It’s frustrating when electronic gadgets break, and not just because you have to go through the hassle of fixing or replacing them but because in doing so, a lot of waste is created. So when the headphone jack on my phone stopped working intermittently, I put off doing anything about it for several months. But finally, it got so bad that I could no longer use my headset, which meant an extra dose of radiation from putting my phone right against my head to talk (and of course, also not being able to listen to music and podcasts, but that’s a personal problem), so I decided it was time to do something about it.
I called CREDO Mobile, my phone provider, and was told I’d have to send it back to them for a replacement phone. I wondered if I should scout around for someone to open it up and try to fix it for me (as I did with my hair dryer, rice cooker, kitchen scale, and other appliances, with varying degrees of success), but when CREDO told me that opening up the case would void the warranty, I decided to skip the DIY strategy this time around.
When the replacement phone arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of plastic packaging and use of recycled content. First of all, there was no plastic tape on the outside of the box. And here’s what I found inside:
The cardboard is made from mostly post-consumer recycled content.
Inside the box, there was just one strip of plastic film holding the phone in place, which is a lot less plastic than most electronics are packaged in. I’m betting if they put their minds to it, they could find a way to do it completely plastic-free.
Under the phone was a new charger. Here is an area in which CREDO could improve. It would be a good idea to ask customers if they need a new charger in the first place before automatically including one with replacement phones. I certainly don’t need this one. Of course, I can send this back to them with the broken phone, but how many customers would do that? Still, I was pleased to see the charger was not wrapped up in plastic packaging but only a single twist tie.
There were some bits of plastic stuck onto the phone itself, and I’m guessing that this is the work of the phone manufacturer rather than CREDO. Why do I need my phone covered in plastic film when it’s being delivered under plastic film in the box?
But here’s the frustrating part: The replacement phone didn’t work! It had the same problem with the headphone jack as my old phone!
Okay, at this point you might be wondering if the problem was really with the phone or if it is with my headphones. And to that, I reply, “Don’t be silly. I am a born trouble-shooter!” I tried different sets of headphones in both phones, and I also confirmed that the headphones worked fine in other devices. So I called CREDO again, and they are sending me a second replacement phone!
Here’s my question: Wouldn’t it be great if mobile phone companies (and other electronics companies) set up local repair shops where you could take devices to be tested and repaired instead of having to send them back? In the case of a phone, they could just give you a loaner to use for a few days while your old phone was being fixed. That’s the kind of society I want to live in. The fact that attempting to repair your own phone voids the warranty just contributes to our increasing e-waste problem, over-consumption of resources, and discourages the sense of self-sufficiency and accomplishment we achieve by fixing our own stuff.
Check out iFixIt’s awesome Self-Repair Manifesto (Download the poster!), which includes the following:
1) Repair is better than recycling.
2) Repair saves the planet.
3) Repair saves you money.
4) Repair teaches engineering.
5) If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.
That last statement is interesting, isn’t it? Check out the manifesto to see what they mean.
What gadgets have you fixed lately?