Fairphone 3 - Interview of Bas from FrAndroid

I am not a real techie, but some ideas: it seems that the processor includes all function, and you can not dissociate RAM, Processor, etc. So if we want a real modular phone, why not making the processor changeable? So that you can choose which one you want when you buy it, or change it later on. Or make the whole motherboard changeable. ??


That’s where the technical stuff comes in: Android is built specifically for each SoC + extra features, so changing SoC or adding a new module (ej. NFC) will need a ROM update. Every combination of SoC + features will need a new specific ROM.

In fact, FP2’s modularity is probably the best we can get with Android, and I guess with every other mobile OS right now.


There’s a bigger problem with swapping SoCs: their pin-out. Where in desktop PCs there are several generations of processors using the same socket (eg. Intel LGA 1151, AMD AM4), SoCs can’t do this. The smaller die area means there’s only a limited number of pins available on SoCs, making it:

  • harder to reserve some for future use, because there are none to reserve.
  • harder to reserve pins for specific features across generations of SoCs, because routing overhead on the chip itself as a result of moving IP around can prove prohibitive in terms of timing and power-consumption.

As for the software side of things: few people appreciate the hard work of the Linaro organisation to try and solve this. Qualcomm actually has decent support for most of their hardware upstream (with help from Red Hat), which means that a single Linux kernel can serve multiple SoCs without limitations. Google is playing its part in trying to make the open source software stack play nice with Android. Unfortunately, the big missing piece of the puzzle is an upstream device driver for the “GSM”-modem. For security and competition reasons I suspect Qualcomm is not keen on releasing an open source variant of it. But if they provide a closed-source baseband driver for an upstream kernel, there’s no software limitations that prevent swapping out only the SoC.


That’s the most important thing that we learned from FP1: Following models will need much longer upgrade support. And honestly, I expect or maybe even demand not only Android 7, but later Androids as well for FP2. It’s still the new model, so it’s not even an option that there will be no more upgrades already. I took that for granted so much that I haven’t even thought about it.

There are obscure and overcomplex market laws and practices to beat, and technical problems. Take a look at the thread about Android 7 to understand how Android upgrades are developed, and dependencies and forces that exist in the process.

For now, Android 6 is being shipped to the FP2 and monthly security updates are granted. This is awesome, nonetheless, comparing with other vendors.

P.S.: we should stop talking (in this topic) about FP2’s future and return back to the FP3 discussion, :wink:


Thank you all for your very insightful contributions. I guess it makes more than clear how difficult it is to fulfill everyone wishes when you only can make one phone.

I see that for some

  • the specs of the FP2 are already too high, and more then enough
  • the FP2 is perfect, so there is no need for a new phone.
  • the FP2 is outdated, but some new modules will do.
  • the FP2 was always outdated and a new phone needs to come as soon as possible.

And then the expectations for the new phone are also very dfferent:

  • It can be cheap and with lower specs
  • It can be whatever, as long as it is reliable
  • It has to be working with the modules of the FP2
  • It needs a whole new design that is so modular that you can exchange all the components

And then there is the (very correct) argument of @Roboe:

Add to that mix that we hope to (finally) expand outside of EU and then you can add cultural differences to this complex puzzle.

Also: many of you talk from experience, but ideally current FP owners stick with their FP1 or FP2 as long as possible. The new Fairphone should draw in new people to grow the movement: get people who have a broken phone from another brand to switch to Fairphone.

All these thousands of peoples, from different countries, with different backgrounds, with different purchasing power… And one phone to that has to sell to grow the movement for fair electronics…

Please prapare yourself that the next Fairphone will not be able to meet all these wishes and will, to some of you, not be the perfect phone you hoped for.

But it will still be a darn good phone that promotes ethical values in electronics!


I have two ideas - and a New business model: I think that there is really a need for a split in two different branches - if you See a market for a cheaper Smartphone: one for beginners not interested in technology and OS - a phone just working in private daily life. And the other model a high-end FP. So lets call it a FP basic (light, easy) and a FP 4 (pro,full). Both have to have a very good camera, sustainibility and Moduls. I am using my fp2 for work too, so if there is the End oft the lifetime of the OS i have to switch. Theres no Option. I think that user of the FP basic could be convinced of a New OS so thats a good Option when intruducing a New phone to adapt a New OS too.
As i mentioned above - if the end of the Hardware and Software circle is reached i have to go for another phone - fp4 vor whatever. But i would give my fp2 to my parents or kids. And thats where a New business model for fairphone could appear - start with a lifecycle program. Just manufacture one highend model and whenever a New product comes to market Start an Initiative so that pro-users can send in there phone, they will get a discount on the New one and you can refurbish the old Smartphones (change moduls) and sell them again. That would broaden the community and make a more sustainable circle of FP.
And last but not least: make vidoes about Wirkung conditions in the factories show people wäre the Materials come from because that is the Main asset - fair and sustainable - otherwise it is just another Smartphone.

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My 2 cents…I own a FP2, and would love to see FP3, build from modules that work with FP2.
Maybe build a cheaper FP3 with weaker processor, but better camera module and the same screen. At this point one could buy replacement modules for his broken Fairphone and build it as he wants.
What I really don’t want to see is brand new FP3, with modules that would not work with FP2.



