The Harsh Truth Behind Samsung’s Phone Repair Program

The Harsh Truth Behind Samsung’s Phone Repair Program

It turns out that Samsung’s repair program isn’t as breezy as we initially thought. In the past few days, we’ve discovered some harsh truths about Android’s best-selling smartphone maker. The company has quietly parted ways with iFixit on phone repair kits. It has also required independent repair shops to disclose identifying information about the customers coming in for device fixes.

It started this week when The Verge reported that iFixit and Samsung had split. “Samsung does not seem interested in enabling repair at scale,” Kyle Wiens, CEO and co-founder of iFixit, told The Verge’s Sean Hollister. Wiens said Samsung repeatedly overcharged its customers for repairs by bundling in components rather than selling them piecemeal.

For instance, battery packs would arrive from the parts manufacturer glued down against a phone screen, requiring the entire module to be updated. This practice drove up the overall repair cost of a device. Folks were doling out cash for first-party components they hadn’t even requested.

iFixit published its side for the record, detailing the breakdown of its relationship with Samsung. The South Korean smartphone giant limited the number of first-party parts that could be purchased, which became a supply issue as iFixit attempted to shore up parts for faster fixes.

Then it gets worse. Following the report at The Verge and iFixit’s declaration, 404 Media published a damning report that will make you feel sour if you’re currently wielding a Samsung device.

A leaked copy of a contract between a third-party repair shop and Samsung reveals that the company requires shops to snitch on its customers in exchange for any access to first-party parts. The agreement also stipulates immediately disassembling a device brought in for repair if any third-party components were discovered under the hood.

Company shall immediately disassemble all products that are created or assembled out of, comprised of, or that contain any Service Parts not purchased from Samsung,” a section of the agreement reads. “And shall immediately notify Samsung in writing of the details and circumstances of any unauthorized use or misappropriation of any Service Part for any purpose other than pursuant to this Agreement. Samsung may terminate this Agreement if these terms are violated.

These same shops were also obligated to collect each customer’s name, contact information, IMEI, and complaint details and send them to headquarters.

A Bad Look for Samsung

It should be no surprise that Samsung would sabotage the trust and goodwill of its customers. Samsung is the same company that repeatedly cheated benchmark numbers on past phone and TV releases to make consumers think its devices were more capable and sales numbers to outshine Apple’s ranks. And remember last year’s fiasco, when it exaggerated the capabilities of the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Space Zoom.

Those previous offenses are precisely why the news this week hits hard. It makes it harder to suggest Samsung as a company you can trust. Samsung requires shops to report unknowing customers coming in for repair while pushing a narrative that it is committed to your right to tinker with a device you own.

It’s also uncouth that small, independently owned businesses are tasked with performing the dirty work of surveillance capitalism in exchange for supplying access to genuine Samsung parts.

We’re still waiting to hear an official statement from Samsung. We’ve reached out for comment.

The past 48 hours make it difficult for a veteran phone reviewer like myself to suggest you buy a device with such anti-consumer practices. At this point in the buying cycle, you are better off buying a Google Pixel device because its repair parts are cheaper, according to iFixit.

In the meantime, if you need to get a Samsung smartphone fixed, iFixit will still help if you want to repair it at home. However, consider a backup plan if you buy third-party fix-it kits through them or another retailer. That contract is likely still binding for other in-person repair shops.

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