How Samsung screwed up its Galaxy Upcycling program, according to iFixit

Galaxy S9 Plus Settings menu

  • DIY repair website iFixit has detailed how Samsung “ruined” its Galaxy Upcycling program.
  • Samsung leadership apparently scaled back the project because there was no “clear product tie-in or revenue plan.”

Samsung first revealed its Galaxy Upcycling program in 2017, envisioning a world where old phones were repurposed for a variety of reasons. The initial effort demonstrated use-cases like a Bitcoin mining rig made out of 40 Galaxy S5 phones and an old tablet turned into an Ubuntu laptop.

Unfortunately, the final Galaxy Upcycling initiative announced earlier this year is a far more modest effort. All Samsung lets you do is turn an old device into a sound detector (e.g. baby monitor) or a smart home control hub. Now, DIY repair website iFixit has outlined where Samsung went wrong (h/t: Ars Technica).

iFixit says it teamed up with Samsung to first reveal the upcycling project back in 2017, a few months after finding out about the initiative. The team then tested an early version of the software and waited for the final product to ship. Unfortunately, the Korean manufacturer went radio silent from this point, according to iFixit.

More reading: Here’s what Android Authority readers do with their old phones

“The actual software was never posted. The Samsung team eventually stopped returning our emails. Friends inside the company told us that leadership wasn’t excited about a project that didn’t have a clear product tie-in or revenue plan,” the website claimed. In other words, it seems like the project was scaled back dramatically because Samsung couldn’t figure out a way to make money from it.

The iFixit team also took umbrage with the fact that the oldest phone supported in the current Galaxy Upcycling program is the 2018 Galaxy S9. It sort of defeats the purpose of an upcycling program in the first place if actual old hardware isn’t supported. After all, the S9 is still a solid, usable phone in 2021.

iFixit also said the original program would’ve allowed users to unlock their phones’ bootloaders, paving the way for different custom ROMs and operating systems being installed on these devices. Unfortunately, the current upcycling initiative doesn’t allow for tinkering of this nature, essentially being an app-driven affair. Allowing users to install their own operating system/custom ROM and extend the life of their old phone was presumably at odds with the firm’s goal of selling more new phones.

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