Can Fairphone build a _reliable_ smartphone?

@Gerry gives a valuable outside view and has valid points about the current situation, which Fairphone should really take to heart.

However, in my opinion Fairphone should not give up modularity. If modularity really is a root of serious problems (and in my opinion that’s still pretty much an if at this point), improve it, don’t ditch it.
I see Fairphone on the absolutely right track with the Fairphone 2.

You can run into trouble with any non-modular smartphone you buy really. It is not dependent on brand or on model, it is down to the individual device. Either you are in luck and you have a stable, rock-solid smartphone for years … or you end up on the not so sunny side of the business. If you have to send your device in somewhere for repair, weeks of waiting are rather the norm. Edit: And let us not get started about software security updates :slight_smile: .

Coming from an older feature phone, I guess your expectations towards the industry will not lead you towards a rewarding smartphone experience :slight_smile: . Smartphones are a whole lot more complex beast than our beloved old feature phones, and the overall modus operandi of the industry does not prioritize the things you are looking for in your next phone, it seems.

So where does that leave you if you really need a phone any given day?

I would do everything to avoid this question :slight_smile: .
If you have data you can’t live without, you have a backup solution in place.
If you can not live without a phone, you need a backup phone, it is that easy.
If that raises environmental concerns, get a used one.

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Maybe I should point once again that I see much room for improvement at Fairphone to develop and build devices on solid bases. I just cannot understand that almost everybody here tries to convince me that smartphones, in comparison with less popular feature phones, are less reliable. Yes, I have been informed about that before. :wink:

My only concern is the reliability of the Fairphone 2 itself due to hasty and bad quality management compared to products built by other smartphone companies. (The “Samsung experience” (exploding batteries) is based on a major design glitch as well and should have been avoided, too.)

Although almost any software related issue can be fixed with an appropriate update fast and easily, dead microphones/USB connectors and broken coveres with too tight power buttons causing continous reboots probably might be good examples for real annoyances. Regarding the new covers, people almost immediately recognized the problem after they put them on. Little cause, but big impact: The device is almost useless. (OK, let’s glue some tape around it. :wink: ) Do I have to expect such “features” from a product that costs EUR 525? From this point of view, my current phone which I bought in 2009 is much more sustainable: It just works, because it is very well designed. If I would not depend on Internet services, I was not interested in buying a new smartphone at all.

Sustainability of some products does not end with selling them. It very much depends on good customer experiences made during the operation of those products. A very satisfied customer would love to use a product such as a phone every single day if it was operating fine, and, after a long time, maybe he/she would shed some tears when it was time to “say farewell” to a device that entered his/her heart. (I might do that for my current phone…)

Yeah, that’s why Fairphone releases monthly software updates. The slim cover button issue doesn’t appear on every phone and is dependent on your habits of pushing those buttons, apparently. So there just might be only “correctly pushers” in the Fairphone team! :wink:

I’m one of the Fairphoners who have been very unlucky with my handsets from Fairphone. I say Handsets, because I’m on my third FP2 now. So I’ve had my fair share of problems. Yet my answer to the question “Can Fairphone build a reliable smartphone?” is YES!
My third handset is now working perfectly. And, it is easily repairable and upgradable due to the modularity. Soon there will be a new camera. I can’t wait for that upgrade! No other phone on the market gives the customers the possibility to upgrade the camera without bying a new phone.

As mentioned before, other brands have their problems too. Samsung with their exploding batteries and Apple with their bendgate.

About repairability and time.
I have an old Apple iPhone 4S. It was the state of the art in its time. Now I have lost it in the snow too many times so there were some water damage. The battery was also really bad. I sent it in for repair. It took two weeks and, the result was that I didn’t have it repaired. The price to repair it was 1000 Euros! I could have bought a new phone for that. Later I searched eBay and found some knock off Chinese parts for cheap and repaired it myself. The problem is that these parts (screen, battery and loudspeaker) are not the same quality as the originals. To change these parts took first a month to order them. Then it took me a couple of hours to actually change them. I could probably do it faster after a couple of times but, still it will take time and it’s complicated. The same repairs on a FP2 would have taken minutes to do. Time to order would probably vary. But, the quality of the parts would be the same as the originals. To change battery and screen is so easy you don’t even need tools. Apple does not offer spare parts at all.