Although I can philosophically agree with you, there is a rather practical issue. Fairphone estimates that the cost of all materials in the Fairphone 2 is approximately €230.30. The screen with a retail price of €85 would probably amount to about €50 of these materials. That’s over 20%. If the current modules are used for the next phone, it would be impossible to scale down the size of the screen. Not only does that make the phone say €20 more expensive than a hypothetical 4" 720p model (well… estimate), but it also adds minimum requirements on the GPU making it more difficult to pick a cheaper SoC. In other words, FP’d be pricing the lower end phone out of the market for a relatively niche feature of module interchangeability. That while the only module where it might really matter is the camera (which coincidently is the only module that doesn’t restrict the width of the phone!). :slight_smile:

Speaking of reaching a wider audience: have you tried reaching out to universities? I work at one right now, was offered a company phone, but the Fairphone was not one of the available options. When I suggested it everyone agreed it should be (some of the IT guys even had bought one themselves), and I’m sure that among researchers, in an environment where every other piece of research has to pass an ethical committee, there is wide support for fairer electronics.

No idea if they would fall under the high-end or low-end users though; if anything it’s probably more the third “business users who demand reliability” category that was mentioned.

Also, I bet many universities would love the good PR they could get out of saying they now offer ethical phones to their eimployees.

(I bought one on my own and argued for a better laptop instead, but I digress)

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Oh, one more thing: regarding the camera module update mentioned in the interview (and, for that matter, whatever camera ends up in the FP3), please please please support raw files in some form or the other.

I’m already getting pretty good results with the newest verson of Open Camera + Snapseed, but having the raw DNG available would probably be even better - for starters, white balancing a JPG is painful :(.

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Electronics Watch engages with public sector buyers, so that’s maybe what you are looking for.

Other than that, in most of the cases public sector buyers have contracts with a mobile operator, which offers a range of business phones to organizations. So the goal would be to encourage mobile operators to take the Fairphone into their portfolio so that it becomes an option for organizations.


I think @Douwe made an excellent summary of all the different minds and expectations potential customers have. :smiley:

I can get over technical deficiencies when a device is built substantially, meaning that it would be nice to catch up with so many features which e.g. the iPhone is offering today, but certainly I would not want to pay the price of experiencing so many malfunctioning basic features for it…

I would really like to pay at least EUR 100.00 to 150.00 more for better quality. How much more would a device cost when it fails to do the daily job? I am sure people would say: “Oh, a Fairphone costs as much as an outdated iPhone, but cannot offer so many features in comparison!” Then I would respond to them: “Sure, but I have had not a single repair since I bought it, so … when was your iPhone repaired the last time??” :smirk:

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Sorry, but I don’t get your point. What malfunctioning features are you talking about?

Also your last paragraph confuses me. An iPhone might be more expensive, but as you say at the end, that doesn’t guarantee better quality.
To the contrary, I find it rather remarkable that Fairphone as a new company and start up was able to produce two reliable phones already, while iPhone users still need to struggle with planned obsolescence. Beside the reliability of Fairphone another huge advantage is of course that in case something breaks, it would be easily repairable. This is particularly relevant for the display, which apparently many people manage to break. I guess that is something you could add to your arguments with users of other phones (like iphone users, who can’t even change the battery).

  • Reboots caused by badly designed slim case.
  • Reboots caused by excessively used SoC (combined with battery drain).
  • Display/Bottom module damages caused by - I believe - poor rigidity of core module (followed by bright spots, dead touch areas, white noise, dead microphones, and interrupted power and data connections).
  • Proximity sensor failures.
  • Broken covers (solved).

And all together is what I would think of an unreliable smartphone. Sorry for that…

To be honest, I prefer to avoid to repair a device if it is not necessary to do so. Meaning: It should, no - it must be possible for Fairphone to at least halve the trouble with their next model.


Wow, sorry to hear you experienced all these issues. Sounds like you must have had quite a bad luck with the device you got. In the 1,5 years I have my FP2 I didn’t have any issues, except for the cosmetic problem of the case disintegration.
But well, any manufacturer of electronics has some devices with failures. I guess to reduce that to zero would increase costs substantially, not just by 100 or 150 €.
From my experience with FP1 & FP2 I can only say that the phones are much more reliable than the other smartphones we had in the house, from well-known vendors. So I think in regard of reliability Fairhone is on a good path. According to once presented DOA statistics (I know it doesn’t say much about long term use; but its a number we have), FP also performs within industry average.

I agree with the other posters before, maintaining a modular design makes sense. However, as I already thought when FP2 was released, in my opinion modularity to such an extent (7 modules) only makes sense when you can also upgrade components. Otherwise I would reduce to only those parts that most often fail/break with smartphones, such as battery, display, usb-socket. If the modules are not upgradeable, I see little reason for other parts to be located on individual modules. I would rather use that space for a bigger battery then.


A post was merged into an existing topic: User fields on signup; which Fairphone do you have?

Just clarifying: I am a “potential customer” interested to buy a Fairphone, but I do not own one (yet)…

You shall be right in “to reduce that to zero”. :wink:

The statistics are one year old now…

I agree with you if Qualcomm would not cease support for their SoCs after a few years. A better camera module has been announced for Fairphone 2, but the technical specification of module upgrades depend on the built-in SoC, too. And if the SoC is to be exchanged, Fairphone certainly might think of an instant redesign - Fairphone 3. :wink:

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2 posts were split to a new topic: User fields on signup; which Fairphone do you have?

That’s certainly right.
But as an FP1 owner this feels really really weird.
You’re thinking about a potential discontinuation of Marshmallow. This is far in the future.
(KitKat will be obsolete in a few months or perhaps in a year.)
I would rate this as a luxury problem.