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Today, we talk to Rob Kerr from Lovefone – an independent mobile repair store – about the relationship between manufacturers and repairers.
The appetite for smartphone repairs is growing: recently Carphone Dixons reported a decrease in sales due to people holding on to their phones for longer (bad news for them; great news for repairers… and for the planet!). Third-party repairers have always been crucial in absorbing much of the need for screen repair, as devices become increasingly fragile. But recently, reports of third party spare parts potentially making devices vulnerable to hacking leads us to question what the future holds for accessing parts and repair services. Will this be all playing into the hands of manufacturers who want to ensure that repair business stays in-house?
“Repair used to be a noble industry, and manufacturers have turned it into a grubby, dirty word”, says Rob. But businesses like Lovefone are fighting back their tactics, and earning the trust of a solid client base. A new generation of these shops is emerging, which prioritise good customer service, use quality spare parts, provide warranties and ongoing support, and employ local people.
Lovefone are advocates for the revival of the commercial repair sector: they offer walk-in 30-minute repair services at affordable prices, and provide a lifetime warranty on repairs done by their technicians. They have even experimented with tiny repair shops in old London phoneboxes (“Lovefoneboxes”), hoping to draw attention towards how easy it is to get something fixed instead of throwing it away.
As well as doing professional fixes on phones at affordable rates and sourcing spare parts responsibly, Lovefone uses refurbished screens, giving a new life to cracked screens, and recently started refurbishing iPhones. The refurbishing process is environmentally sound: it provides an alternative to sending old phones to landfill and produces very little waste. It also allows phones to be sold at more affordable prices, and each device comes with a two-year warranty.
But the attempt of manufacturers to undermine independent repair shops is not the only challenge they are facing. Rob sees less and less people applying for repairers jobs in the first place, possibly linked to Brexit reducing the chance of skilled European repairers moving to the UK. The good news is that according to Lovefone there are actually more repair jobs than repairers applying for them. It’s the right time to learn to repair and apply!
Another problem is the fact that phones are increasingly less repairable. This may explain O2’s recent ‘free screen repair’ campaign – at first glance a dream come true for clumsy iPhone users – except it’s only valid for few models, notoriously hard to repair, on the most expensive plans. The campaign however reflects that more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of repairability, and designers are facing a serious challenge.
Rob has a word of advice for anyone looking to buy a new phone: check its repairability! Websites like iFixit (which also provide Lovefone with their supply of spare batteries) provide useful advice on this.
Our rule of thumb remains the same: the most ethical mobile is the one you already have.
Links to things we discussed: