Fairphone 3 -- Hardware and obsolecence discussion

I wouldn’t want to start a discussion about this, so just in short:

It’s been known for years, that it is possible to produce some sorts of plastic via manipulating bacteria into producing it. Icronically enough, oil is still to cheap. so not many people or companies are interested to spent money in the development. It is going on, but much too slow (and personally I’m convinced, that with proper funding the research would be at a point of industrial application in years, being much much cheaper in the long term than anything based on oil).

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I have not purchased the FP2 yet but may do so as soon as at least Cyanogenmod is available for it. However, while CM is an improvement over a Google infested android, it is still not free software. I would thus really appreciate seeing the FP3 being able to run Replicant, which is afaik the only FSF approved mobile operating system. No binary blobs please for FP3!

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We had this discussion her a few times, just have a look around.

Sady, how the commercial SoC ecosystem works (there is not a lot known about it) a current (=attracts a lot of “normal” Android/Apple users) phone SoC (modem+cpu) without patents and tons of bin blobs is hard to find and technically nearly impossible. Also (this it what I guess, not know) the phone development process is strongly tied to the SoC manufacturer … you are not able to build a phone … the ODM and the SoC manufacturer build a phone for you. You just decide how it looks, more or less (just a guess of mine).

I don’t have any hopes for “libre” phones in the near future. Especially because phones becoming more and more data collecting and payment systems. They want the user out, not in and most “new” phone technologies are heavily patented as well.

A way out? Maybe a Chinese SoC phone clone that is not following the official patent/businesses rules. But you will not be able to develop or sell such a phone “in the west” and also here you will not really know what’s inside.


I asked a few times if multiboot on a FP2 would be possible. This is like booting Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac OS X on one computer. So instead of only Android & Google it should be possible for the user to choose if he wants to boot Android, Firefox OS or Sailfish OS on a phone without loosing any apps/user data.

Because if people want get rid of a walled garden that needs growth to exists and therefore needs to sell more hard- and software features more often, they users need to be able to test new stuff while keeping their used and “work for them” system around.

But after hearing @keesj’s talk, I fear this will not be possible. Therefore I ask my self … would it be possible to integrate the flash memory into a module – so that the flash (and the OS) as a whole could be exchanged or to add hardware that make this change “fakeable” so the user could switch ROMs (on the same hardware) without the hardware “knowing”?


There are recoveries that offer support for installing different operating systems and it is possible to run most of the operating system on an external SD card. Hence in theory is is possible (easy??) to run multiple operating systems without loosing your data. Making a solution that works for everybody/always however will require actual work and this is not our focus at present time.


Thanks. I know there is always this dilemma between making something that fits what the big market wants (and that got its own set of rules) and to support the other side that also got its own problems. But I’m against the “buy 2” solution and I also think that a modified recovery (“like grub”) would be the best way to go.

Not sure how one can make this “stable”, though. People and OSses are still able to mess up multiboot setups on standard PCs, especially if one OS wants to “own” the whole computer for “security reasons” or if crazy bios options get triggered. I wonder how crazy the smartphone side is.

In my opinion, future Fairphones should have 3G/LTE on BOTH sim slots.
Because more and more the phone calls will use 3G and 4G and in Switzerland it’s planned to deactivate 2G/GSM in 2020.


This is the only reason for having two mobile data-connections at one time.
But with the modems available on the market today, there is only one data connection possible at a time. You’ll have to have two modems for two connections.

I don’t think 2G will be disabled soon. They tell you, but I read just some weeks ago, that that wouldn’t work with any of the current phones, because they always first log into 2G and when they don’t find 2G, they think there is no net.

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Hmm, if you want to do calls over 3G on one sim and use data-connection on the other sim,
you’ll need two modems supporting 3G/4G.
If you want to build a long-lasting phone, this is important in my opinion.
As I know, there are phones you can buy today supporting 3G on two sims at the same time.

You’ll also find networks without 2G:


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Sure, but you don’t necessarily need a SoC with an embedded modem. Fairphone could opt for other chips that do not have a modem, but are more friendly to free software (Allwinner, Rockchip, OMAP, …). The modem can be added as a separate chip.
Sure this will add some extra costs but it will be negligible considering Fairphone’s price range. This also comes with the advantage of physical isolation between main CPU and modem, allowing a better privacy control in case one needs to run a proprietary firmware on the modem chip.

