Six Billion Smartphones on Earth, but Who Will Fix Them?

Six Billion Smartphones on Earth, but Who Will Fix Them?

Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of. Fortunately, the folks over at the Fight to Repair newsletter are here to help: recapping the most important repair news for iFixit readers. As a special offer, readers can claim a free, 60-day premium membership to the Fight to Repair newsletter. Visit to claim your premium membership!

There are 6.92 billion smartphone users worldwide—that means 86.34% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. The average lifespan of these devices is around 2–3 years, which means it’s likely those billions of devices will end up in the growing mountain of e-waste in the near future. And that turnover will drive more harm—like the extraction of the raw materials needed for replacement smartphones, activity that often brings with it human rights violations.

The best way to reduce the impact of that raw material extraction is to keep devices around for longer. We need repair to extend smartphone lifespans. But the sad reality is that most broken phones don’t get fixed, according to Consumer Reports:

“Just 16 percent of Americans who had a phone break in the past five years say that…they fixed it at home or got it repaired professionally, according to a new nationally representative survey.”

Consumer Reports

Self-repair is great. But most people will opt to have a professional, even if repairs are relatively easy. That’s why the Right to Repair is the fight not just for do-it-yourself repair but also for independent repair shops. You should be able to take your broken smartphone into the shop of your choice and trust that they’ve got access to the parts, tools, and documentation they need to get your pocket computer back in working order.

An Apprenticeship Model for Smartphone Repair

We also need more repair professionals. This past week, repair firm TMT First called for an official device repair apprenticeship to be introduced in the UK. The company, which has introduced its own apprenticeship after struggling to find staff, says there is potential for people with tech skills to create careers repairing mobile phones and other devices, adding that when taught correctly, these devices will last for longer.

In fact, repair-focused careers are already in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that US workers in 2021 who were “Electrical and Electronic Equipment Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers” earned $10,000+ more than the average worker that year. As the world continues to feel the negative impacts of creating and disposing of e-waste, the need for repair professionals is increasingly urgent.

Other News

Right to repair legislation charges ahead: proposed right to repair bills for agricultural equipment and electronics moved ahead in a number of states in recent years.

  • West Virginia: The state’s Senate passed an equipment right to repair law on March 1st.
  • Minnesota: The state’s House advanced a proposed right to repair bill, HF1337, on February 28th. Senate hearings on a companion bill, SF1598 are pending.
  • Washington: The Fair Repair Act (HB 1392) passed out of committee by a vote of 18-12 on February 23rd. This bill would require manufacturers to provide consumers and independent repair shops with the parts, tools, and information necessary to fix electronic devices.
  • Congress: A federal bill co-sponsored by Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez would give owners and their repairers of choice access to necessary tools and information to repair their devices, and Perez argues that this is part of the American heritage of being able to fix things and own what we buy.
The more-repairable Nokia G22.

Nokia released a new fixable smartphone: The Nokia G22 boasts quick battery and screen replacement due to its pro-repair design. The phone is based on a collaboration between Nokia and iFixit to make common smartphone repairs easier. While the phone is more repairable than some competitors, it still requires tools to remove the battery, and HMD will stop offering software support before companies like Samsung and Google.

Remanufacturing electronics saves money: Businesses can become more sustainable while breaking the cycle of unsustainable consumption and needless e-waste, says Steve Haskew at betanews. Developing a sustainable consumption and production model that considers reuse could address the e-waste crisis, but support from government will be key to foster and drive change.

Waste reform now: Nonprofit Just Zero has released templates of six bills to help improve waste management infrastructure in the US, which includes proposals for packaging reduction and recycling act, deposit return schemes, anti-incineration laws, single-use plastic restrictions and food waste reduction policies, to tackle the growing plastic pollution crisis.