After Right To Repair, Paid Extended Software should be the next big thing
Programs relating to the right to repair (RTR) have been gaining traction lately. Apple, despite its out of touch self repair policy, allows you to repair certain parts of the iPhone, and Nokia has also recently partnered with iFixit, the loudest proponent of the RTR Movement in the United States, to allow customers to purchase and repair certain parts of its smartphones.
RTR is an important movement because it allows the customers the right to the hardware they purchased, and repair it with a choice of going for a lower cost instead of fully relying on service centres which can be very expensive, as with the case of Apple or Samsung. Right to repair, like the recent law included in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, also fully extends the repair timeline by requiring manufacturers to ensure availability of certain parts up to 10 years.
However, we believe that customers should not only have the right to repair the hardware, but also the software that comes bundled with the device. After all, it’s the software updates that keep our devices secure and functioning properly. We should have the choice to update to the latest and most secured software, just like we have the choice to repair our own hardware.
We remember back when unlocking the bootloader was a big deal in the Android community. It allowed us tinkerers to install different flavours of the Android operating system and extend the use of our hardware. This not only benefits the tech community, but also the environment, which is constantly suffering from the effects of e-wastes and mining for rare elements needed for certain smartphone components. While recent models no longer allow the unlocking of bootloader (which EU may demand they do so after the end of support), there is another way for users to possibly enjoy the hardware even after the support ends.
There are rumours that Sony is charging over a new software update for its high-end cameras. I think this is a wise choice as it further extends the life of each hardware and therefore, less impact to the environment. Hardware upgrades today are mostly minimal, and it is usually the latest software that comes with each hardware that is the main reason why we keep upgrading. This initiative could save us a lot of money. We would love to see this trend extended to smartphones as well.
Is 5 years worth of update not enough?
I am aware that some manufacturers like Samsung and OnePlus have already extended their software support, some up to 5 years, but it is still no match to what Apple has been doing for many years now. Having said that, a paid extended software (PES) will force manufacturers to further support hardware after the promised support timeline ends if users demand to.
It is also worth noting that while the majority likes to upgrade smartphones annually, there are still a lot of users who would use their phones for many years. Not to mention the secondhand market, which is usually full of 3-4 year old (even older) devices that could otherwise be thrown in the landfill.
Having the convenience of PES gives an old hardware a new life, ensuring safety for use in banking and other financial transactions, making the secondhand market a more enticing option than buying the latest and greatest. Cheaper updated hardware translates to lesser e-waste, and possibly lesser demands for mining of rare earth elements.
This is how we think a PES should work
After the promised end of support, users may opt to buy or subscribe for a year worth of software upgrade and monthly security updates. Coding these updates takes time and money, so it is only fair that manufacturers offer a pre-order a year before the promised end of support to have a sense of the market. If they think it is profitable to invest PES on a certain model, then a PES will go through and again, repeat the same pre-order after the first PES has been deployed.
To cater the secondhand market, all the PES updates should be available for purchase on a certain app. They can then buy these updates and install it on its phone, allowing users to use the hardware but with the latest and most secured software.
Manufacturers can extend PES up to 3 years. That’s giving us at least 8 years of security and software update, rivalling that of Apple — of course, unless Apple implements a PES to its already long-term support.
Will Paid Extended Software become a thing?
It’s hard to know if paid extended software (PES) will become a thing. But with Sony “possibly” pushing this update model to its high-end cameras, it won’t take long for other camera manufacturers to adapt to the trend.
It is also not impossible for smartphone manufacturers to do the same thing as these two markets are usually tied together. It will be interesting if Sony brings this updated model to its Xperia line. That might just be the initiative we needed to start other brands from following.