The same old iPhone 4S is now so slow that it is almost unusable. Every update Apple gave us, made it a little slower. Now it’s just a pain in the b****.

I’m hoping the delay in handsets and spare parts is also caused to changes in the production and quality control. I have already ordered a handset for my wife. So I do believe that Fairphone can build a reliable smartphone.

I really don’t know why you chose this as an example for bad design, when it didn’t affect all covers, was found to be easily fixable by the community and is also very easy to fix by Fairphone because the cover is a modular part as well. I think you fool yourself into thinking that the problems described in this forum apply to every user which is not true. You’re making assumptions based on your own misconceptions of the idea. When @Stefan invited you to the Austrian Fairphoners, you declined because “you would not change your mind”. Why? This is literally the best way to address your concerns, try the phone out and talk with users about their experiences.

I don’t understand your rejection of modularity either. As I said before, the individual modules are screwed together and don’t fall apart if you for example drop your phone on the ground. I did some research about the phones you mentioned in your first post and guess what, the SonyEricsson T700 is held together by screws and slotting as is the Nokia C2-01. As you can see in the videos, they also allow a fast disassembly much like the FP2. Designing the phone as a solid, glued together block is a recent thing that started with Apple’s trend of making smartphones as thin as possible.

Your misconception that modularity is just a gimmick is false. FP2 takes a step back in sense of individual control about you phone (meaning that you are able to easily repair it or your local phone store can) and even improves this idea by extending the range of interchangeable parts inside the device. Or in other words: The FP2 is much more similar to your “classic” devices than the FP1, iPhones and Galaxy S devices out there.

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Clumsy me can confirm that :slight_smile: .
Regular bumper case … not a scratch to be seen :+1:.
(Just wait until I manage that with the slim case now …)

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Many thanks for the video links, the repair instructions are very interesting. Of course, Fairphone 2 is much easier to fix, there is absolutely no dought about it.

Usually my wife handles her phone with care, maybe that is why she had no problems so far. :wink:

It seems that most of the critical electronic parts within the SonyEricsson T700 are not put together over sockets that could get corroded or worn out over time. Like the Fairphone 2, it is a mobile device to be moved from one place to another. At least, that is what it was made for.

Yes, it is held together by screws, too. Sure, if I drop the phone, the chance of a malfunction is relatively high. Neither my current phone nor the Fairphone 2 is an outdoor device.

Now someone could say that it is not sustainable to have all chips assembled on one mainboard, because resources are short and precious. And right he/she was. But was I wrong when I recommended to open Fairphone 2 by service technicians only, to keep coatings, pins, and sockets as intact as possible? And how does a Fairphone customer benefit from modularity when one day even Fairphone realizes that some of the problems that occur are caused by the modular Fairphone 2 design? Is there any other explanation someone could give for all the flaws? For my liking, this smartphone has just too many issues compared to its predecessor.

And that is why I rejected the offer from @Stefan to get a closer look at the phone itself: He certainly would not show me any bad pins/socket from e.g. a bottom module which probably caused many problems Fairphone 2 owners are fighting with. :wink:

I would really, really enjoy to buy a “common or garden smartphone” from Fairphone (including an appropriate after sales service). I had absolutely no hardware issues in almost eight years with my current phone. Absolutely nothing. Although I do not expect any smartphone to be that reliable for such a long time, I certainly expect a product which is sold for EUR 525 directly to work flawlessly for at least two years. (I am not mentioning software bugs which should be solved by updates, anyway.)

