Samsung’s new phone repair kits are better than nothing

Samsung officially introduced its repair kit program in the US this week. Now anyone who owns one of the few Galaxy phones covered by the program can order the parts, tools, and instructions needed to repair their devices themselves.

The company first announced its repair program in April. Thanks to some laws in Europe that require devices to declare how repairable they are, similar legislation securing consumers’ rights to repair their own phones, laptops and gadgets seems almost inevitable in the US. Companies like Samsung and Apple are eager to be one step ahead and set the tone for what device repairability will mean. The problem is that now that these companies have unveiled their repair kit programs, it seems like they offer more of a slice of repairability than a full buffet.

Each Samsung Galaxy repair kit contains the tools, spare parts and step-by-step instructions needed to repair broken screens, charging ports and glass-backed chassis.

Photo: Samsung

Samsung has only made repair kits available for some of its products, namely the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 phones and the Galaxy Tab 7+. That’s a total of seven devices, of the hundreds of Samsung gadgets that are still in use. In addition, only certain parts of each device can be repaired: the screen, the charging port and the glass on the back panel. (Galaxy Tab owners can also replace the battery.) While the rollout of Samsung’s repair kit has been limited, it has been smoother so far than when Apple introduced its repair program in April. Apple’s kits were expensive, impractical, and often more effort than they were worth.

Samsung has partnered with Google (which provides parts and tools for its Pixel phones) with the right-to-repair advocacy group iFixit. It is a good partnership and a step towards a more recoverable future. But for now, that future only manifests itself in fits and starts. If Samsung, Apple and other companies are to build a robust self-repair program before the regulatory hammer comes down, they will have to step up their efforts.

Here’s some more news from the Gear desk.

Hey Alexa, wipe my floor

Say what you will about Amazon, but there’s no denying that it’s just a big, hungry bear looking to gobble up everything around it. The latest entity to scream screaming into Amazon’s gaping maw is iRobot, the company that makes Roomba vacuums. Amazon will absorb the company for a chilly $1.7 billion in cash, which looks like a big change from its $3.9 billion feast from OneMedical last month. (That’s right, Amazon is now a health care provider too.)

Of course, there are all sorts of privacy implications of this acquisition, especially when you consider that Amazon may soon take ownership of your home’s floor plan collected by the sensors on iRobot’s vacuum cleaners. But hey, think of the other possibilities: Ring cameras in your robotic lawnmower! Flying Dustbuster drones listening to your conversations! Everything will be possible.

Clubhouse divides itself

Remember Clubhouse? The audio-based social network was launched in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, when it provided relief from the isolation and Zoom fatigue many of us were feeling. (Ha ha, glad that’s over, right?) Since access to the app was invite-only, it gave the Clubhouse experience a sense of exclusivity that made it feel exciting. Soon, Clubhouse became the go-to virtual meeting place for great Silicon Valley men to surprise each other with their collective presence. Then the app opened to the general public, and its appeal faded faster than a warm La Croix.

Now Clubhouse is trying to recapture some of its old cool by making parts of itself exclusive again. A new feature allows users to split rooms into multiple clubhouses (clubhouse?) allowing them to keep their conversations private. Clubhouse is now taking applications to create “houses”, but will roll it out on a case-by-case basis.

Obviously, Clubhouse hopes these smaller, more curated experiences will lure users back from the many other, much more popular audio chat services. When announce the feature On Twitter, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison wrote: “The best social experiences are not for everyone. They are small and curated. This creates intimacy, trust and friendship.”

Instagram NFTs

After a controversial move to prioritize its TikTok clone roles in users’ feeds, Instagram is digging into another buzzing online trend: NFTs. In May, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseric announced that the social platform would dip its toes in the then red-hot NFT waters. Of course, the NFT market has cooled considerably since May. Still, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this week that his company is expanding its plan to enable Instagram NFTs in more than 100 countries. This feature allows users to create messages as NFTs and buy or sell them using digital wallets.

Speaking of non-functioning assets…

Take an NFT, it will last longer

The hallmark of NFTs has always been that they are digital. Artists who mint their works as NFTs create a marker on a blockchain that indicates that a work is an original. Otherwise, the piece itself is as infinitely reproducible as any online GIF. (OK, it’s actually much more complicated than that, so here’s a guide that explains exactly how NFTs work.)

Thanks to companies like Infinite Objects and Tokenframe, you can now stick that digital art on your wall. This week, WIRED’s Lauren Goode and Michael Calore talk on the Gadget Lab podcast about the strange world of NFTs and how physical digital art frames can make the whole thing more accessible to the uninitiated.

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