The German government is currently in negotiations with the European Union (EU) to have smartphone companies offer spare parts and security updates to users for seven years. The government reportedly wants to “advocate strict environmental regulations for smartphones and tablets”.
According to a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Economics, spare parts and security updates shouldn’t just be available for seven years—the replacement parts should also be made available “at a reasonable price”. This includes requiring vendors to publish the prices of spare parts, and not to have them increased over time.
The EU already intends for five years of updates to apply to smartphones and tablets to be implemented in 2023. As for spare parts, it plans to make spare parts for phones mandatory for five years, six years for tablets.
“The life of mobile phones is 2.5 to 3.5 years, and is therefore rather short compared to other consumer goods,” wrote the German Commission.
The German government also wants to advocate for stricter rules when it comes to how quickly the spare parts can be delivered. Their current plan is “a maximum delivery time of five working days”, as a long repair time could result in customers opting for an exchange rather than a repair.
The government’s spokesperson also says that the initiative is to “increase the reliability and repairability of the devices” and “introduce eco-design rules”. They add that the production of the devices “accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and only part of the raw materials can be recovered when recycling”.
However, the smartphone industry isn’t too into the idea. DigitalEurope—which includes Apple, Google and Samsung as members—are instead pushing for three years of security updates and two years for functional updates. DigitalEurope also believes that parts like batteries and displays should be offered, as “other components like cameras and microphones will rarely fail”.
Samsung did not want to comment on the individual plans of the Commission, but they did comment on how sustainable their products are. According to the smartphone company, while the average initial usage time for a Samsung smartphone “was around 21 months in 2015”, they were “able to increase this to an average of 29 months in 2020”. Apple, however, did not comment on either subject when asked by German media Heise Online.
In terms of smartphone longevity, Apple is currently leading the pack. The upcoming iOS 15 still supports older devices such as the iPhone 6s from 2015, which is almost 6 years old.