It’s been nearly two years since the American people demanded that Congress take steps to re-legalize cell phone unlocking. Today, Congress delivered. Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously approved the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” (S.517). This morning, Senators sent the bill back to the House of Representatives, which gave the bill their unanimous seal of approval. The bill nows goes on to the White House.
We had high hopes that Amazon built a solid, repairable Fire Phone. It began with a similar opening procedure to the current crop of iPhones, but with welcome Torx T3 screws instead of Pentalobes. However, all of the fancy tech we found inside made for a veritable mess of cables, connectors, and glue. The tech-laden phone ended up scoring a less-than-stellar 3 out of 10 on our repairability scale, with the only real positive being the opening procedure.
Last week, we wrote in Wired about the Unlocking Bill—a bill that the Internet demanded from Congress 17 months ago. A bill that Sina Khanifar, iFixit, the EFF, Public Knowledge, Derek Khanna, and a small group of other activists all helped to shepherd through Washington. A bill that—after countless hours of debates, rewrites, and haggling—had a shot of becoming a law. Well, that bill has just passed by unanimous consent through Senate.
My grandfather was typical of a generation haunted by the shadow of the Great Depression. Out of necessity, people like my grandfather eked every bit of usefulness from what little they had. They drove their cars into the ground, hitched them back together with baling wire, and kept driving for another 100,000 miles. They taught their children how to patch their tires and patch their jeans. So it makes sense that it’s people like my grandfather who are teaching the world how to repair again.
A year and a half ago, a man in Washington made a bad decision that screwed over thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands more consumers. He made it illegal for Americans to “unlock” their cell phones. We cried foul, and 114,000 netizens joined us in demanding that unlocking be re-legalized. Normally, petition-signing is the flash in the pan of Internet activism. But this time was different. A bill that the Internet demanded 17 months ago is now on its way to a Senate vote.
Today we had the newiest of the new Android Wear smartwatches grace our teardown table—the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch! Interestingly enough, both watches took a page out of the Samsung Gear 2’s book with regard to external and internal design. We’re not saying that LG cloned Samsung’s creation, but there are marked similarities between the two. Yet despite the similarities, we found a few important tidbits supporting a higher repairability score for the LG G Watch
We take freedom—both free as in speech and free as in beer—pretty seriously around these parts. So, we ring in Independence Day with a little something we like to call Liberation Week. Last year, as part of the festivities, we gave away 1,776 Liberation Kits. This year, we gave away 15,000 in just a couple of hours. Liberation Kits let people swap out iPhone security screws with standard Phillips screws, so they can open up their phones whenever they feel like it. Ain’t freedom sweet?
A group of young female students sit around a table, laughing and talking. But they’re not discussing school, boys, or music. Instead, they’re talking how to replace a dead hard drive, how to install a case fan, and how to salvage a water-damaged motherboard. This isn’t a new topic of conversation for the young women of St. Joseph’s Academy. These young women are computer repair experts—and they’ll run IT circles right around you.
If thin is in, then thinner must be…inner. Microsoft made serious strides, taking their Surface Pro series closer to the laptop frontier than ever before, while still keeping up with the tablet game. Result: a slim, uber-powered tablet with paper thin display glass, and severely limited upgradeability and repairability.
The Senate has made a strong positive step towards making sure that people have the right to unlock their cell phones.
The other day, I came home, walked through the door, and found my cat sleeping on my couch. He yawned and sat up—and underneath him I spotted a vinyl record. And not just any vinyl. My Fleetwood Mac Rumors album. The album that I listened to over and over again as a teen. The album that sang me through countless hours of physics homework and hopeless teen love. My cat’s butt warped my favorite album. But I’m a fixer in spirit—so I learned how to repair it, and I’m teaching you how, too.