Fairphone 3 -- Hardware and obsolecence discussion

According to van Abel, the work on the Fairphone 3 will start in January [2016?], and in the future new Fairphones will enter the market every two to three years.

It looks like there is already a FP3 in the discussion. I think I will skip the FP2, but I would really like to see a more open OEM/SoC choosing process this time. Would this be possible? What are the plans for this so far? Or is it already decided that the FP project will stick with the same OEM & QC?


My guess is that “work will start in January” means that they will start thinking about FP3 in January. This will probably include all those fundamental questions which you pose. I doubt they plan anything for FP3 as of yet because they are very busy with FP2.

Personally, I’m currently still more interested how FP2 turns out. But, of course, you are right in that we should try to make our preferences known as soon as possible in the design process of FP3. Maybe we should try to write a “Fairphone Community Manifesto”.


How about a Fairphone 3 Wishlist, in remembrance of

? :wink:


That comment in Ars Technica needs some clarification (which I don’t have yet). We are really focused on Fairphone 2 right now so I don’t know what it means for a Fairphone 3 :slight_smile:

My guess is that “Fairphone 3” refers to an update of the phone for the North American market in terms of frequency bands, but I’ll get more info on that.

A Fairphone community manifesto sounds like a cool idea!


Thanks for the clarification, Joe. Makes sense from the timing, so the article is more about a FP2 with more/different frequency bands. Interesting, I thought with the Qualcomm SoC the whole baseband is all in software anyway. But I guess you just get a different set of binary blobs :smile:

A Fairphone community manifesto sounds really nice indeed. I will try to slip back in a few of the old Fairphone 2013 ideals regarding more information parity for enhancing the whole “value chain” again :smile:


I’m still hoping that there will be no Fairphone 3. At least not in the next 10 years or so.
Fairphone 3 should only be produced when it’s no longer feasible to upgrade the FP2 with modules to keep it up to date.


The end of the 8xx QC line :smile: But the full quote of van Abel (maybe misquoted as Joe points out) sounds a bit different to me any way. Fixed product cycle.

I think it would be a good idea to ‘release’ a new Fairphone variant in 12/18 months or so, but it’s just the Fairphone 2 with some upgraded modules that come installed by default.

A good way of keeping the product fresh for new buyers, but not having to develop a whole new device, or hinder the sustainability of the FP2.


:smile: Guys, I am sure you remember this article, from August.

Well I did not mentioned it at that time when I shared it here on the forum (I was more excited by the nice covers!:smile:) but : it talks about Fairphone3!

To the question “Un Fairphone 3 est-il d’ores et déjà en préparation ?”
“Is a Fairphone 3 already under preparation?”

Olivier replys:
“Les cycles de développement sont de 18 mois, donc oui, nous pensons déjà au Fairphone 3. Nous cherchons toujours à nous améliorer et nous réfléchissons déjà à une manière dont nous allons pouvoir encore simplifier l’utilisation et la modularité du téléphone. Il est déjà très simple de remplacer et faire évoluer les composants du Fairphone 2, et nous irons encore plus loin avec la version 3. Nous souhaiterions pouvoir changer encore plus de choses comme le processeur ou la mémoire interne, ce qui n’est pas encore possible ici.”
“Development cycle is 18 months long, so yes, we are thinking about Fairphone 3. We continuously want to improve and we are already working on how to further simplify the user experience and the phone modularity. It is already very easy to replace and upgrade Fairphone 2 components, we will go even further with version 3. We would like it is possible to change even more, like the processor or the internal memory, which is not yet possible.”

BUT chhhut do not talk about FP3 to your friends! :blush: Today is FP2, today is market capturing for FP, “focus on FP2” like Joe says!


Although I like your idea of not needing to sell many more phones, they have to sell something so they can keep the support available. Also, I could imagine they want to expand more. As FP gets more reputation in Europe, they will attract more customers (how won’t have had a fairphone but are interested).


I started a very drafty draft for a possible “Fairphone community manifesto” here:

The Fairphone community manifesto (DRAFT!)


Impossible. Hardware wise, the Snapdragon 801 is already a tough sell. Two years from now, no one will be interested in a Snapdragon 801 with 2GB memory phone (when buying a new one, mind). I know for many people it’s not about the hardware, but just ask yourself if you’d buy a FP2 right now if it was sporting 2 year old mid-range hardware, like 512MB RAM and a single core 800Mhz CPU.

Seeing FP2 as a modular phone with upgradable modules is a bit of a pipe dream IMO. Repairability is what comes first. Upgrading some core component like the chipset requires new memory and a new motherboard as well and all that needs to integrate with existing hardware too. You’d probably be better off developing/buying an entirely new phone.


Just because they don’t sell new phone models doesn’t mean they won’t sell phones. In my scenario they would sell Fairphone 2.1s, 2.2s, … (with up-to-date-modules) in the future. And since they don’t have a significant portion of the market-share they don’t have to compete with their own phones for customers. They still have a lot of potential for new customers for years and years to come.

If that is true that’s very unfortunate. You just killed my dreams! :wink:
But do you think in an utopian future, where fairphone has the money and resources to design and build their entire phone with all it’s components themselves (or in cooperation with the community) as free hardware would it be possible to design core components in a way that they do work with older models of other core elements?


