Dear people from Fairphone, dear community,
like all of you I’ve been hit hard by the news that there won’t be any update to the FP1 anymore. I’ve thought quite a bit about my experiences with this special phone and want to share my thoughts with you. But first let me introduce myself.
I’m a physics student and will hopefully have my bachelor’s degree in a month or two. Afterwards, I’m beginning my MSc in Computational Science and Engineering, so programming is my passion.
I was among the first 300 people who made the very first batch of 5000 Fairphones possible. The reasons why I supported the idea, even accepting that I could loose the money (I learned later they would have given the money back in case of failure), were the following. I list them with descending importance:
- The complete source of the OS would be published.
- The phone is rooted out of the box.
- It would be a phone to keep a lot of years, i. e. there would be software updates during all the time. --> ecological aspect: less resource usage
- Improvement of the lives of factory workers and miners, less usage of conflict minerals (which I had never heard of before… thanks for raising my attention guys! ).
I was quite lucky when the phone arrived. In the last 3.5 years I talked to some other people owning a FP1. They were not satisfied with their phone (touch screen almost unusable when it’s raining, bad camera etc.). I always defended Fairphone because it’s not the right choice when you want a high end device. I’ve always said that a Fairphone is more ethical and sustainable than, say, an iPhone. However, today, I’m not sure about the last one anymore. I think the sad truth is that an iPhone would have lasted longer, resulting in less resource usage. Of course, the social aspect would have been worse, but that’s not my primary motivation in buying a Fairphone.
Altogether, here is my constructive criticism:
Durable hardware in my experience. I just had to replace my battery a couple of weeks ago, but that’s normal for batteries. The pitty is just that I hesitated quite a while before ordering it because I was worried if the update would reach us before Google stops support with security patches… And no there’s no update at all
Root access without compromises. I’ve really enjoyed that point.
The industry has changed because of you! More manufacturers are now using conflict-free materials.
Conclusively, one can say that you kept what you promised the first 5000 funders: We’ve started a movement.
Now I want to express what I didn’t like so much:
- The source code of the OS is really hard to find.
It is not possible for the community to participate in software development. There are many motivated and competent people, especially over at xda-developers, who want to contribute. Please let them do so. The best thing to do would be to set up a Github repository (or multiple for different parts of the OS). The best way (imho) would be to also make documentation, issues etc. public.
Part of the above point: Mediatek chipset It was known at the time when you designed the phone that Mediatek doesn’t often keep promises about releasing source code.
Spare parts. In my opinion, that one’s not your fault. In the beginning, you didn’t know how many people would buy your phone. To all the complaining people: I know it’s frustrating, but keep in mind that it was not even sure the FP1 would ever be built at!
Altogether, FP1 achieved some of its goals. But it also turns out that especially the technical aspects are a bit too ambitious to get it right in the first try.
Any ways, my sister is using a FP2 and only had to replace the back cover. The new one gets quite hot and leads to some random reboots, that should be fixed or at least be a warning about it…
I’ve taken my time to write this super-long post. Sorry But I also think that the people from Fairphone should read my thoughts since they explicitly asked for them. And, more importantly: Please reply to my con arguments. I’d like to know your motivation in your decisions. If you’re not letting the community know, I interpret this as lack of openness that’s completely inacceptable for a company advertising its openness. I read “participate in the community”, but there’s almost no way to do so…
P. S.: This morning, a Swiss newspaper published a small article about the end of life of the FP1: http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/wirtschaft/standardfairphone-i-nur-noch-fuer-bastler/story/31295651.
The subcaption of the picture can be translated to: “The first model did not keep its promises.”