After Apple Slows Phones, Interest in Repair Spikes in Montana

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Skye Borden

A new survey released by Environment Montana shows that interest in additional phone repair options surged as battery issues with iPhones made headlines.

Findings show that we throw out 1,200 phones each day in Montana, highlighting need for expanded access to repair.

Missoula, Montana — A new survey released today by Environment Montana, “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 Montana residents to iPhone battery repair instructions went up 148%. 450 people from Montana viewed instructions in between Dec. 20 and Jan. 22
  • eWaste is a growing concern. Montana throws out an estimated 1,200 cell phones per day, our share of the 141 million phones tossed each year.

“Repair is good for the environment,” said Skye Borden, director of Environment Montana. “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.”

Eighteen states, but not Montana, have introduced “Right to Repair” or “Fair Repair” laws which guarantee access to the parts and tools needed for repair.

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 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.”

Environment Montana 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 Borden. “But the first thing we need to repair are our laws.”