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Smartphone reparability scoring: assessing the self‐repair potential of mobile ICT devices

Flipsen, Bas; Huisken, Matthias; Opsomer, Thomas; Depypere, Maarten

This paper presents our perspective on the reparability of screen-based mobile electronic devices, with a first focus on smartphones. Repair is an effective way to increase the lifetime of electronics, saving material resources and contributing to a lower environmental burden. Transparency regarding the reparability of products can drive the market towards more sustainable designs. Based on previous work and new evaluation tests, and together with recent advances in the state-of-the-art literature, we have further refined our method for assessing the repair potential of smartphones for informal repairers with no-to-low experience. The method consists of a heuristic assessment and a disassembly protocol tracking the disassembly process. The method is used to provide a numerical score for eight criteria, selected by their relevance to capture important information for lay people repairing their own device when replacing only a malfunctioning part. The criteria are: (1) Path of entry; (2) Accessibility of critical components; (3) Availability of spare parts; (4) Availability of information; (5) Type of tools needed; (6) Endorsed repair options; (7) Visual cues and (8) Health and safety risk. To reduce the complexity of the assessment while preserving comparability, we only take the disassembly of those components into account which are critical to functionality and have an increased chance of malfunctioning, the so-called ‘critical components’. For smartphones, the critical components are the display assembly and the battery. Rather than performing a full disassembly, in this approach only the disassembly paths down to the critical components are tracked. To calibrate the method, a set of known outlier devices are assessed and placed at each end of the spectrum. Two flagship smartphone devices are evaluated to show the methods’ scoring of representative products in the current smartphone market. This paper will discuss the results of the assessment, observe reparability trends in the current smartphone market, and suggest options for further research.
Published in: PLATE – Product lifetimes and the environment : 3rd PLATE Conference, September 18–20, 2019 Berlin, Germany, Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin
Published by ISBN 978-3-7983-3125-9