Apple Flunks Fixability Grades While Dell, Asus At Head of Class: Consumer Group

Microsoft and Google also underperform with D scores from a public interest watchdog group.


A public interest watchdog group says Apple Inc., Microsoft, and Google get poor grades on repairability of their mobile devices and laptops, with Apple receiving the only “F” for its phones.

The U.S. Public Research Interest Group (U.S. PIRG) on Tuesday released a report that used data gathered as part of France’s new repairability index law. U.S. PIRG compiled French repair scores for 187 laptops and phones produced by 10 major U.S. manufacturers. Aside from the French data, the U.S. group used companies’ efforts to lobby against repair laws as part of its grading system.

For laptops, U.S. PIRG handed out scores of B+ to Dell and Asus, B- to Lenovo, and gave HP Inc. a C+, and Apple a D-. In cell phone repairability, Apple lowered the bar even further, scoring F, Google scoring a D+, Samsung scoring a C and Motorola scoring a B+.

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Nathan Proctor, report author and senior director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair, said he hopes to see manufacturers improve access to repair materials and increase their scores overall. “No one walks into Best Buy and says, ‘I’m going to buy something unfixable,’” he said. “But a lot of times, you don’t have the information you need until after you have an issue…”

Proctor said many businesses have a shorter turnaround time for computers, so his focus is more on consumer and school computer use. Computer sales during the pandemic were a boon for channel partners and a big reason many PC makers saw huge revenue gains. “A school is going to try to get as much out of that computer as possible,” Proctor said. “That makes a big difference. Durability and longevity become big factors.”

U.S. PIRG also detailed the environmental impact of broken and discarded devices, citing an EPA report showing broken electronics now account for the largest domestic municipal waste stream. “If we held on to our phones one year longer on average, the emissions reductions would be equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road,” Proctor said, citing EPA statistics.

And the lack of repair access is also hitting consumers’ pocketbooks. According to U.S. PIRG, Americans spend nearly $1,500 on new electronics per household per year and could save up to $40 billion annually if they were able to easily repair products.

Dell, Asus and Lenovo had the top three grades in terms of repairability, U.S. PIRG reports. “Dell really cleaned up in the physical ease of repair,” Proctor noted, but said they could improve their score even more with better access to parts. “Restricted access to parts really drives up the cost of repair. We want to get rid of those restrictions.”

Michael Tanenhaus, CEO of Annapolis Md.-based Mavenspire, said as a Dell partner, repairability has been a selling point. “It was big for our business customers during the pandemic for a couple of reasons,” he said. “Parts were in short supply and we saw other vendors using refurb parts that weren’t always functional.”

Page Motes, Dell Technologies’ head of sustainability said in a statement to CRN: “Repair is essential to keep products in use longer and out of landfills. The growing conversation around repair with our internal and external stakeholders is an important one and an opportunity to evolve Dell’s leadership, providing additional routes to make repair more accessible and more affordable.”

Still, the lack of repairability did not put a dent in Apple’s sales. The company reported an all-time first quarter revenue record of $123.9 billion. Proctor hopes his group’s report gives the company incentive to make repair more easily accessible. “We want this to be a reminder to these manufacturers, that this is an important aspect of their products. Consumers are going to demand better repairs,” he said.

Apple did not return phone calls seeking comment.