Fairphone 3 - Interview of Bas from FrAndroid

Fairphone should neither need nor rely on a Google certification IMHO. If that leads to removing GAPPS from the default install that’s fine with me ;).


This would be a massive design win for Fairphone, I really hope it is possible and an official comment would be great.

Imagine the boost to the community if that could be achieved and the sustainability message it would send.


I think the solution to making a electronic device that last as long as possible, is to give it the power so it will last for the longest time. So if you give it a mid range\low CPU, you are limmiting for how long the product will be able to handle the work load in the future. All tech gets more demanding as tech evolve. So, high end chip is the only way to go!.


Some people simply want a secure phone (ongoing security updates) which they can use to read their emails and browse the web. The percentage that plays heavy 3D games is relatively low, I think.


Who was talking of 3D gaming?
As is obvious watching Android development you will need ever more powerful CPU (or SOC) with every new version. If I got it right, the support for FP1 has ended, as the chipset was - according to Google - not deemed capable of handling Android 5. I see no reason, that this should not happen time and again with every new SOC and Android version. To increase the period of time, it - at least to me - sounds quite reasonable to use a most powerful SOC to start with.
Of course the relation between power and price has always to be balanced.
But starting with a low end SOC will surely lead to the same result experienced with FP1; unless you switch to Cyanogen, Lineage or the like and the community is able to support the relevant SOC.


The support has ended because Mediatek didn’t update their drivers for Android versions higher than 4.2 or 4.4. Fairphone 1 would - regarding computation power - be perfectly capable of running Android 7 or 8, especially since they are designed to be less demanding of weaker phones. These are found in the lower price range in Europe, but above all in the growing markets like China, India, South America and parts of Africa.


Well, so be it and I got it wrong.
The fact remains, that apart from the SOC being able to handle new Android versions, it will not be supported by Google or the chip-manufacturer (therefore I phrased that Google deemed the chip not capable). And I still see no way to force Google or chip manufacturers to increase support for chips, while it - to me - seems more likely, that high-end chips will be supported for a longer period of time.


Exactly. That is the important point.


It might be more likely (although I’m not even sure about it), but there are FP1-type phones like the Moto E with a Snapdragon 200 that run LineageOS 14.1.

Usually, it is more about features than about raw processing power. The problem with Google Android 7 on the FP2’s SOC is either the graphics API or the lack of a hardware encryption processor, not a problem with processing power. An up-to-date SOC is more important, and buying it in a cheaper flavour with less cores or lower clock speed is not very much an issue as long as the feature set is the same.


Please keep in mind, that I am not that much in technics and therefore might not get my wording right. Of course I did not mean power just to be processing power, but graphics and other features as well. (Maybe future Android even will require sophisticated 3D graphics.)

To me it seems more likely as the now high end CPU for PCs usually become first mid-range and then low-end CPU within the next 3 years. Give it 3 years support for the low-end PCs sold, you can add up to 3 years from the market access as high-end CPU to the selling of low-end computers with that chipset. (Please do not stick to my words or timing as being exact or scientifically tested. And I am just guessing, that the SOC development for Android gadgets works comparable to PCs.

Yea, Lineage is the way out of this kind of obsolescence. But obviously, that is not the way for the majority of people, wanting easy to use and out of the box fully functional phones.
Just from a short reading for gist in some Lineage threads has kept me away from going that way up to now, while I of course fully support such development.

Technically yes, but the SoC manufacturer still has to provide necessary updates.


[quote=“BertG, post:129, topic:28529, full:true”]
Who was talking of 3D gaming?
As is obvious watching Android development you will need ever more powerful CPU (or SOC) with every new version. If I got it right, the support for FP1 has ended, as the chipset was - according to Google - not deemed capable of handling Android 5. I see no reason, that this should not happen time and again with every new SOC and Android version. To increase the period of time, it - at least to me - sounds quite reasonable to use a most powerful SOC to start with.
Of course the relation between power and price has always to be balanced.
But starting with a low end SOC will surely lead to the same result experienced with FP1; unless you switch to Cyanogen, Lineage or the like and the community is able to support the relevant SOC.
[/quote]I just installed LineageOS 14.1 (Android 7.1.2) on a Moto G2 and I am flabbergasted by the battery usage. Or rather, the lack of that. Meanwhile, my FP2 even in airplane mode uses 20% in 12 hours. What for, how, I am still trying to figure that out but I can only test like once a week or so. It is difficult to not use the phone at all for a prolonged period of time.