Yes Fred I have read the French article too. And I agree with Paul: it is extremely worrying. Starting work on the next phone every 18 months is totally contrary to the original ethics of the Fairphone. This is clearly a strategy aimed at increasing the customer base in order to make more profit. How on earth will they be able to carry on supporting the FP1 by providing software updates, selling spare parts, and doing the same for the FP2 AND selling the FP3?! Where do you think their priorities will be in 2017 when they start selling a FP3 whilst the promised length of support for the FP1 hasn’t yet expired? Mmmh…


That statement doesn’t make sense in the slightest.

Your second concern about capacity and priorities is very valid, but I can’t think of a single reason why releasing phones regularly is 'totally contrary to the ethics of Fairphone;.


I don’t know. That’s the problem Google is trying to tackle with Project Ara, isn’t it? It sounds like a technically complicated issue. Who knows what the future brings. Maybe Ara will be the start of standardised chipset interfaces and instruction sets which would allow such a thing across the mobile phone world. Maybe Ara fails hard. But that’s all too speculative for my tastes.


Pal, the original idea behind Fairphone is to build a phone that will last for as long as physically possible and provide the support for that length - not to come up with a new one every couple years to make people buy and drop the previous one, just like every big phone manufacturers do. How can that not make sense to you? Have you lost sight of Fairphone’s ideals already?


There is no single idea behind Fairphone. The best summary given by Fairphone themselves is given in an early blog post:

Fairphone’s mission is to change the relationship between people and their products, and our vision is an economy based on fairer principles.

The breakdown into aims can be found via the roadmap pages on the site. Part of this does focus on the product life cycle. They state clear aims on lifecycle here. In terms of moving away from releasing new models, it could fall under this objective:

Extend the usable life of Fairphones and incorporate features that add value for reuse and recycling.

However, this is just one of the many goals. I personally don’t read moving away from developing new models as part of their objectives - getting more out of a model, yes, definitely. Conversely, I don’t see how developing a new model directly contradicts any of the aims they state.

They do aim to change the relationship between people and product. Reducing the need to get a new model because of hardware problems is the most direct way to help, which they do. That some people always need the latest and greatest as you point out is something that isn’t easily fixed, though they do encourage people to only buy a new phone if they need one (although this message has been more prominent in the past):

But we like to say that the fairest phone available is the one you already own, so we’d like to encourage you to keep your existing mobile as long as it works.

Fairphone won’t decrease the number of people replacing their phone by not releasing a new model. Most of those people would just get a newer model from a different brand.
With each iteration of the model I do hope and expect they move towards true modularity, and make the device last longer. For now, the main goal of the modularity appears to be repairability, but increasingly that will hopefully become upgradeability. It’s just not the only goal there is, and you can’t achieve perfection on all objectives in one iteration.


I think the modular nature of the FP2 may mean they move away from proper release cycles. It has already been suggested that in future the mainboard may become replaceable. In that respect you would offer sets of modules that work together but using the same phone body. So a FP3 could just be the same phone with a few different modules that would also be purchasable individually to upgrade existing phones.

Obvious I have no knowledge on this, but that would be where I would go if I were developing the tech :wink:


It doesn’t make sense because it’s not entirely true. Let’s break it down.

Well, that’s one of the goals absolutely. Fairphone devices are designed to last as long as possible, at least 5 years.

That doesn’t stop them making new devices within those 5 years. It only means that people who bought a Fairphone 2 shouldn’t need to buy any new device for at least 5 years.

provide the support for that length

Absolutely. Fairphone 2 is designed to be supported for at least 5 years, where possible.

Again, supporting Fairphone 2 for 5 years does not - in any way, shape or form - prevent Fairphone from making new devices in that period. While a much bigger fish, Microsoft only ended Windows XP support last year, despite releasing 4 new operating systems within that period.

not to come up with a new one every couple years

Here’s the first problem. I don’t think Fairphone has ever said anything about how often they would produce new device variants. And as stated above, producing new variants does not damage the aims and ideals of the Fairphone project.

Another issue is that Fairphone 2 isn’t perfect. There are still elements that could make the phone fairer. Fairphone 3 might improve on this in ways that would be impossible by sticking with Fairphone 2.

make people buy and drop the previous one

Again, this is another problem. Sure, there might be a number of people who do this, but I wouldn’t imagine it to be a significant number. The vast majority of Fairphone users will have bought into the project and it’s aims and ideals. This means that in most cases they are not going to drop the phone and create e-waste after a year or two.

There are 2 very separate issues here that you seem to be merging into one.

  1. Supporting existing devices
  2. Building new device variants

They are not mutually exclusive. I really don’t understand how producing Fairphone 3 reduces the life-span of Fairphone 2. On the contrary, I’d argue that producing Fairphone 3 actually increases the longevity of Fairphones 1 and 2.

Fairphone 2 is already old hardware. Most reviews have made clear that it’s running on 2014 specs in late 2015. This is fine now, but that about in 2, 3 years time. Do you expect many people to buy a phone running 4 year old hardware?

Fairphone needs to keep producing new, up-to-date hardware in order to increase the longevity of older devices. If they don’t produce Fairphone 3, they lose income, which means they lose staff, which means they can’t continue to support Fairphone 1 and 2.