When technology fails: Are broken TVs and phones worth repairing?

  • TECH
  • Monday, 27 Feb 2017

Experts say the service life of tech devices is definitely getting shorter. So are repairs always worth the effort? 

Just before the crime show nears the dramatic end, the screen of the barely four-year-old flatscreen television suddenly goes black. Or perhaps it's the inkjet printer that decides not to work when you urgently need to print a cover letter. Or it's the smartphone that freezes just as you receive a call. 

Technical problems like these always pose the same kinds of questions – is the device worth repairing? And do electronics today break down more quickly than in the past? 

The service life of tech devices is definitely getting shorter, says Christoph de Leuw from German magazine Computerbild, but this is mainly because users want to switch to more up-to-date products with new functions, faster processors or more megapixels. 

"Genuine hardware defects are less and less important when technology products are taken out of service," he says. Often the non-existence of software updates is a reason why technology ends up on the scrap heap. 

You can see this issue with first-generation iPads and early Android devices – no more software updates mean they won’t work with video streaming services and some websites. 

According to De Leuw, the useful life of a television is currently between five and seven years. But this is driven by consumer desire for a bigger, thinner screen, rather than because the current TV has broken down. 

If you want to try repairing a device yourself you’ll find plenty of detailed advice on the Internet. The iFixit website, for example, takes many mobile devices apart to assess whether and how easily components can be replaced. 

But are all devices worth repairing? This depends on the device’s age and cost price, de Leuw says. He believes that at prices under €300 (RM1,412) a repair is hardly worthwhile. If the device cost €500 (RM2,354) or more when new, it makes sense to at least inquire what a repair would cost. 

If you decide to try replacing a defective display or battery in your smartphone yourself you should first check whether this would affect the product warranty. Some manufacturers may refuse to repair the smartphone if it’s already been tinkered with by someone other than an authorised dealer. 

Warranty extensions are generally not worthwhile, says de Leuw: “Technology is either broken right at the beginning when the manufacturing guarantee is still in operation or it dies after more than five years when the warranty extension has also expired. In between, failures are rare." — dpa

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