Back in February insurance giant Allstate bought on-demand repair company iCracked through its subsidiary SquareTrade, which specializes in third-party warranties on devices and appliances.
SquareTrade also recently acquired PlumChoice, a cloud and technical support services provider, indicating that Allstate is determined to organize its holdings into a sort of one-stop shop for consumers’ hardware and software issues.
Much was made of Allstate wading into the world of third-party repair and offering up its legal muscle to help push through Right-to-Repair (R2R) legislation. Its has so far been welcomed by the R2R movement, which sees in Allstate an ally, a big dog needed in a fight against big dogs like Apple. If so, it’s staked a hefty claim in electronics repair and is surely interested in providing its clients with excellent parts and expertise.
R2R and Manufacturers’ Design Choices
Whatever Allstate is doing to aid R2R, it’s likely happening behind the scenes, as it’s been mum on the topic since the February announcement. Leapfrogging off the landmark acquisition and recent upsurge in state bills, a new AppleInsider editorial weighs both sides of the repair issue, and, if not offering its own sort of compromise, at least hopes for one.
Our interest was piqued by AppleInsider’s comments on the topic of design choices. After countering Apple’s common anti-R2R assertions that batteries are too dangerous and device security too big a risk to mess with, AppleInsider offers up device design as a compromising reason for poor repairability.
Focusing in on the iMac, AppleInsider takes issues with Apple prioritizing “thin and light” over non-soldered, easily replaceable hard drives. But if that extra millimeter or two shaved off the final design is expected sell more units, it’s easier to understand Apple’s rationale (and still be annoyed by it).
It’s when we see the objectively bad design choices that we get truly annoyed. The spot-welded camera bump and ludicrous amount of back glass adhesive on the iPhone X and up? Definitely annoying. Watch the LG G8 teardown by JerryRigEverything and share in Zack’s passionate annoyance with a permanently adhered battery. What useful purpose does it serve? Objectively bad design choices are a big reason why it’s easy to assume manufacturers are deliberately trying to sabotage repairability.
While we await the next dramatic news coming from the region occupied by Allstate, we look to manufacturers’ design choices and think two things:
- Objectively bad design choices that hamper repairability hurt everybody, even manufacturers doing their own repairs. They increase the material cost and time required to conduct repairs, and will likely result in more waste.
- Subjectively bad design choices (made for the sake of marketability) don’t need to stand in the way of repairability. If parts must be soldered together or software stands in the way of a replacement part functioning properly, manufacturers must, within reason, get out of their own customers’ way if those customers want to repair their products instead of replace them.
Repairability itself should be a feature that we as consumers consider when we purchase our devices. What might happen if we paid as close attention to it as we do screen size, memory, and camera performance?