EU proposes law to increase lifespan of smartphones


U lawmakers have proposed a new law that would extend the lifespan of Android devices and make it easier for uses to repair, upgrade, and maintain their phones.

The law includes a set standard for Android updates that is similar to what Google offers on its latest smartphone, the Pixel 6.

Under the Circular Economy Action Plan 2020, and in line with European Green Deal objectives, the initiative aims to change the design process of phones and tablets to make them more energy efficient and durable, improve consumer’s ability to repair their own devices, and make it possible to reuse and recycle the devices.

The first step in doing so is establishing minimum terms for software updates. Namely, for Android devices sold in the EU, this would be three years of major OS updates and five years of security patches.

Currently, many Android devices don’t last nearly as long as these suggested minimum time periods, with some of the pricier devices offering four years of major updates and five years of security patches but many of the cheaper models falling far short.

The lawmakers are also pushing for Android brands to offer professional repair parts and services for at least five years after a device goes onto the market.

In a hark back to the days of being able to swap batteries with ease, one element of the proposal offers device producers the choice between meeting stricter battery requirements or bringing back replaceable batteries.

The EU requirements demand that devices retain at least 83 per cent of rated capacity after 500 charge cycles and 80 per cent after 1,000 cycles

Following a public consultation period in 2021, the draft act has just entered a feedback period, lasting until September 28. It’s planned to be adopted in the last few months of 2022, with results expected roughly a year after that, provided all goes smoothly during the revision period.

Not only would improving the lifespan of devices reduce the amount of tech sent to landfill, but it would also save the consumer money.

The average Brit replaces their phone every two to three years. The proposed requirements in the EU could mean consumers’ devices would stay with them for twice as long.

Mobile banking and remote working mean that much of our sensitive data is wrapped up in our phones. Holding onto our phones for longer means better control over our data and less interruption to how we engage with technology.

Not to mention that smartphones account for 10 per cent of global e-waste, with the vast majority of unused technology ending up in landfill rather than being reused or recycled.

However, it’s important to note that while the proposed law could do a lot of good in terms of reducing e-waste and extending the lifespan of phones, a proposed law doesn’t always mean real-world change. Looking at the EU’s attempts to push Apple towards USB-C charging ports, lightning cables are still very much around.

And, as this is an EU law, it doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to British phones. However, it will likely affect how smartphones are made, which would then trickle into the UK even if it’s not actually passed into law here.

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