Environmental group Greenpeace has rated more than 40 devices from a wide array of manufacturers for repairability in partnership with iFixit, a San Luis Obispo, California-based company that specializes in repair parts and guides. The assessment graded smartphones, along with tablets and laptops, launched between 2015 and 2017, with 17 brands representing the ratings including Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and Fairphone. The devices were rated according to the ease of replacing their battery and display as well as the availability of spare parts and repair guides. Devices that have gained a high score, with 10 as the highest and 1 as the lowest, are products that are easier to disassemble and have readily available service manual. Factors considered in the rating include the ease of opening the device, types of fasteners used inside, difficulty of replacing the major parts, upgradability, modularity of parts, and use of non-proprietary tools.
The results show that most new phones have lower repairability scores than the older ones. On the other hand, modular smartphones have garnered the highest score, and it’s not hard to understand why. The Fairphone 2, in particular, scored 8 for repairability and availability of replacement parts and repair manuals. The modular device is also rated as the most user-friendly in iFixit’s assessment since it does not require any tool to open the case when replacing the battery, camera, display and microphone. Another set of devices that fared well in the rating includes the LG G4 and G5, garnering a score of 8 for the ease of replacing their battery. LG also gained a high rating for the availability of repair manuals for removing the battery from the LG G53 in the form of video. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 also received an iFixit score of 8, though it has no available spare parts or repair guide.
On the other hand, iFixit rated Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge poorly (3/10) for the lack of repair manuals. While spare parts are available from Samsung’s website, there are no available batteries for the new models of both devices. Also, iFixit noted that it is more difficult to replace the battery than necessary due to the tough adhesive and a glued-on rear panel. The Galaxy S8, which was recently rated as extremely difficult to repair, gained a score of 4 in iFixit's latest ratings, indicating no major improvements in its repairability. According to iFixit, electronic devices must be more sustainable. The repair specialist noted that electronics can consume a huge volume of natural resources, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and use massive energy during their lifespan.