proved he’s a man of his word.

“If someone like me—not particularly good with his hands, as you probably saw from some of my shaky dealings there—can do it while talking to you all, I hope that makes it quite clear that anyone can,” he told us during the demo, which happened roughly , in the week leading up to Mobile World Congress.

The Nokia G22, which is now up and running after major surgery performed by an amateur before our eyes, was built with repairability at its core. Thanks to a partnership with tech repair company iFixit, owners of this phone, which was announced at MWC in Barcelona on Saturday, will be provided with guides and support for fix their phones themselves When the time comes. All they will need is a guitar pick and a #00 screwdriver.

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It puts Nokia, which isn’t even in the top five global smartphone brands, at the top of the game this week at the world’s largest mobile show, where sustainability is a key theme. In the context of global climate crisisThe problem of e-waste has become a growing concern for technology companies and consumers. Ensuring that the products we use have a long life and are not easily discarded once our batteries start to fail is an essential step in reducing the environmental impact of our technology use.

“We’re already seeing people holding onto their phones for longer,” Stephen Moore said in an interview in the run-up to Mobile World Congress. Moore is the head of climate action at mobile industry body GSMA, which hosts MWC. He said the average lifespan of a smartphone has already stretched from two to three years. In addition, he added, people are showing more interest in having their phones repaired, and are open to buying refurbished models in the first place.

Nokia is not the first to do so. Since 2013, Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise, has focused on trying to make modular phones with a smaller environmental footprint. Since last April, Apple has also been supporting people who want to take care of DIY repairs on their iPhones, through Self-service repair program.

But now the difference is that DIY repairs are starting to shift from being a niche feature to being an important main feature of new phones. “As consumers increasingly demand more sustainable and longer-lasting devices, the ability to easily and affordably repair smartphones will become a key differentiator in the market,” Ben Wood, senior analyst at CCS Insight, said in a statement.

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Nokia may not be pioneering the reform trend, but it’s embracing the practice at a key time. This year at MWC, sustainability is at the fore, as companies across the mobile landscape seek to reduce their environmental impact in line with GSMA’s goal of the mobile industry reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Any phone manufacturer that doesn’t show up to the show this year with a well-trained set of arguments about why they don’t control their device repair options should be willing to face criticism, Emma Mohr-McClone, senior analyst and lead practice at analysis firm Global Data, said in a statement.

“For the time being, operators are moving away from this argument, but at some point operators will start to demand more choices in this regard,” she added.

As pressure mounts from consumers and from other areas of the mobile industry, it will be up to phone manufacturers to respond by making it easier to replace device parts like batteries and screens, which often take the brunt of long-term use. But it’s important that they don’t neglect software as part of that conversation, too.

When OnePlus released OnePlus 11 Earlier this month, it extended support to up to four years of Android updates and an additional fifth year of security updates. Without the promise of long-term security updates like this, a decent phone could become unusable.

Nor does a good forward-proofing diminish the responsibility of phone makers to ensure devices are already as sustainable as possible before they get into your hands.

According to Moore, 80% of a mobile phone’s environmental footprint has already occurred before it’s been taken out of the box. “This really means we need to look at the actual embodied emissions and environmental impact inside the device,” he said.

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The long-term vision for future phones, as laid out in November’s GSMA strategy paper, is that one day our devices will be ours It will be recycled and 100% recyclable.as well as made from 100% renewable energy.

“No device right now fits that description, but we’re already seeing really promising signals from some manufacturers on this,” Moore said. “There’s a lot the industry can do [and] I think we’re only at the beginning.”