But, to be fair: I must admit that I have not been thinking about the case in this regard. Maybe Fairphone 2 just needs a new case which is more protective to absorb shocks from the outside better.

I have to repeat myself: “the individual modules are screwed together and don’t fall apart if you for example drop your phone on the ground”. Additionally the case is designed to protect your display and is very robust. This is one of the reasons why it’s so thick.

You are neither wrong nor right. The FP2 gives you the choice between opening and repairing it yourself or go to a service technician and let him do it for you. Even if you open it up yourself it is very hard to break any of the modules because it is “designed to open”. You would have to be extremely careless to damage it. If you still fear opening it, then it’s also fine. Just go to your local phone store and let them repair it for you. Easy.

This is highly unlikely. Displays, speakers, cameras, etc. in most phones either connected by sockets or (small) cables. You can even see an example of this in the Nokia C2-01 video that I included. Even if you solder the parts, they would still be connected over the socket. The only difference of the FP2 is that you can actually take the phone apart to see the sockets.

Also, sockets don’t “corrode” or “wear out”. I don’t know where you get that impression from. To get a socket to corrode you would have to put it in salt water or disassemble it during a sandstorm. In a normal situation the connectors will sit tight and won’t move. The reason why some people had to clean their sockets was because dust can get between the sockets during the manufacturing process (i put this in bold so you don’t come up with the idea that this would happen by going outside). It also did affect a small number of people.

Any manufacturing process creates some faulty devices. The FP2 is no exception. People come to the forum to seek advice, especially if their phone doesn’t work like it should. That’s what you see here. You should be aware that if someone makes a post about a problem it doesn’t mean that

  1. all of the devices have the same problem
  2. all of the problems are triggered by the same flaw
  3. the problem is caused by a hardware failure

Why would you want to see a faulty Fairphone 2 device?

It works directly and flawlessly. You’re still making assumptions.

See my first paragraph. The case is already designed to be protective. On top of that, you could always buy an extra protective case if you want.

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Well, I am no business user but must rely on my mobile 100 % of the time. I hope Fairphone will achieve reliability with the next model at last…

Do we have to expect a non-modular Fairphone 3?

Of course, the modularity concept and the idea behind it is fine … but until now it has not been possible for Fairphone to build a reliable device for “everyday” use (in retrospect). And the lack of quality control of certain parts - classic/slim cover, proximity sensor, just to name a few - makes me believe that this concept was made “in a rush”, not knowing which impacts different environments might have to the electronics of a device like a smartphone that is moved from one location to another almost perpetually.

My impression is that although the inner parts are screwed together just fine, the frame of the device (Fairphone 2) as such really cannot absorb moderate shocks, causing distorting stress and - as time goes by - damage(!) to some module(s) inside (e.g. non-contacting/loose battery that begins to put pressure to the display, causing light spots to it - the “L” issue!). At least that is my opinion, although no official statement from Fairphone exists. (I am sure they have their reasons…) :wink:

Seen from this angle I would not emphasize the slogan “designed to open”. Take my advice: Just use the Fairphone 2 “as is”, and do not even think about opening it!

So, I am looking forward to Fairphone 3! :relaxed:

Your basing this on the how many FP2s you had in your hands out of tens of thousands of FP2s sold?
Show me any forum of any electronic device where the majority of topics is not about users having issues with the device.
Actually I doubt there is any forum about any other electronic device where so many users that don’t have issues with it come by regularly to discuss so many different topics.

I’m pretty sure that if the sentence “the FP2 is not reliable” were justifiable, that Fairphone would not be where it is today.

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I tell you where Fairphone really is today: Far behind in processing warranty(!) cases, supplying the necessary spare parts to let their customers fix their devices themselves(!). That lack of support (caused initially by poor quality control) actually is the main reason why I do not want to buy a Fairphone product (today). Considering that so many people who bought a Fairphone 2 have experienced so many serious issues within a short period of time (months, even weeks), I just have to reckon that if I ever buy a Fairphone, it would malfunction as well. EUR 500.00 is quite a high price, therefore I really do expect a good quality. A (new) iPhone 5 is offered for almost the same price, thus made “unfair”. How can Fairphone sell their current model for almost the same price when its quality is far behind? (Interesting to see that the predecessor, Fairphone 1, performs much better!)

