Apples and Repairs

Survey shows support for efforts to make devices more repairable

Last week, Apple announced that starting in 2022 in the US, owners of some iPhones will be able to order parts and tools and repair their smartphones on their own. This is an important step in extending the life of consumer electronics through repairs — a trend already marked by authorities in many markets (see Device Repair in the Spotlight).

Apple should be commended for responding to not just what governments might command or activists demand, but more simply, to what consumers want. Our Connected Consumer Radar, a recurring survey we conduct regularly in four Western countries (the US, the UK, Germany and Spain), shows a clear desire for repairability among owners of smart devices. And we should note that this applies not just to mobile phones, but across the board, from smartwatches to smart speakers and smart lights.

The results of the latest wave of our survey, completed between 1 November and 16 November 2021, have just come in, with some data points that are relevant to the news. A quick first look at the results shows that 45% of mobile phone owners would like the opportunity to repair their devices at a reasonable cost rather than replace them, should they break outside the warranty period — a proportion that’s consistent with our findings in the pilot study of Connected Consumer Radar. As many of our clients were keen to know more about this topic, we decided to dig a bit deeper this time.

It is interesting to point out that, of the current owners of mobile phones, only one in five has had a mobile phone repaired in the past. Our previous research suggests that changing broken screens is the most common repair, but even that isn’t undertaken by everyone who’s cracked the glass of their beloved phone.

To repair, replace or put up with a fault is a complex decision that for most people rides on several factors. The cost of repair, the age of the broken item and the price of a new one are the main factors that determine the choice. But they’re not the only ones. One in four people would fix a broken device simply to avoid the hassle of switching to a new one. Importantly, 50% of respondents told us that care for the environment is a factor in their decision-making too, and 47% agreed that it’s generally a good idea to have an item repaired rather than replaced.

When we asked them to tell us the most important reason to repair rather than replace, cost did come out on top, but consideration for the environment fared highly too (see the chart below).

This shows in other parts of the survey as well. We asked people what device-makers can do to support the environment and the most common answer was “create devices that last longer”. Facilitating repairs is a great way to help elongate the life of a device. It might sound counterintuitive for a company that makes money by selling new devices to do so, but we recently predicted that environmental credentials will become more and more important in people’s choice of device and brand. Manufacturers that are in it for the long run and wish to build a loyal set of customers should step up their involvement with the green agenda.

Clients of our Connected Consumer Radar will receive the full analysis of results from the November wave in the next weeks. If you want to learn more about this product, please contact us at

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