Batteries sure are one of the most hazardous and dangerous parts of a phone. Shipping them comes with legal precautions. Testing and certifiying them takes ages, and mishandling them can cause serious injury or death. Batteries were the part that we ran out of the last. Mainboards and screens were gone before. The community can come up with these ideas because they are not legally liable for the damage that can stem from using an untested, unlicensed battery in your phone. You blow it up, you’re liable. As a private person, this is more or less severe, depending on your health care. As a company, this can mean your end.
It is vital to understand, that inside of a very complex supply chain set up for one component only and every time a specific component for a smartphone is manufactured, the willingness of one actor, e.g. Fairphone, is not sufficient to keep production going. There is assembly factories involved, there are subcontractors involved, all of them have their own economic and logistic reality. Fairphone does not produce spare parts themselves.
Every spare part has their own story. For some, we found the right suppliers (think: plus the entire production line and supply chain that has to be set up for this very component) but we were not satisfied with the quality. Miquel still recalls the time where they were sitting in the office testing various alternative FP1 screens, but they were all sub-par (think: a pain in the neck). For some spare parts, we simply did not have enough cash to order the quantities that could’ve been assumed to match future demand. In this point, two of our goals were mutually exclusive. One was the financial independence from external investment, the other was the supply of spare parts. Money does not grow on trees, especially when the phone you sell to get the money to buy spare parts is not produced anymore. For other spare parts, the minimum order quantity was just too high, considering that there were less than 60.000 FP1s in circulation.
It is hard now to make you understand how much we have tried to source these parts because we haven’t properly communicated about this. As a company grows, some information becomes confident because there are various external stakeholders out there whose relations a company has to entertain. Thus, this boils down to a question of believing us or not. I am not going to lie about this.
You can scold and condemn us for not sourcing more parts, this is easy. You can also take this as a public learning about how the industry works and which obstacles one faces when wanting to keep your phone longer. This was one of the main missions of Fairphone. We are here. The brickwall exposed.
All the best from Amsterdam,