One of our regular readers asked that we look into the pitfalls of smartphone repairs. To which I responded tell me more of what you want to know?

The question basically came down to are third-party smartphone repairers safe? The answer is “How long is a piece of string?” So begins a ‘discussion’ on the pitfalls of smartphone repairs that raises some of the issues you should be aware of.

Smartphone repairs are almost an oxymoron these days

Certain manufacturers (Apple we are looking at you) seem hell-bent on keeping the lucrative repair business in-house or to approved repairers. Whether it’s the infamous #error53, iOS slowing down older phones, or now #batterygate Apple is protecting its walled garden.

But Apple’s take is equally valid. “We design them, we know how best to fix them, and we only use genuine parts that won’t cause issues.”

smartphone repairs

Warranty – ACL takes care of that

Fact is that any smartphone brand selling in Australia via Telcos or legitimate retailers must provide reasonable access to its own support facilities or contract to a reputable network of repairers.

At present, there is no legal mandate to supply third-party repairers with parts or diagnostics. Using a third-party repairer or non-genuine parts will void any warranty.

Some brands offer extended ‘care’ insurance like Apple Care+. Here it is strictly Russian Roulette – will I break a screen or not? Apple makes a fortune capitalising on fear and uncertainty and playing the law of averages that revenue exceeds claims.

Or some retailers offer so-called extended warranties that are not worth the paper they are written on. Australian Consumer Law (ACL) covers warranty rights, especially for higher-value smartphones, and manufacturer warranties are a supplement not a replacement for it.

Under ALC  goods must be “fit for purpose” for normal usage and meet the promises made in marketing and promotional material. There’s no time limit, but these guarantees only apply for “the amount of time that is reasonable to expect, given the cost and quality of the item” (source: ACCC Warranties and refunds guide).

But here is the rub – if you buy from a grey marketer ACL cannot protect you.

What are third-party repairs?

Third-party repairers are, by and large, denied genuine parts, repair manuals and diagnostic software, having to use freely available second-hand or non-genuine parts and their own know-how.

GadgetGuy asked several mall ‘kiosks’ if they use genuine parts, and the answer was a unanimous NO. Further, we asked about repair staff training and qualifications the answer was ‘on the job’ and ‘have a valid visa’.

While all have fancy printed signs with manufacturer’s logos – none are accredited. We won’t be using these mall repairers.

smartphone repairs

GadgetGuy regularly publishes information from our friends and iFixit.

Its CEO, Kyle Wiens, says the Apple iPhone is the most frequently searched device primarily for consumers seeking battery or screen replacement.

“That’s because everybody values the device. Nobody throws away an iPhone because the battery is worn out. But Apple leaves such a gaping void in the market. They don’t sell batteries; they sell expensive Apple Care+ Insurance, so people turn to other lower-cost channels.

The bottom line is that Apple has little interest in extending the life of its devices – it would rather sell a new one. Its products remain throw-away items. Recyclers and refurbishers are the ones making money on old metal. But here is the rub – a four+-year-old Apple will need an expensive battery replacement, so it’s not worth a cent!

Right to Repair should be a fundamental right

Kyle says Apple didn’t invent planned obsolescence but nor has it embraced the “Right to Repair’. For instance, at the bottom of the iPhone are two proprietary screws that Apple won’t sell you the screwdrivers for. So Kyle made his own (and now sells them).