You say we need a more powerful SoC with every Android version but you also gain a lot from the newer Android versions. Doze, to name an example. Furthermore, a lot of the features like the launcher can just be replaced/removed with a lean version. For example, using the shit out of your GPS or search API or 4G/WiFi is a choice; not a necessity. All those push services such as Messenger and WhatsApp are by choice as well. Of course it is in Google’s interest if we use all these profiling features a lot so it is in their advantage as well to not provide an upgrade path. I suppose with Treble they cave in to that path though.

If the FDE is using dedicated hardware then I don’t know anymore what more you’d want from a smartphone. Unless you want to get rid of the thin client aspect or want to invest in (3D) gaming, indeed.

The problem with FP2 is there is virtually no profit margin on an already expensive smartphone while the price is high. That made sense at release, but much less 2 years later (now). I cannot in good consciousness sell that story to family and friends. If there is a FP3 which has the same profit margin (9 EUR) but only costs a few hundred EUR then I can pitch it. 530 EUR is just a lot of money to the general population (even though it isn’t that bad if you deal with it for 3 years instead of 2 versus a smartphone which otherwise cost say 300 EUR). Having a more budget line instead will open the doors to a fair phone for sooo many people in more poorer countries than the rich West. That adds to sustainability. The competition on the field is already doing very well. Just have a look at recent Wileyfox, Motorola, and Nokia phones. Wileyfox and Nokia have a good track record on upgrades. Motorola less, but at least its 1 major revision of Android so nearly 2 year after first light. There’s tons of vendors who do it less good, and in the past it was downright terrible. They won’t get good reviews anymore though. I think they’ll be outcompeted on this aspect. What can we do? We can inform people about the importance of OS updates, as a pro sustainability argument. KRACK and Stagefright help us to get the point across.


We do not get mayor updates anymore, but Fairphone is exceptionally good with monthly security patches.

But I share your critical points. For example, if I buy a Fairphone 2 today for 550€, I am right to still expect more then a year of software support. I think it will get harder and more for Fairphone to fulfil such expectations with every day they sell the Fairphone 2. I miss some Android 7 and 8 features already, but at least I am still with the majority of people on Android 6.


Which Android features are you missing from 7/8?

The security patches is amazingly done. It is leading by example. Fairphone isn’t alone in this, together with others they make flagship devices with 2 year support look like a joke.

I was just reading a bit on TBL (Triple Bottom Line; “People, Planet, Profit”) in a book about e-numbers (yeah, long story…). Its in Dutch, so instead I went to Wikipedia for the gist of it.


Profit, the economic bottom line […] Therefore, an original TBL approach cannot be interpreted as simply traditional corporate accounting profit plus social and environmental impacts unless the “profits” of other entities are included as a social benefit.


Subsequent development

Following the initial publication of the triple bottom line concept, students and practitioners have sought greater detail in how the pillars can be evaluated.

The people concept for example can be viewed in three dimensions – organisational needs, individual needs, and community issues.

Equally, profit is a function of both a healthy sales stream, which needs a high focus on customer service, coupled with the adoption of a strategy to develop new customers to replace those that die away.

And planet can be divided into a multitude of subdivisions, although reduce, reuse and recycle is a succinct way of steering through this division.

Its interesting how Fairphone’s model is so different from the rest of the mobile industry. It is one of a kind AFAIK. Every other smartphone is sold expensive at start while later on the price goes down, yet also competes with newer models. Fairphone cannot do this since they’re already having very low profit margins. However when you buy hardware product such as a smartphone you also buy service and software support. If you buy a product with a 4 year cycle in start of year 3 you end up with only 1 year of support. It stands to reason that the price shouldn’t be the same as launch (start of year 1). A way to solve it is adapting the model all the other companies use: the Dutch economic term for that is “afroompolitiek”. I don’t know the English one.

An argument could be made for early adopter risk (= akin to beta tester), or inflation, but I find both weak counter-arguments.

Of course a cheaper phone wouldn’t necessarily have the same 9 EUR of profit margin on 529 EUR (instead, I suggest the “afroompolitiek” model). More sold fair phones means less sold slave/environmentally bad/unfree phones. And the high end phones of today, are the budget phones of tomorrow. You could argue you don’t want the profit on the short term, and go for “penetratiepolitiek” instead (that term I do know: market penetration). That’s fair enough. But there’s Good Things you could do with the profit. Such as longevity on software support, or more people on the software team (a reason Keesj left Fairphone).

Just thinking aloud here. Not sure there really is one definitive answer to the puzzle.


I miss the much improved Bluetooth stability, the Doze feature improving battery lifetime and the improved notifications. I also like the quick links Android 8 introduced.

