The case of the AirPods headphones: repairing is a right

“If the technology hadn’t been open and accessible, Apple wouldn’t exist.” Word of the cofounder of the multinational from Cupertino Steve Wozniak, who exposes himself personally for the “right to repair” movement. Literally “the right to repair”, which is exactly what it asks for: the ability to get your hands on your own tech devices to perform basic repairs – replace the battery or a cracked screen, for example, without necessarily having to resort to an authorized technician. If we compared the world of electronics to that of cars, it would be like being forced to bring your car to the single-brand workshop just to change a tire or wiper blades. Apple is the first call into question whenever it comes to the right to repair, as all of its devices are particularly complex to fix in the event of a malfunction. A mechanism that very often leads to preferring the upgrade to the next model, as we have seen for years for iPhones. With the release of a new model it is easier and more convenient to retire the previous one that does not hold up well with software updates or begins to have problems with battery life. Not only the iPhones: AirPods headphones have ended up in the viewfinder these days, equipped with lithium-ion batteries that last about 4-5 hours when new, but after a few years of use they deteriorate up to a maximum of one hour. A problem that could be solved by replacing them, but doing so is practically impossible, and so those who use them end up buying a new pair, at a much greater cost – not to mention the unnecessary pollution generated by throwing away a device that is still perfectly functional. For supporters of the right to repair the problem is environmental, ethical and economic, and does not concern only Apple gadgets, but also considerably more vital devices, from those for medical use to agricultural machinery. What they are asking is for companies to design their products in a more accessible way, assembling them already with the possibility of repairing them in mind – joints instead of glue or welds, battery compartments that can be opened without special tools, open source diagnostic software. “I think companies continue to prevent this because it gives them more power and control,” said Wozniak, who left Apple in 1985 and has often been critical of some choices. And politics is starting to notice. In the UK, new measures have recently been introduced that require manufacturers of household appliances such as televisions, washing machines and refrigerators to make spare parts available directly to consumers, thus significantly extending their life and saving both money and the environment. United States, at least 27 states, to date, have introduced legislation on the matter, and direct support from the White House has also arrived. President Biden just recently signed an executive order to create a new regulation at the federal level that limits the ability of companies to block autonomous repairs on their products. In Europe too, the movement exists and fights to give everyone the opportunity to repair their devices, asking the European Commission for univocal legislation against the tendency of companies to make it easier to replace repairs and against planned obsolescence.

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