For some time, smartphone manufacturers seemed to be moving away from consumer-friendly nods towards repairability. Easily accessible battery compartments have been out of fashion for nearly a decade, for example, and third-party parts would sometimes break functionality to limit the scope of independent repair shops.
But we now seem to be moving towards a more sensible destination, championed by the Right to Repair movement and the likes of iFixIt. The company recently partnered with both Samsung for its phones and Valve for the Steam Deck, and now Google has followed suit, announcing a partnership with iFixIt of its own.
“Starting later this year, genuine Pixel spare parts will be available for purchase at ifixit.com for Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro, as well as future Pixel models, in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and EU countries where Pixel is available,” wrote Ana Corrales, Google’s chief operating officer of consumer hardware in a blog post announcing the move.
Google will offer “batteries, replacement displays, cameras and more” both to professional repair outlets and “skilled consumers with the relevant technical experience” to undertake the surgery themselves. Parts will be available individually or with kits packing appropriate tools, like screwdriver bits and spudgers.
The commitment to offer repairs for devices as old as 2017’s Pixel 2 is pretty impressive — notably the Samsung partnership, as it stands, only goes back as far as 2020’s Galaxy S20. But it does provide a sense of mixed messaging, given Google has said there will be no further security updates for the Pixel 2 and 3.
With that in mind, the original Pixel is a curious omission. Perhaps Google has looked at the data and seen so few are still being used that it’s simply not worth manufacturing new parts for. Or maybe it was designed in an especially non-repair-friendly way.
The latter point won’t be a problem in future, with Google committing to future Pixel handsets being supported by the scheme. Certainly, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is a pleasingly repairable device, and you’d imagine future handsets would be even more so to ensure the partnership runs as smoothly as possible.
The right-to-repair movement is certainly gathering momentum. Even Apple — a firm historically hostile to such moves — has relented and will be offering spare parts for its devices later this year. With that in mind, you wouldn’t imagine Google will be the last company to team up with iFixIt to make the transition to repairability that bit easier to manage.