Having a stable price also has a symbolic meaning, and is a statement against devaluation of consumer electronics in very fast cycles. And reducing the number of different models is a way to keep them supported. Now add the modularity, the open source support and the industry leading security updates and I think Fairphone is on a very good way.

But consumer needs and expectations change over time. The Fairphone 2 still performs very well today, and you get a much improved camera now for the same price. But the industry pushes out new flagships yearly or in even shorter circles. The FP2 is now 2 years old and uses a SoC from the 2014 generation. I think an update of the SoC is needed soon, even more so with a price of 530€.

I think a reasonable model could be to update part the hardware every two to two and a half years, if possible keep parts compatible (I keep advertising the module wise compatible FP 2S). With an officially supported lifetime of 5 years, that would still allow over two years of support for people buying late in the circle. And updated model like the FP2S inspired by Apples model with the iPhone allows customers to profit from the maturity of a design. And could improve the spare parts situation.
Software wise, a Fairphone 2S must be considered a complete new phone if it has a new SoC. With this proposal, at least three devices would need to be supported with software updates, maybe even more with security updates. But that seams resonable compared with other manufacturers.


Yes, I agree. The aim should be to increase fair electronics influence in the global market.

I have several friends in Catalonia that would like to buy a fair phone but minimum salary there is €500 and some university teachers also earn €500 per month. Current situation makes Fairphone2 a posh, unaffrodable option for a wide market. Take a look at the fair market there in other spheres. If I make no mistake, we just celebrated the 10 FESC Solidary Economy Exhibition of Catalonia.

Additionally, the time lag between phone need and supply makes people go for a non-fair phone. Dealer net could be probably extended there…

Thanks for your words!

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I have been watching Fairphone since the release date and have been hoping to see a more modern SoC in the Fairphone as I cannot justify buying a more expensive device with the same SoC.

I have always hoped an updated SoC module would appear just like the updated chassis, and camera came to be.

I am disappointed to see the decision of a low end Snapdragon SoC planned for the FP3.
I think it is a good idea to make the phone more accessible and think the best option would be to offer the phone with the lower end SoC but also offer a high end upgrade path and factory images that support a high end SoC upgrade option.

I would not hesitate to buy a FP3 with a low end chip-set that I can later upgrade in a few months with a new factory image and by dropping in a Snapdragon 825+ module into the device.
If Fairphone offered multiple avenues for upgrading the device I really think it would provide the leverage needed to bring on more mainstream buyers.

Almost everyone I show this device to would buy it for it’s repair-ability (especially of the screen) but lament the fact that it is relegated to a low end offering at a high price.

I understand that engineering would cost more, and that it is difficult of offer support for two chipsets in one software image however I dont think that is necessary.

If someone wanted to upgrade their phone to a newer chipset they would go through the efforts of installing an updated system image. Fastboot isn’t difficult and is well documented, a technical docuement and an online community I feel could guide a user through the update.

With the introduction of Treble, and a hardware API in Android 8+ I hope the idea of multiple SoC offerings on one software image is not ruled out.

I will continue to eagerly await a modernized Fairphone 3. With the same 1080p 5inch screen that I will purchase either as a low end rugged beater, or as the high end device I know I can always count on.

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Internal storage is usually on the SoC, so the core module would come preloaded with the right image. In fact, with so much integrated in the SoC these days, a new core would basically create a different phone (including IMEIs, MACs, regulatory certifaction requirements…). Essentially you’d just be reusing old modules for peripherals, so you’d need backward compatibility for those baked into system images on higher-end/newer SoCs rather than an image that supports multiple SoCs.


Just my five cents on the SOC, I ran about with my Jolla C for quite a few months and it has a Snapdragon 212. Compiling stuff locally with gcc took some time but that’s the case with everything smaller than a laptop so I didn’t mind and usage performance is quite snappy! Very little in the way of UI lag and the only time it even occurred to me that this was a “low-end phone” was with mismanaged websites with a metric tonne of javascript. And I don’t blame that on the hardware in my hand.

Of course this was with Sailfish OS and not Android, but that should still be a area to to keep watching for Fairphone.:slight_smile:

We have so much that can be done on the software side to make it fair, fast and maintainable so going the route to a “lower end” phone doesn’t sound problematic at all. If this means 2xx, 4xx or 6xx from Qualcomm or something completely different I think can be decided when it’s time to set that in stone for the next Fairphone but going for something with as high quality feel but lower price should be a good way to attract new users!

Making the phone feel “fresh” for many years to come is a key here, easily and as cheaply as possible replace the outside plastics (and screen if needed) after a few years of wear and tear and it’ll feel like new again. Upgrading the software to the latest and greatest without gobbling up more resources too and you have a winner!