When it comes to tablet and smartphone owners, according to Best Buy Geek Squad agent Derek Meister, these gadget owners are more likely to buy new gear rather than mess with a repair. "Our most common requested repair for tablets and smartphones is cracked screens and battery replacements," he says. But when it comes to actually fixing gear, if the warranty or service plan has expired, consumers just upgrade, says Meister.
Kyle calls this type of product manufacturing, that make product repairs costly "designing for the dump."
The cost to repair the original Kindle Fire's screen is $110, at the repair service site IFixYouri.com, compared to the $160 price tag of a new Kindle Fire from Amazon. IFixYouri charges $280 to repair an Samsung Glalaxy Tab 10.1's glass and LCD screen, and the same model costs $350 new at Best Buy.
Gear to garbage in record time
Experts like Kyle say inexpensive gadgets are increasingly showing up in discount, grocery, and drug stores at prices people can't resist. "It's a printer for $22 or a $30 camcorder, how can I pass that up?" Kyle says when electronics are priced to be impulse buys too often gadgets don't meet consumer expectations, or break, and end up in the trash. (See related: What's cheaper: Replacement ink, or a new printer?)
Instead of mindless buying and chucking, people should have greater reverence for stuff, believes Annie Leonard, founder of The Story of Stuff Project, a consumer awareness campaign promoting sensible gadget consumption. In Leonard's 2010 Story of Electronics video, she points to a possible solution where manufacturers shoulder the responsibility for recycling their gear in an environmentally responsible way.
" Making companies deal with their e-waste is called Extended Producer Responsibility or Product Takeback. If all these old gadgets were their problem, it would be cheaper for them to just design longer lasting, less toxic, and more recyclable products in the first place. They could even make them modular, so that when one part broke, they could just send us a new piece, instead of taking back the whole broken mess. "