After receiving the mail announcing the end of FP1 support, I’ve needed some time to compose my thoughts about it.
I just spent almost an hour reading about 90 posts and responses. Would I have for any other electronics product I own? No, I did so because this is Fairphone.
Almost four years ago my HTC smartphone died, and I had the choice of buying a new phone straightaway, or waiting for 3 months until the FP1 became available. After hesitating for 6 weeks, I realised that if I waited longer, the FP might sell out. So I bought one, and yes, there have been bumps along the way.
However, one promise has always been kept: that this was a project that wanted to show the world what it takes to make a fairer phone. Over the past 4 years, it definitely has done so for me. I feel that this is a new step in this process. The insight gained is that in order to really produce a longer lasting phone, you need a critical mass of users so that spare parts and update development stay feasible for a good number of years. For FP1 that limit is reached sooner that I would have hoped, but I do understand that this is how it might work, especially after seeing last year’s Dutch Tegenlicht documentary.
The real challenge as I see it, is whether Fairphone is big enough to do better in future. I’m worried that FP2 has specs which are already pretty much out of date. Because of that I wouldn’t buy it if I had to replace my FP1 - my strategy with electronic devices is to buy something as up to date as possible, to reduce the chances that the software will go obsolete before the device breaks down.
Yet, as far as I know, there’s no FP3 any time soon. I can see how it’s hard as a small company to have different products in different segments of life cycle, yet at the same time, it’s important for the future of an electronics company.
I can imagine this is a really hard thing to communicate about. You don’t want to tell the world too loudly if you are struggling to cope, because in the end Fairphone depends on consumer confidence as much as any other company. Yet, openness is a cornerstone of the Fairphone philosophy, and I think here the limits of this openness were reached. I’m fairly sure this decision took quite a while to make, I’m absolutely sure it must have been incredibly hard.
I still support the Fairphone ideal, and I will continue to use my FP1 as long as it will survive, but it will be interesting to see how things will develop. Fairphone has definitely changed the way I view fair production. Sadly, this seems to have been a reality check of its limits.