A new report from the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has raised concerns over the quality and longevity of Chromebooks, which have become increasingly popular in schools due to their affordability.
The Chromebook Churn report found that many devices purchased just three years ago are already breaking. This has led to huge piles of electronic waste. One of the main issues highlighted in the report was the lack of reparability for Chromebooks. A parts shortage and the expenses involved.
The report cited examples such as Acer Chromebooks, where 14 out of 29 keyboard replacements were out of stock. Ten replacements cost $90 each, nearly half the price of some models. Furthermore, the report revealed that the devices have built-in “death dates,” meaning that software updates end, rendering them useless for secure websites. This kind of planned obsolescence is a common feature among many mobile devices.
The Chromebooks can have a longer lease on life
Google provides eight years of software updates for Chromebooks, but only from the release date, leaving many school devices without support after only a few years. This aggressive software expiration date often forces repair technicians to dispose of good Chromebook hardware with years of life left.
In addition, the report argued that PC and Mac devices have a higher purchase price but can be resold easily after a couple of years. In addition, they receive updates for longer periods. PIRG recommended that Google eliminates update expirations and that manufacturing partners produce a 10 percent overstock of replacement parts, which should be more standardized across models.
The organization also suggested that consumers should be allowed to install alternative operating systems like Linux.
Google can and should do better
According to PIRG, doubling the lifespan of the 31.8 million Chromebooks sold in 2020 could cut emissions by 4.6 million tons of CO2e, equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road for a year.
Google responded to the report, saying that regular Chromebook software updates add new features and improve device security every four weeks. Older devices continue to function securely and reliably until their hardware limitations make it difficult to provide updates.
The company added that it is working with device manufacturing partners to build more repairable devices and reduce emissions. However, PIRG believes that Google needs to do better to ensure that laptops for students are durable and repairable.
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