The European Commission is committed to improving the battery life of phones and tablets and the availability of spare parts. In draft proposals published this week, European regulators plan to force phone manufacturers to supply at least 15 different parts to professional repairers for five years after a device first goes on sale. Consumers also get guaranteed access to replacement batteries, screens, chargers, back covers and even SIM/memory card holders for five years.
The design proposals aim to improve the recoverability of smartphones and tablets and reduce their environmental footprint across Europe. The Financial times reports that extending the life cycle of smartphones by five years would be roughly the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road. The EU argues that forcing manufacturers to make products that are more durable and easier to repair should reduce e-waste and improve recycling rates and the reuse of materials needed to manufacture devices.
If the proposals are adopted across Europe later this year, a new energy label for smartphones and tablets, similar to the labels on TVs and white goods across Europe, will also be introduced. The energy label indicates the likely battery life of a phone or tablet, and also includes information about a device’s protection against water and dust, and even a phone’s resistance to accidental drops.
According to the EU’s plans, if manufacturers cannot supply batteries to consumers for five years, they will instead have to pass a series of battery durability tests. These ensure that devices reach 80 percent of their rated capacity after 1,000 full charge cycles. Manufacturers will also be forced to ensure that software updates never negatively affect battery life.
The regulations do not apply to phones or tablets with a flexible main display “that the user can partially or fully roll out and roll out”, or smartphones designed for high-security environments. Either way, these new rules will no doubt improve battery life and recoverability of smartphones, especially for low-cost or low-cost devices.
The draft regulations follow the proposal from European Union legislators earlier this year to mandate a universal charger for mobile phones and other devices. At the time, the European Parliament claimed that unused and discarded chargers account for around 11,000 tons of e-waste in Europe every year.
While the draft proposals seek to address recoverability and improve reliability, the Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) says they don’t go far enough. “While the proposals are generally encouraging, they still require significant improvement,” said ECOS. “The availability and replaceability of certain spare parts places unnecessary restrictions on DIY repairers.”
ECOS, an international NGO advocating eco-friendly standards, also wants manufacturers to supply durable batteries and spare parts as standard, rather than having to choose between the two. “ECOS believes that consumers deserve both as a minimum, not one or the other as currently suggested.”