Thank you @Volker.
“Sorry, I again disagree here. There are imho good reasons to realease a new model every couple of years (without inviting the existing customers to upgrade!)”
Even you acknowledge the FP5 should not be marketed to existing customers but I am certain their CRM knows I’m a recent buyer and sent me, and targeted that customer population to send an e-waste campaign of stunning cynicism. It says, to FP4 users. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming, don’t buy new models if you don’t need to. E-waste is a terrible problem, here are alarming stats to make you feel guilty and a nice Big Button saying, barefacedly, “we have the solution”. You click on it and the solution, marketed at FP4 owners among others, is: abandon your working phone and buy an FP5.
But say they excluded us from the campaign. You say it’s OK for Fairphone to release a new model every couple of years. I refer you to Fairphone’s own marketing pitch (sorry, awareness raising green message):
“In 2019 alone, we saw over 50 million metric tons of electronic waste being generated globally, as per UN estimates. Various reports say that annual number could reach 74 million metric tons by 2030.” As they say, 82.6% of this is not recycled. They don’t add that only something like 3-8% of what is recycled is reusable, so the ewaste is higher. They also don’t mention that a high proportion of what is marked as recycled because you left it in the electronics bin of your recycling facility is merely dumped into huge toxic piles that create neurological damage in children in nearby villages and destroy biodiversity.
Above all, neither they, nor you, note that for the vast majority of this waste, the hardware still works. People stopped using their iPhone 4 because 5 came out, then 6, etc. Most people in the West have 4-6 devices on average at home they have stopped using. Just at home. After several years, they dump them. And it becomes the issue above. What’s more, this drives redundant manufacturing, so raw material extraction, energy, emissions, land use, environmental impacts grow from pure redundancy: the demand for a new product to replace a fully functional one.
FP practices have all the worst features that drive these two issues, but greenwashes it more effectively. It releases and markets new devices while existing models work; it does so in a backward incompatibile way that forces you to choose rather than physically upgrade; it abandons or deprioritises software support for previous models, meaning they become unusable not because they are physically obsolete, but because the software has not been maintained effectively, driving you into the new product. And it aggressively promotes your buying a new product as a solution to ewaste in the name of product longevity, without a trace of irony.
The helpful thread you pointed me to, just confirms and all but seals my disenchantment. This is not a new practice. FP4 was incompatible with FP3.
The FP approach is textbook premature, designed and promoted obsolescence, empirically, undeniably. But with a nice coating of green paint.
Choices consciously not taken:
- Make physical FP5 upgrades backward compatible, so earlier model users can upgrade parts without buying a new model.
- Prioritise longevity in your software team. Roll out Android 13, debug it, make it competitive, THEN roll out backward compatible FP5 so new clients can buy that and old ones can physically upgrade.
- Have a swap service. Pay a small surcharge for labour and swap your FP4 for FP5 since they are backward compatible and FP can reuse and repair.
- Don’t aggressively market new model to existing model users in your CRM, unless you have 1-3 in place and are not encouraging them to simply abandon their model.
- Don’t deprioritise support for old models to plug your new one.
- Don’t be blatantly hypocritical and cynical and advertise your new model as “the solution” to ewaste.
- Actually live your values.
So I would say to you @Volker that there are good reasons NOT to release new models prematurely, using the arguments you surely received from Fairphone telling you November was about device longevity and adding a bit of research into why it is so urgent and terrible for the planet. I would think you would agree with Fairphone’s lovely ewaste arguments and campaign, and see how it is obviously in contradiction to releasing new models with high frequency.
And if you are nevertheless going to release new models while previous ones work, then, surely you would agree that there are good reasons to do so responsibly, to choose 1-7, as opposed to the way FP has _ chosen_ to do it.
Now tell me that you still think there are good reasons for FP to release new models while previous ones (should) work; advertise them to existing users, say that buying them is the solution to ewaste and device longevity, make the new physical upgrades incompatibile with existing models rendering the latter unupgradeable and prematurely obsolescent; while deprioritising support and maintenance for older models and releasing a buggy upgrade that accelerates obsolescence, without providing any mechanism for company swaps, reuse and repair?
Or maybe agree that FP is squarely in contradiction to its values, that November is not, as FP claims, about “product longevity”, and that their entire model replicates and adds to the causal factors of ewaste and simply accelerates the problem while advertising itself as THE (not A) solution.
I will reach out to their comms staff before writing an exposé, in case they have some good reasons I’m not seeing (I really wanted to believe and support them), but what I described above is structural, and the thread you referred me to shows they did the same for FP3. I wouldn’t be surprised if pro-rata, the incumbents contributed less to ewaste than FP, with a smaller percentage of models being prematurely wasted, even if the net numbers are obviously incomparably higher. Given their policies, I suspect 80-90% of FP3s are sitting in someone’s drawer, waiting to join the piles of e-waste in a few years. And that in a year at most the same will be the case for FP4. Unnecessarily. These were FP’s conscious design choices, obviously informed about the issues, and deciding to do it this way anyway. The environmental impact of redundant production, consumption and ewaste are far, far, far, far greater than the impact of the materials used in each product. Fairphone’s material design improvements are cosmetic, compared to the environmental impacts of their product maintenance, backward compatibility and promotion strategy. The latter is as terrible as their competitors’ but with ten times the hypocrisy.
These are the last words I will leave here on this: Fairphone consciously made informed design and marketing choices unnecessarily and empirically destructive of the environment, far more so than FP’s environmental features, in the presence of alternative, viable design options consciously not taken, replicating the most environmentally impactful choices of the industry they claim to want to disrupt, to profit from a well meaning but under-informed green consumer market that will see a definitely greener product but not assess the far greater environmental impacts of premature obsolescence in their overall product design and marketing strategy.