New Rules May Mean Longer-Lasting Phones

John Lister's picture

Smartphone and tablet manufacturers may be forced to offer updates and security fixes for longer. It's part of a European plan to reduce the need for users to get rid of old devices so often.

The proposals would also mean manufacturers making parts available for independent repairers and making batteries either long-lasting or replaceable.

The move could bring benefits to device buyers around the world. However, analysts also fear it could mean an end to cheap handsets, even if they are a false economy.

The proposals come in a draft law in the European Union. They are now out for public consultation before going before the European Parliament. If passed, the rules will take immediate effect in 27 European countries. (Source:

Five Years Of Security Patches

One of the rules is that device makers will have to issue operating system updates for at least three years and security updates for at least five years. That timescale starts from when a new model is released, not from when a particular customer buys it. The biggest effect would be on the Android market where different manufacturers have vastly different approaches to updates.

Manufacturers will also need to make many key components available to third-party repairers for five years. With both rules, the idea is to reduce the number of customers who have to replace an otherwise working phone because of a lack of updates or a broken component. Politicians argue that this harms consumers and creates unnecessary electronic waste.

Batteries Get Special Rules

The proposals include specific rules for batteries. Manufacturers must either make batteries easily replaceable, or show testing that proves the battery will still have at least 80 percent of its original capacity after 1,000 full charges.

Another measure in the proposals is for an "energy" label that covers both expected battery life and details of how resilient a phone is, for example to water or dust damage.

The rules do have an exemption for phones with folding or rolling screens and handsets specifically designed for high-security environments. (Source:

While the rules will only apply in Europe, manufacturers may decide it's simpler and cheaper to adopt the same measures and build the same models for other markets. One downside is that it could deter manufacturers who deliberately limit updates to keep handset costs as low as possible.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you approve of the rules? Would you like to see manufacturers follow these practices around the world? How big a role does replaceable parts or manufacturer support schedules play in your device buying choices?

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