7 years of software updates could soon become a reality if a proposal by Germany is adopted

In what could be jubilant news celebrated the world over by smartphone owners, the German federal government is pushing the European Union to require seven years of security updates and spare parts for smartphones as part of negotiations with the European Commission, reports German publication C’t.

If the proposal goes through, the support provided to sold handsets will be two years longer than a recent Commission proposal and would basically give mobile handsets a more computer-like support cycle.

The commission plans to make updates and replacement parts mandatory for five years, while tablet replacement parts are to be available for 6 years.

A spokeswoman from the Federal Ministry of Economics, in Germany, wants to force manufacturers to publish the prices of spare parts and not to increase them afterwards. She however stated that she does not plan to set the prices.

“When it comes to the question of how quickly the spare parts have to be delivered, the federal government wants to advocate stricter rules. The Commission is currently planning a maximum delivery time of five working days. This point will have to be discussed,” said the spokeswoman. “A long repair time could lead to customers opting for an exchange rather than a repair,” she added.

The German federal government supports the European Commission’s initiative to introduce eco-design rules, an energy label and a repairability index for smartphones and tablets. This is mainly because the production of the devices accounts for the majority of greenhouse emissions, and only a part of the raw materials can be recovered when recycling.

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Pushback from phone manufacturers

DigitalEurope, the industry advocacy group that counts Apple, Google and Samsung as some of its members, thinks the Commission’s proposals go too far.

The advocacy group wants a requirement for just three years of security updates, and wants to limit spare parts to screens and batteries rather than cameras, speakers and other components that are supposedly more reliable.

DigitalEurope also considers the minimum requirements for the service life of batteries to be too ambitious, because only a few suppliers could deliver models that still have at least 80 percent capacity after 1,000 charging cycles. The group instead proposes a transition phase with a requirement of 800 cycles.

Apple and Samsung

Samsung did not want to comment on the individual plans of the Commission, according to C’t, but insisted that the company is continuously working to enable a longer service life for smartphones.

“While the average initial usage time was around 21 months in 2015, we were able to increase this to an average of 29 months in 2020,” said a Samsung spokeswoman.

Apple on the other hand failed to respond to an inquiry from C’t regarding the subject.

Final Thoughts

While the German government has the right idea in pushing for these changes that will guarantee our smartphones stay protected and functional for roughly twice the 2.5 to 3.5 years we see today, it is worth pointing out that Germany has federal elections coming up this month.

So this might all be political talk to see them elected once more, then they can forget all about what they promised once in power, as we have seen plenty of times here in our beloved Kenya.

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