New Report Shows What Minnesotans Tried to Fix in 2020, and the Barriers They Still Face

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Timothy Schaefer

6 of the top 10 manufacturers of consumer electronics don’t provide necessary parts and information to perform basic repairs.

Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center

Minneapolis, MN — Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center released a new report today, “What are Minnesotans Fixing?” which compiles data from the popular repair instruction website about what items people in Minnesota were fixing the most in 2020. The report also takes a closer look at the broader repair ecosystem that causes Minnestoans to throw away 6,500 cell phones per day. The report examines these repair barriers that make it harder than it should be to perform basic repairs and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the things we were fixing. 

Some of the key findings include:

  • iFixit had 948,000 unique visitors from Minnesota last year, which is nearly 1 in 6 Minnesotans.

  • The most popular products people tried to fix were cell phones, laptops, automobiles, gaming consoles, and desktop computers. While cell phones were most popular in previous years, more Minnesotans were fixing laptops in 2020. 

  • People tried to fix more gaming consoles in 2020 compared to past years, seeking entertainment while at home. 

  • Of the 10 most popular manufacturers of consumer electronics, 6 don’t provide access to spare parts or technical service information such as a schematic. 

  • Many repair shops noted an uptick in business during the pandemic, and higher demand for work-from-home devices including laptops and webcams.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has both caused financial hardships for too many Americans and encouraged people at home to find constructive things to keep them busy. That confluence of events has Minnesotans trying to save money and fix their own stuff, rather than throwing things out or paying for someone else to repair it,” said Tim Schaefer, State Director of Environment Minnesota. “Unfortunately, some manufacturers don’t make it easy for anyone to repair their electronics, blocking access to parts, tools, software or other critical repair information. We should have the right to repair our own devices.”

The report highlights the need for “Right to Repair” reforms, which would require manufacturers to make parts and service information available. Twenty states introduced Right to Repair legislation in 2020 and several have already filed bills in 2021. 

Minnesotans searched most often on iFixit for Apple products and battery replacement for both laptops and cell phones. While many Minnesotans were able to use those online guides to fix things themselves, others relied on experts at local fix-it shops.

“We actually did better during the pandemic than we ever have,” said Bryan Harwell, owner of Replay’d, an electronics repair shop in Allston, MA. Harwell, along with other repair shop owners, saw increases in repairs for gaming consoles and laptops as people spent more time at home.

People also relied on their devices more than ever before as one of the few ways to stay connected. “We used to repair devices, now we repair lifelines,” said Andrew Harding, owner of Salem Techsperts.