I’ve been meaning to review my new smartphone for a few months now, but having read this article by the Guardian this morning on the conditions in Apple’s factories, I thought what better time than now..
I actually mentioned the Fairphone brand in my post on more environmentally-friendly technology, titled Green Your Tech. Today I’m going to cover the main advantages and disadvantages in more detail, as it’s been about 2 months since it arrived!
Ethical sourcing of materials + manufacturing
In my previous post, I talked about how Fairphone are the only phone manufacturer I am aware of that sources its materials fairly. Considering that the minerals used in phone manufacture are likely to be contributing to conflict in countries all over the planet (hence the term ‘conflict minerals’), this represents the only way to avoid profiting from and perpetuating that situation. Fairphone traces their materials every step of the way to ensure that they come from sources that are good for the planet and the people that collect them. For more information, see their policy here.
Fairphones are modular and easy to take apart. The idea is that when one part of the phone reaches the end of it’s life or breaks, you can simply purchase the one faulty bit and replace it yourself, diverting a whole phone from landfill where it would usually end up. Normally when a phone breaks, it costs almost as much as the original purchase price to repair, or there is no option for repair and you have to buy new. Not only is there the option to repair a Fairphone, but because you can do it yourself, it ends up being quite cheap. What more incentive do you need! Considering the fact that I haven’t had a smartphone last longer than 2 years (due to the failure of one part or another), I’m optimistic about the Fairphone’s chances.
This is what probably most people have asked me: Does it perform to the standard of most smartphones these days? Before I discovered that an ethical phone was possible, I deemed it a necessary evil of modern living that I would have to buy a mobile made in questionable circumstances. My only real concern after that was how much quality I could get for my money. Being used to pretty good phones (my last 2 were a Galaxy Note 3 and a SONY Xperia Z2) I’m going to be honest and say that the Fairphone does feel like a downgrade. In most respects it performs like every other android I’ve had in the last few years (when I unlock my phone it is easy to forget that it isn’t any one of the previous 3 I’ve owned) except for in a few respects. You can tell by how light and toy-like (?) it feels to hold compared with ‘normal’ smartphones, that Fairphone aren’t equipped with the same resources available to their larger counterparts who would’ve been able to slim it down to about half it’s size and make it feel a little less like a toy or a prototype. This, and a few other minor luxuries, I can of course live without. My only real gripe is the terrible 12MP camera which doesn’t take any decent pictures of anything. I’m really hoping they come up with a better quality camera I can replace this one with in the future.
Even before and during the buying process, I noticed some crucial differences in the way that Fairphone operates. Firstly, I was very pleased to learn that on their partner site The Phone Coop, there is an option to buy a refurbished Fairphone 2. Not only was I about to purchase the most ethical phone on earth, but I could get one that had already had some kind of life thus contributing to a circular economy, not to mention saving £80 off the RRP! Then, before adding the phone to your basket, they have an option to buy one with or without a charger. At this point, I was on another planet of happiness. The amount of times I’ve wished every new mobile didn’t have to arrive with those crummy earphones that break after a month or so and another charger for you to add to your collection I thought to myself as I clicked ‘Add to Basket’.
By the time my Fairphone arrived in ALL RECYCLABLE and NON PLASTIC packaging, it was like all my birthdays had come at once! Barring the screen protector film, all I was left with was a couple of bits of cardboard which I’m going to reuse and IT’S SO GOOD!
They even allow you to send your old phone back in for recycling, like, can it get any better than that?!
Fairphone have thought of everything. Here was me, patiently waiting for a phone that would either be modular, or come in recyclable packaging etc. and they’ve sorted pretty much everything! Literally the only drawback is that the camera is about five years in the past.
In terms of whether it’ll catch on, I think the standard and features of today’s smartphones are so high that it’d be difficult to convince someone to go backwards in that respect. However if you, like me, try to buy exclusively ethical and eco-friendly items and thought that a phone was one of those necessary evils then GUESS WHAT! This phone is for you! See the website and consider getting one when your current phone dies 🙂