The guys and girls at iDoc are professionals when it comes to smartphone repair. In the name of helping people to help themselves, they create high-quality repair instructions and do teardowns. The latest one is dedicated to Google Pixel 4. You can order a replacement display, which alone costs more than many low-budget smartphones. We asked why the prices for smartphone spare parts are so high.
For €169 you get a brand new display for your Google Pixel 4 from iDoc in Europe. At launch, the flagship smartphone cost €749 here, but now the street price has normalized to less than €500. So the spare parts cost between a fifth and a third of the price of a new one, depending on the parts you need.
Recently, my colleague Antoine wrote about two studies that make exactly such comparisons and evaluate the reparability of smartphones. There it was said that no single spare part should cost more than 20 percent of the price of a new one. In practice, values of over 40 percent are common in some cases. If we look around the iDoc shop, we find some examples.
- Replacement display for the Galaxy Note 10+: €269 (33 percent)
- Replacement display for iPhone Xs Max plus special tools: €354 Euro (51 percent)
Helping people to help themselves and repair their own equipment is definitely useful. People would be even more resourceful if they could save money at the same time. Unfortunately, this is only really possible with a few manufacturers; among them (of course) is Fairphone, Shiftphones, and surprisingly also LG.
The South Koreans sell spare parts officially for end users on their own homepage, explains iDoc spokeswoman Sabine Raspe. "Although Samsung and Google only sell their products to certified repair shops and service partners, they do not have such extreme conditions as Apple. For example, we obtain our Samsung originals from a service partner."
So in addition to the artificial scarcity of parts, a middleman gets a portion of the margin. I asked if it is true that some manufacturers are like bloodhounds trying to protect their spare parts monopoly?
"At Apple, you could certainly call it a bloodhound chase. Original spare parts are not available on the open market. In addition to Apple's workshops and service partners, since last fall there are some licensed workshops that are allowed to repair with originals - under strict conditions. Apple also limits some functions after the repair, for example, TruTone."
Samsung has sometimes taken a similarly dogged approach, as the former CEO of the German repair portal kaputt.de Moritz Zyrewitz explained to us. Accordingly, the prices are astronomical, at least for the edge displays, which admittedly are also complicated to manufacture. Displays for mid-range smartphones like the Galaxy A50 only cost €69 at iDoc.
If we had known that beforehand...
The right to repair has become a global concern. In the USA, people are struggling to win back the right that was a matter of course before the age of the economic miracle. A Right-to-Repair campaign is also underway in the EU.
Although repair as such is usually not prohibited, consumers are unnecessarily harassed when trying. In addition to the high prices, the availability of spare parts drops after a few years. Then it becomes increasingly difficult to find a dealer with the right part. At the latest here the legislator should intervene. Consumers should at least know in advance how long, and at what price, they can still repair their device.
Because when we buy equipment, we should not only be allowed to use it but also to repair it (otherwise we have just rented it). This is a matter of principle and, by the way, also of the environment.
- Resist spending and repair your smartphones
- The right to repair: why we as consumers must demand it
- The most repairable smartphones you can buy in 2020
- The path to sustainability: how the smartphone market can improve
Cover image © iDoc