A (little) story over Fairphone 1 enthusiasm raise and fall.

When I first met a friend with a fairphone he was a pretty evangelist of this technology and the way it was produced. As I was in a fablab and already familiarized with the “revolution of production” I was pretty impressed and decided to buy a Fairphone despite the price. I said into myself that this was the price for a kind of liberty of mind and freedom (as in the word “liberty”). Specially for open source and de-googlelization efforts.
In fact it was the case for a time, when I broke my screen down, I could repair it by getting a new one from official store. Paying for replacement part is not a problem, I knew people and company need to live from production, I can understand margin, virtous circle of money, for research and development.
So I became an evangelist as well.

Then, later, when I had a power button fail, I needed to change the whole motherboard : “when you got a scar on the finger, just cut the hand !”. Apple style. This industrial habit is something we are all familiarized with now : for the worse.
I thought this could be avoided in fairphone, but no. Back this time I imagined (and excused) that this was a poor product conception, but yes this was the first model, and no all is not well thought, well produced specially for firsts models, I known that. So I decide to buy another motherboard just for a switch, because trying to change the switch with solder fail and you need to have some tools for precision in order to do it properly. This kind of tools are not accessible by everyone.
Fail ? Yes because spare part were not available this time… Discontinued maybe something about 4 years after first production.

How can you even say that your phone will last more than others ??.. Three years and dead cellphone. As a company you decided to grow instead of producing more spare parts for people who first buy your model and believed in it. This should have been your priority forever !

I read all blog post about trying to find a real argument. No. Nothing. We are in front of another company wanting to grow and to make money. To produce another model, but for what ? Giant screen ? New bigger camera ? To this we are familiarized also. I first wanted to cut the growth curve, fairphone served this purpose, in speech at least.
Buying from another guy ? Sorry : no ! This is your mission to provide, not mine to search find and scam from a guy who eventually will send me the parts after payment…

My next mobile phone will not be a fairphone either 2 or 3, neither 4.
Be confident, I will be your best evangelist to NOT buy a fairphone at all now… count on me.

Now my feeling about sustainable cellphone is as follow : keep salvage and keep hacking : with 3 old same cellphones you usually make one good… Don’t ever buy a shinny cellphone. Don’t ever trust companies.
Buying a new pretended long last cellphone was for peace of mind, not the opposite.

Promises are only made for those who believe in it…
Assesment, lalorrhea, marketing speech, are not action. Only action is action. Discontinued fairphone spare parts is a betrayal. Period. Fairphone IS green washing despite all efforts they had putted in it.

Now a Fairphone 3 is under the hood. Good luck to new buyers. I hope they will learn from my little story. Everyone is free as in “liberty” : to buy or not to buy.

Flo

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Did you try to get a secondhand motherboard through a Fairphone angel?

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Wow, while I on one hand understand your frustration, on the other hand I wonder, if you really are that turned down, being an “evangelical” once? But maybe it’s just, that being very much into something results in being very much against it, when being dissappointed. From love to hate - so to speak.
But in my oppinon you are a bit harsh on Fairphone with your criticizm.

E.g.: On what are you basing your statement, that Fairphone is doing green-washing, that they are just like any other company wanting to grow and to make money?
First of all, every company has to make money, or they go out of business. Even more so, if they want to show all the other companies, that their way to do things is working.

Here is what I would reason (tbh. I never was an evangelical and might not be disappointed that much):

  1. Regarding the broken button. Yea, that’s very annoying. It might be a design flaw as well as a production flaw or just bad luck. As you already wrote, changing the button or soldering it is way complicatet and clearly not for everyone. A repair-cafe might have been helpful, but I really have no clue. Designing a phone, where stuff on such a tiny scale like the power-button can be simply unplugged sure would result in a lot of possibly unstable connections and a rather large device (plug connections tend to be larger than soldered ones).
  2. Regarding discontinuation of the FP1. To cut it short: As I got it, there was an asian manufacturerer that stopped production of needed parts for the phone. So, what can a company the size of Fairphone do? They have produced and sold as much FP1 in 3 years, the likes of Apple and Samsung do in less than a week.
    Up to now Fairphone still sell spare parts for the FP1 and the community #fairphoneangels offer help and spare parts as much as possible, even recycling old phones.
    Of course you are right, that they have done a phone for the first time and I am sure, they made quite a few mistakes or learned something. E.g. they had chosen the “wrong” SoC manufacturer, that was neither open nor supportive; thus making upgrading the OS virtually impossible.
  3. To Fairphone not cutting the growth curve. Well, have you ever compared the product-cycle of Fairphone to that of any other phone-company (even Shiftphone)? For FP1 there was no technical update whatsoever. For FP2 there were new camera-modules and that’s it. Regarding FP3; that’s all nothing but speculation. Neither you nor I do know, how it will look like or what features/tech specs it will have. Or do you have some inside-news? For not producing another batch of FP2, it would be helpful to take a look at sales figures. I hope you will agree, that it would be no good business and ecological move to build a phone you can not sell anymore? My guess is, that sales went down noticeably, but I have no proof for that of course.
    So here we are, after 6 years of Fairphone with 2 phones and two new camera modules.
    I really would not call that a race for the latest technology.

And finally you don’t mention all the other things Fairphone stands for:

  • Social standards
  • Fair minerals
  • Open software (Fairphone open, Lineage, Ubuntu touch …) / Software support way beyond what every other company is offering
  • A really active, supportive and helpful community.

And all that from a company as small as Fairphone.
PLEASE: Every comparison to one of the global players is extremely unreasonable.

In all:
I understand your anger, but I guess you take it way too far.
And you should be fair, when talking about Fairphone to others and at least send them to this forum and the Fairphone blog to get some more information from other sources.

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To be clear: the Fairphone 1 was primarily about Fair Trade minerals. Other values were implemented, but where not the core of the concept. The design was not done by Fairphone itself (like they did with the FP2), it was an existing Chinese model.
I can’t remember a claim the phone should last longer. They did make claims about fair trade minerals, workers’ rights and open source. On top of that, they sold spare parts to repair your own phone (how many companies do you know doing this?).

When production of the FP1-parts was halted because big companies didn’t need these parts any more, size became an issue. There are just not enough FP1s in the world to justify producing spare parts only for this small company. It’s common sense, both from an environmental (waste) and financial point of view.

Claiming this should have been their priority forever is asking for a bankrupt company and a lot of e-waste (unsold FP1 spare parts). While I agree it was no good news to recieve, I cannot blame the company for making this choise.

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