Choosing the right hardware to avoid binary blobs not only comes with privacy advantages for your users, but also goes hand in hand with the longevity goal.
To this day I can still run the latest Linux kernel on really old hardware because I chose parts compatible with free software drivers. Had I opted for a different motherboard/sound card/etc. it would now be a piece of junk. No one except the manufacturer is able to maintain a binary blob, and they won’t maintain it for more than 6-12 months. On the other hand, with a free software driver, anyone can step in and port it to a new OS version.
Being able to run up-to-date software does not only mean you get the latest features, it also means you get the latest security patches. Sure Google still releases security patches for Android 5.1, but that won’t last forever. If you expect your Fairphone 2 to last 5 years then get used to the idea that it won’t get security patches long before that date.

All in all, Fairphone should not only strive to be fair in terms of production chain but also fair for its end users. Getting rid of binary blobs will go a long way in addressing this.


This not what the modern consumer wants (or at least FP has decided it this way). If you use the search function you will find lots of discussion threads about this. Mostly only from users, by the way. I guess using the all-in-one chips is the only way to develop a device quickly.

Hardware: I had a longer look at raccoon last night and the person that wrote it also had a longer post about the FP2 in his blog. He states:

Yes, I know that Android phones don’t have swappable internal storage because this would break all of the DRM and branding bullshit. But guess what? That makes me want it even more!

I think he got a point there.


While I fully agreee with you in terms of Replicant (it’s a good thing!) and no binary blobs, I have to disagree about the Cyanogenmod vs. “Google infested Android” argument. Cyanogenmod does not remove non-free parts, instead it even adds more proprietary parts! If you compile FP-OSOS (pure AOSP without Google Apps) you get no proprietary parts except the driver blobs (if you compile them in). On the other hand, if you compile CM, you get a bunch of extra proprietary parts and things you certainly don’t want, like the CM-stats thing which is “opt-out” and first sends out stats and then asks you afterwards if you want to have this in the future as well. :frowning:

I could not agree more! This even fits Fairphone’s philosophy of being modular very well! Just imagine 5G becomes available => you don’t need to throw your old device away, you just need to exchange the modem board!

Full ack!


SailfishOS is coming to Fairphone soon.

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SailfishOS does not change anything about the binary blob issue.

Who knows whether fairphone will develop a new phone at all in the near future? I do see much effort put into the design of FP2 and I not see a reason why not to stick to that design. There is always the option of creating a FP2.1 but I honestly don’t think we’ll see a very different phone in the near future.

With its modular design it is guaranteed that hardware updates can be done and maybe the FP2.1 which is sold in 2019 will be almost the same as today but with twice the ram, twice the CPU, twice the battery capacity, twice the camera MP and twice the screen resolution.

(I would very much like that idea)


True, didn’t think about it.

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I realize this question is quite old, but since I’m just catching up on this thread and there was some news on this front just a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d answer nonetheless.

The German environmental agency, Umweltbundesamt, commissioned a study on obsolescence a couple of years ago, the results of which were just published recently, including a section on smartphones, and can be found here. I found the statistics on so-called “psychological obsolescence” particularly interesting with regard to why people stop using their still-functioning devices.

I’d like to add immediately that the results/methodology of the study are somewhat controversial, more information on that can be found here. …while in turn the author of those criticisms, as well as his book on planned obsolescence, is also somewhat controversial (I don’t immediately have a source at hand, but have heard and read quite a few controversial discussions on his work over the last couple of years.), so it should all be taken with a grain of salt and some “gesunder Menschenverstand/common sense”.


Thanks for pointing this out! I’ve read thsi part of the study and also the mentioned website, but they don’t really give “good enough” answers to the above questions and only cite another study (Stiftung Warentest 2013). While the question and separation was good (3 years, reflecting upon current device), the available answers are rather insufficient.

@moderators Maybe one of you could split the discussion about people exchanging their devices from the rest of the hardware discussion about the Fairphone 3? I think both things are relevant, but are pretty different and thus need separate threads.

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I don’t think that will be true because the FP1, for example, was one of the first phones, which got a Stagefright fix. So Fairphone has proven to be committed to security patches and has delivered them very fast.

For FP2 this will even be less problematic because the OS is open source. So in conclusion I think that FP2 won’t be obsolete in 5 years because of the lack of security patches. At the moment I see only one possible reason for the FP2 to become obsolete, namely if Fairphone failes to provide replacement batteries.


I would say: The infrastructure for being great in this area is around, but currently it’s not beging used … 100%.