Samsung was officially introduced its repair kit program in the US this week. Now, anyone with one of the few Galaxy phones covered by the program can order the parts, tools and instructions needed to fix their devices.
The company first announced its repair program in April. Thanks to some laws in Europe requiring devices to indicate how repairable they are, similar legislation guaranteeing the rights of consumers to repair their own phones, laptops and gadgets seems almost inevitable in the US. Companies like Samsung and Apple are eager to step up and set the tone for what device repairability will mean. The problem is that now that these companies have introduced their repair kit programs, they seem to be offering more of a bit of a fix than a full buffet.
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 seven devices in total, out of the hundreds of Samsung gadgets still in service. Also, only certain parts of each device can be repaired: the screen, charging port, and back panel glass. (Galaxy Tab owners can also replace the battery.) While Samsung’s repair kit rollout is limited, it’s been a smoother process so far than when Apple introduced its repair program in April. Apple’s kits were expensive, unwieldy, and often more trouble than they were worth.
Samsung, along with Google (which offers parts and tools for its Pixel phones) has partnered with the right-to-repair advocacy group iFixit. It is a good partnership and a step towards a more repairable future. But, for now, this future is only beginning to manifest itself. If Samsung, Apple and other companies want to build a robust self-repair program before the regulatory hammer falls, they’ll need to step up their efforts.
Here’s some more news from the Gear desk.
Hey Alexa, sweep my floor
Say what you want about Amazon, but there’s no denying that it’s just a hungry bear that wants to gobble up everything around it. The latest entity to slide screaming into Amazon’s open maw is iRobot, the company that makes Roomba vacuum cleaners. Amazon will snap up the company for about $1.7 billion in cash, which seems like a chump change from its $3.9 billion takeover of OneMedical last month. (That’s right, Amazon is also a healthcare provider now.)
Of course, there are all kinds of privacy implications of this acquisition, especially when you consider that Amazon may soon own the floor map of your home collected by sensors in iRobot vacuum cleaners. But hey, just think of the other possibilities: Go to the cameras on your robotic lawnmower! Flying Dustbuster drones that listen to your conversations! Truly everything will be possible.
The clubhouse is subdivided
Remember Clubhouse? The audio-based social network took off in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, when it eased the isolation and Zoom fatigue many of us felt. (Ha ha, glad it’s over, huh?) Since admission to the app was by invitation only, it gave the Clubhouse experience a sense of exclusivity that made it feel exciting. Soon, Clubhouse became the virtual meeting space where Silicon Valley bigwigs reveled in each other’s collective presence. Then the app was 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 self by being exclusive to itself again. A new feature allows users to split rooms into multiple clubhouses (clubhouse?) that will allow them to keep their conversations private. Clubhouse is accepting requests to build “houses” now, but will roll them out on a case-by-case basis.
Clearly, Clubhouse hopes that these smaller, more curated experiences will attract users of the many other, much more popular audio chat services. when announcing the feature on Twitter, Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison wrote: “The best social experiences aren’t open to everyone. They’re small and curated. That’s what builds intimacy, trust and friendship.”
After a controversial move to prioritize its TikTok clone Reels in user feeds, Instagram is investigating another online trend: NFTs. In May, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced that the social platform would dip its toes into the hot seed waters of NFT. Of course, the NFT market has cooled considerably since May. Still, this week Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company is expanding its plan to enable NFT on Instagram to more than 100 countries. The feature will allow users to create publications as NFTs and buy or sell them using digital wallets.
Speaking of non-expendable assets…
Make 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 token on a blockchain that indicates that a work is an original. Otherwise, the piece itself is as infinitely re-created as any online GIF. (Okay, it’s actually a lot more complicated than that, so here’s a guide that explains exactly how NFTs work.)
Now, thanks to companies like Infinite Objects and Tokenframe, you can take that digital art and stick it on your wall. This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED’s Lauren Goode and Michael Calore talk about the strange world of NFTs and how physical frames for digital art can make it all more accessible to the uninitiated.