Right to Repair: Do Not Forget Firmware

Early July 2021, US president Joe Biden signed an executive order strengthening the right to repair in America. It is all the rage in the YouTuber space. Over here in Europe, the European Parliament is also working on encouraging reuse and repair to save on resources (Ecodesign Requirements, Grant EU Consumers Right to Repair, Europe Reduce Waste by Guaranteeing Right to Repair). However, I do not think the movement is as strong as in the US, based on my perception of the media coverage. I had to actively search for information rather than having it thrown at me by media outlets, old-school and modern alike.

Disclaimer: This might just be my way of looking for and consuming information. I strongly prefer non-German modern tech media (read YouTube creators) because I am yet to find one that produces at the same level of production quality as someone like Linus Media Group, as one example. I watch German news, though, so I am not entirely ignoring my own country 😉

Now, the topic of this post is not where I get my information or how far the current state of legislation has come everywhere in the world.

I know that "Right to Repair" goes way beyond smartphones and computers. My focus is on consumer technology because that is where my interests are.

I want to talk about the software that runs on the hardware since it is just as important to a product’s lifetime. Washing machines and similar household appliances are becoming "smarter and smarter" with every new generation, so it is no longer just phones and tablets. Together with mobile computers, the latter two categories are likely what everybody interested in tech immediately thinks about when hearing "Right to Repair".

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Of Affordable Phones, Software Updates and Yearly Upgrades

With the release of the Google Pixel 3a I once again started thinking about what I want in a smartphone. As a reminder, the last time I was pondering the purchase of one I was musing of tall phones, curved displays and notches. I am not in the market for a new phone right now as my iPhone 8 is more than capable of fulfilling my needs. But, with the recent launch of the Pixel 3a I wished that this device had already existed a year ago because it is basically the perfect phone for me. And I also wish Google would get back into the market of less expensive phones with the latest and greatest hardware as was the case with the Nexus line.

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Of tall phones, curved displays and notches

This is a rant about modern smartphone design. I’ve had a few ideas in my head for some time, since MWC 2018 in fact, but never bothered to write them down as it was only focused on this notch thing that keeps on spreading. However, recently my sister’s phone died – thanks for the boot loop issues LG (it was my Nexus 5X that I passed on to her) – and so I helped her searching for a suitable replacement.

Although there are plenty smartphone makers out there, our go-to list wasn’t very long. For one, we had ruled out LG from the start. It seems that the Nexus 5X wasn’t the only one with recurring hardware defects. The next ones that didn’t make it to the list were basically all Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, Honor, ZTE or Xiaomi. I understand that they make very good handsets, especially Huawei has upped their game, but I do have my doubts regarding software updates. The last time I had read about the Android update situation sometime last year, these companies didn’t have the best track record (I don’t have the link to the website anymore, sorry). In fact, just throwing it out there, some Android phone manufacturers even lie about the patch level of their firmware.

<Insert your preferred curse>

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