We were delighted to help BBC Journalist LJ Rich fix her iPad last month, a saga which airs this weekend on BBC Click. Her story of over 8 hours of concentration, disappointment and suspense communicates how hard our sleek, beloved tablets are to repair.
While Apple is often the whipping boy, iFixit ratings remind us that other manufacturers can be equally bad, in fact Microsoft actually makes the least repairable tablet. It’s the glue, the fused-together parts and the precise, fiddly assembly that makes them so tough to take apart.
And it’s not just tablets that are headed this way. We’ve written about how the “march of the black boxes” may actually make community events like our Restart Parties impossible in future.
But the problem with tablets goes beyond DIY and affordable repair.
Most tablets are not in any way upgradable – consumers are locked in to the amount of memory they come with, and changing a battery can be an ordeal. In this way, their lifecycles are set by manufacturers, and they are short.
And we have a definite problem when these devices reach end of life.
In January, The Electronics Takeback Coalition delivered sobering message about tablets at CES, the world’s largest electronics trade show. In a couple of years time when today’s tablets have no resale value, because they are so hard to disassemble, the labour cost involved in opening them up in Europe and North America will mean that they actually have a negative value – in spite of the metals and resources inside. And meanwhile, China is creating what it calls the “Green Fence” to clamp down on imports of end-of-life electronics…
Will we have pay for the disassembly of toxic piles of tablets in future here in the UK? Will they end up illegally in places like Ghana and India?