MUST SEE: Fairphone - The Next Generation

Category: Mobile

When it comes to electronics, some people care about “fair trade” and recycling, but most base their buying decisions on performance and price. But what if you could have the best of both worlds? Read on to learn about the Fairphone…

What is a Fairphone?

Back in 2013, Amsterdam-based Fairphone launched the first “ethically sourced” smartphone. It was aimed at people who care about the social and environmental impacts of the gadgets they buy. It's the tech equivalent of fair-trade coffee.

Fairphone goes to heroic lengths to ensure the miners and factory workers who make its components are treated fairly, and to provide for recycling of its phone worldwide, even in places like Ghana where trash collection is rudimentary.

Fairphone’s first generation was not exactly compelling. The first Fairphone was widely criticized for its slow processor, short battery life, and already-obsolete Android Jelly Bean OS. Still, about 60,000 Fairphones are in users’ hands today.

Fairphone - Socially Responsible smartphone

The shortcomings will be addressed in the second generation Fairphone, says the company. Its price with be €525 ($591 USD). It will ship first to Europe, in the summer of 2015.

The specs of the Fairphone 2 include a 5-inch Gorilla Glass 3 screen with full HD resolution, dual SIM card capacity (4G LTE / 3G / 2G), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 32 GB of storage, 2 GB of RAM, and an 8 Mp rear-facing camera. Android 5.1 (Lollipop) will provide the smarts. Not exactly raising the bar, right? But wait!

More Than Playing Fair - It's Fixable Too

What made me sit up and take notice is the news that users will be able to repair and upgrade their Fairphone 2s. It’s hard to overstate how big a deal that is!

If the screen of your smartphone cracks, you can a) endure looking through the spiderweb, b) pay up to $100 to a local repair shop, or c) ship the phone to the manufacturer for warranty work. None of the above options is very appealing.

But if you had a Fairphone 2, you could simply order a replacement screen online, and when it arrived you would just pull two clips, pop out the broken screen, and snap in the new screen.

Other damage-prone components are replaceable, too. External buttons, ports, back plate, etc., are all designed to be replaced by anyone who can turn a screwdriver. But this unheard-of user maintainability goes even deeper than just the mechanical components.

The electronic components of a Fairphone 2 are also designed to be replaced by users. When a faster processor or better camera becomes available, you won’t have to buy an entire new phone.

What's in YOUR Junk Drawer?

It’s always seemed unfair to me that after spending hundreds of dollars on a shiny new smartphone it’s practically mandatory to spend dozens of dollars more on a silicone case to protect the darned thing from dings, scratches, and falls. The Fairphone 2 will feature a rubbery case that extends slightly beyond the glass screen, so that the rubber will take the direct impact of a face-first fall. The case is also swappable, and in the future may contain features such as NFC and wireless charging.

One thing that's not clear to me is how well the Fairphone will work outside of Europe, where it's first being made available. In the USA, I'm fairly certain it will work on GSM-based carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint, which operate on CDMA networks, are the question mark, and the Fairphone website does not address the issue.

Fairphone wants to distinguish itself as the "socially responsible" smartphone. And it's admirable that they consider not only the sourcing of the materials, but also the design, manufacturing and life cycle. But even more, I like the idea of a phone that's fixable and upgradable. That takes a significant bite out of the initial price tag. How many obsolete or broken phones do you have in a junk drawer?

You may not get excited about being fair to the people half a world away who provide the ingredients of your smartphone. Maybe you don't care much about the environmental impact of electronics either. But how do you like the idea of a phone that's fair to YOU?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "MUST SEE: Fairphone - The Next Generation"

Posted by:

GregL
16 Jun 2015

Hallelujah! About time a repairable ethically sourced mobile phone came to the market! I can't wait to see it in the USA!


Posted by:

russ
16 Jun 2015

Hope you keep following up on this one. What a game changer if you could actually upgrade and repair your own phone (at least for this waster allergic neanderthal).

Great article Bob.


Posted by:

Tom
16 Jun 2015

I do not yet own a smart phone but ave been considering an iPhone because I have an iMac and iPad. The advantages of the Fair phone are considerable, but am not sure whether they will serve the USA user well; and I am a little confused about Bob's (your) comment about being "fairly sure" it will not be an issue.
Please address these questions in a later email. Thank you for this news.


Posted by:

Stephanie
16 Jun 2015

Once the Fairphone 2 gets to the US, it will change the way the game is played. Thanks for everything you do, Bob. :)


Posted by:

Leroy Todaro
16 Jun 2015

i like it :)


Posted by:

Francis
16 Jun 2015

It is very expensive for some one like I'm however it seems like a really good idea.


Posted by:

Patrick
16 Jun 2015

The Fairphone sounds like my kind of gadget. Bring it on! Please keep us updated.


Posted by:

RandiO
16 Jun 2015

Thank you for the heads up.
Although it may possibly not contain 'ethically sourced' parts, Google's Project Ara is a modular smartphone which may arrive in 2015 to re-define the market.

Pasted from


Posted by:

Paul Palmer
16 Jun 2015

If you want to read the theoretical underpinnings of intelligent product design for perpetual reuse and repair of all products (including electronics), read the theories, examples, principles and more at www.zerowasteinstitute.org. I've been working out these principles for thirty years.


Posted by:

ed martin
16 Jun 2015

I'm a euro - how rare for something with a genuinely useful & sensible sales pitch to be intro'd over here.

The amount of waste because of incompatibility / built in obsolescence / lack of replacement facility indicates a very cynical industry.

Good luck fairphone and thanks Bob R for informing us


Posted by:

Veldon
17 Jun 2015

Now if somebody would come up with a service provider that is fair.


Posted by:

John Silberman
17 Jun 2015

Too bad the Fairphone is so large. Maybe the Fairphablet? It seems all phones are getting too big for my liking. They need to fit comfortably in my pocket.


Posted by:

J.P. Jones
17 Jun 2015

Great article Bob .. Thank you..!!
I'm excited about the "fair" concept. I'm an advocate for social responsibility ... and the whole "stay human" concept. Just the idea that someone could replace a cracked screen on their phone is awesome. Many (maybe all) of today's cell phone manufacturers could make easily replaceable screens, but that is not in their financial interest. Not only do most manufacturers make items that aren't easily repaired, they often design obsolescence into the item ... they want the item to become useless within a known period of time. Because everyone ain't a "technician" and because things can and do break, just think of the satisfaction, confidence and sense accomplishment people would get by actually repairing their own phone. Fairphone is not only fair ... it's empowering.


Posted by:

John Slowikowski
21 Jun 2015

Sounds Great.

I have a Samsung Galaxy phone with a cracked Screen & I got a price online & they wanted almost $300 to repair it. You can buy a complete smartphone for that price


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