Of course, warranty is fine … but what does it help to e.g. a pupil/student, someone who saved his/her money to support the idea of Fairphone, when he/she must wait for months(!) to be able to use the most necessary device on earth (nowadays) again? What would you recommend these persons should do instead? These are the ones who pre-financed the success of Fairphone (if you want to make reference to it) - these are very early supporters! Without them and so many other supporters, Fairphone would not exist anymore! (For what it is worth, since everybody can read such statements in several Fairphone press releases, it must be true…)

I will, however, watch Fairphone news closely because I really like their initiative and effort for fairer electronics.

@Gerry do you own a FP2 by now?

I definitely would be interested in the number of people having problems with their fp2 vs. the rest. I own a fp2 from 12/15 (4429) and it’s really working fine. Fairphone claims to have sold around 100K phones, so, somehow there should be some statistics… Often, people having problems are very vocative, and true, Fairphone definitely had problems with its support, and maybe still r with the availability of spare parts, i don’t know, but from some postings ​one could infer this…

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@Stefan Please excuse that I do not own a Fairphone 2, and I am better of without one if supplies with spare parts stay that bad. There is no indication that the situation is going to improve. If you have any other information please tell me.

Fairphone 2 is nothing more than a nice toy for freaks who have all the time in the world to play around with. I just want to use a smartphone the way it really should be used, no disassembling -> cleaning contacts -> assembling - works for some days, fails again - disassembling -> cleaning contacts -> assembling - a.s.o. I will never ever pay EUR 500.00 for an experience like that because necessary spare parts are out of stock again and again.

Fairphone keeps telling that it is difficult to supply the parts in relatively short time because an order of rather low amount would not attract the Chinese manufacturer to work for. Right. But how often does the bottom module (microphone) fail? How often does the display module fail? How often does the cover fail? Very, very often. Too often! And they should have known about all this as soon as they held those broken parts in their hands. They should have realized that - sooner or later - almost every Fairphone 2 will have those problems. I am sure they know now

I want to see real changes in the supply chain of spare parts first before I buy a Fairphone. Sustainable improvements for sustainable electronics!

Fairphone 2 is nothing more than a nice toy for freaks who have all the time in the world to play around with. […] I want to see real changes in the supply chain of spare parts first before I buy a Fairphone.

I’m afraid, we can’t help you any further. Nobody urges you to to buy a FP2. It’s your own decision after all, and nobody will be angry at you if you decide against a FP2.

@lklaus 130k is the latest number: :smiley:

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Well, it isn’t for me. I’m using my FP2 since January 2016 in production mode, not for playing around. I had to have my screen exchanged in May 2016, which took approx. 2 weeks then (which was absolutely ok for me). Since then it’s absolutely fine, I didn’t dis- or reassemble it at all or “played around with it”. I just can’t afford the time. And to be honest: I found out that I’m a No-Nonsense User in the first place.

There’s no doubt that people are having issues (@lklaus: I’d also be interested in some statstics) and that the (revolutionary) modular design might have taken its toll, but over-generalization doesn’t meet the truth either. And surely there’s room for improvement.

So of course it’s everybody’s own decision to buy a Fairphone or not. For me the most important point was (and is) that the Fairphone started the change for fairer and more sustainable electronics. And I accept the related residual risk for me as FP2 owner.

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@Gerry it’s perfectly ok to be active on this forum and taking part in discussions as someone who doesn’t own a Fairphone, but if an “outsider” tries to convince us that the phones we use and love for years are unstable and that we are freaks for using them, than that’s not acceptable.

I’m closing this thread.

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