Why Don't Manufacturers Build Mobile Phones to Last?

I bought a Motorola L2 14 months ago from a Fido store in Toronto - I was quite happy with it, considering that all I really ever want in a cellular phone is the ability to talk. The L2, although nothing special by today's standards, was a major step up for me because it had a colour LCD (Wow!!). Aside from that, it was my first major introduction to Google Mobile applications, such as Gmail and Google Maps. I was quite satisfied with the Motorola L2 - until the keys became completely unresponsive! Yes, only 2 months after the warranty had expired, the keys became fully unresponsive! I brought the device back to the nearest Fido outlet and they said it was most likely a short circuit they would not replace the handset, understandably, but also would not repair it. My L2 had not done much more than sit on a desk for the year that I owned it. Usually I used it for little more than a watch! It never got wet or experienced a single fall! Maybe dust was an issue, but it really shouldn't be.

In my opinion, if portable electronics are not built to last, then the manufacturers should be providing either recycling or repair facilities directly to the consumer. There are an estimated 130 million mobile phones disposed of annually in the U.S. alone!
In many cases, a large portion of the mobile phones depicted left were probably fully functional when they were disposed of. In many other cases, a replacement part is all that's necessary to restore the phone to its original fully working state.

I fell back to my previous mobile and it works marvellously!! That was a much more modest device - a DRASTICALLY more modest device than what is common by todays standards. It was a Siemen's A56, with a monochrome display ;-) These sort of devices were built to last !!

Oddly enough, you never see mobiles like this being sold in North America anymore, because the retailers have told us that we need colour LCDs, with games and cameras, and iTunes built-in. But if the phone doesn't work as a phone, what good is the rest?

The Siemen's should be fine for me until the OpenMoko / eo1973 GTA2 is being sold to the general public.


Christopher Friedt said...

Update: The Motorola L2 was actually in perfect working order. What's ironic about that, though, is that I brought it to a Fido service kiosk and they had no idea how to repair it. They reinstalled the original firmware, which had the negative side effect that it was once again SIM-locked, but aside from that they had no idea.

With many handsets, a very common problem is that the keypad stops working. In some cases (few, I suspect), I suppose that could be attributed to real electrical damage. However, in most cases, it's as simple as cleaning the contacts.

Remember how you used to blow into the old Nintendo cartridges? Well, this is essentially the same thiing.

All that was necessary, was to simply unscrew 4 screws under the battery cover, pop off the keypad connector, remove dust by blowing on the circuit-board, and then re-assemble.

Why am I not surprised? That the so-called experts who worked at this Fido kiosk really had no idea how to repair a perfectly good handset, and prevent it from joining the countless others in perfectly good shape that occupy today's landfills.

Christopher Friedt said...

On the bright side, I do appreciate that manufacturers are starting to encourage consumers to mail in their old handsets, often by providing prepaid shipping.