EU may consider enforcing seven-year smartphone lifespan

The German government is lobbying the European Commission to go further than its current tech repairability proposals

Smartphone manufacturers may be forced to extend the lifespan of their devices to seven years if the German government is successful in lobbying the EU to extend its own device sustainability plans.

In August, the European Commission announced it was considering compelling manufacturers to display the EU energy label on electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This would be implemented alongside mandatory software updates for five years after release in addition to a spare parts delivery scheme.

Under these proposals, manufacturers would provide software updates for five years, and functional updates for three years free of charge. This is in addition to robust minimum requirements for batteries - 80% capacity after 1,000 charge cycles - and manufacturers being required to supply spare parts for repair.  

The German government, however, is considering going much further than these plans and is hoping to convince the European Commission to strengthen its proposals as well, according to the German publication Heise.

The German government is proposing that spare parts and security updates should be available for seven years, with parts made available “at a reasonable price”. 

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There should also be stricter rules around the delivery of these parts, with a maximum time of five working days because a longer repair time could encourage customers to opt for an exchange rather than a repair. 

Apple devices already adhere to these proposals in terms of software, with operating system updates usually available for many years after the initial release of devices. On the hardware front, however, iPhones and iPads are known for being difficult to repair, although the latest iPhones are generally easier to repair than many competing Android handsets.

Android devices, on the other hand, are only usually supported with software updates for two to three years. They’ve also become more difficult to repair in recent years with design and aesthetic improvements, such as the use of glass in the casing, according to iFixit

The Digital Europe trade association considers the European Commission’s plans to go too far, with minimum requirements for batteries, for example, far too ambitious because the technology provided by most suppliers isn’t good enough. The group also completely rejects the need for an energy label to be packaged with electronic devices in the same way that it does with most white goods and household appliances.

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