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Getting, and using, a Fairphone 2 as a non European

I read about Foxconn’s suicide nets in the news. I decided I didn’t want a phone produced in such a factory. I had a Moto Z Play Droid, actually an excellent modular phone with an amazing battery life (50+hrs, 80% charge in <1hr), great screen and snap on accessories including a 360 camera. I checked its box and it says it was assembled in China but not by whom. I did some Googling but couldn’t find any mention of which company assembled this phone. I have to assume it could have been assembled in a Foxconn plant or one with similarly bad working conditions, only less publicised due to not partnering with Apple.

So, after hearing about Fairphones, I tried to buy one online but this is not possible for someone living in Qatar. Thankfully I have a Dutch cousin who coincidentally also owns a Fairphone 1. Anyway, after trying to send her the money as Bitcoin (she didn’t have an address :wink:) I wired some cash the old fashioned way and a couple of weeks later she had it. Next up was to ship the thing to Qatar… only for it to be stopped in Germany presumably before it was put on a plane because they didn’t like it having a battery inside. The DHL tracking system gave no information about this fact. I enquired after a couple of weeks and Qatar Post had no information. I decided to wait. After 2 months I had almost given up (postal systems in the Gulf are known for being awful, they often lose things). I made one last enquiry though and found it got stopped in German customs and they promptly returned it to the sender.

Expats often have to do ‘visa runs’. This is usually a weekend flight overseas to renew a work visa. It just so happened that I had one coming up exactly around the time the phone was sent back to her. So, yes, of course I decided to make my next visa run a 7hr flight to Holland instead of Kuwait or Muscat. Why not, welcome to life as a well paid, bored expat in a small dry country :wink: I could have put the money towards a ridiculous Swiss watch but instead I chose a Fairphone as a status symbol :wink:

Slight complication though, she wasn’t living at her apartment at the time, and the person renting (who just so happened to work for Dutch Post!!!) had collected the phone for me and I had planned to visit him at work to get it after landing. Another complication: due to lack of sleep and a certain Qatar airways flight attendant I missed my flight and had to go to Brussels instead then get the train north (flight attendants can also be useful when they work these things out for you)… which meant he would already have finished work and left by the time my train got to The Hague from Brussels.

We both, however, happened to be going to Groningen train station that night as I was visiting my cousin later, northeast of The Hague near Winschoten. So, thanks to Whatsapp, I skipped The Hague, changed trains in Rotterdam and waited for him to make a plan. Soon enough, I got a message from him saying he dropped the package off to a complete stranger, a guy running the bike shop at the Groningen train station. He sent me a photo of him, and a couple of hours later I dropped in and simply said “I’m here to pick up a phone.” He went and got what seemed like a very small package after all of this from his office. Finally I had the phone and got the next train to Winschoten.

Yes, this is all a true story. Thanks to a Dutch Post employee (whom I never actually met in person) working overtime, who just happened to be going to a train station along the same route as me, and a random bike shop dude (whose name I never got) I now had my phone.

This is the level of determination that a story about manufacturing done right will produce. Plus, I admittedly had some sort of perverted curiosity to see just how much effort I would have to expend to get out of this world, in 2018, a damned phone that would not leave me with a guilty conscience.

Turns out, for an expat living in Qatar, it is a hell of a lot of effort, time and money although I contributed somewhat with my own mistakes :wink:

So now that I had my hot little hands on this Fairphone 2 with its bright blue back:

  1. The rear camera didn’t work. I fixed this only today by dissembling it, removing the 3 philips 0 size screws holding the camera in, blowing on the connector pins, and screwing it back in. That simple. Such a relief to finally have a fully working phone after a month of ownership.
  2. The thing keeps rebooting, yes even after a software update. We have 4G here and I’ve heard it is related to this - the office tower I work in has poor reception and can fail back to the Edge network, possibly it’s caused by this. I found, though, that it often reboots repeatedly regardless of network. I wondered if it was because of lack of memory, having too many apps open at once etc.
  3. It has terrible battery life. It reminds me of the old Samsung Note Edge I had which would die after half a day. I come from a place of privilege being a Moto Z Play Droid user in the past, but I think it’s fair to expect that I shouldn’t have to feel like I need to put it on battery saver mode as soon as I stop charging it. At least the Fairphone has a removable battery, but I don’t want to fly back to Holland just to get another one.

So overall, with the camera issue which had to be solved by me reassembling the phone, terrible battery life and the regular rebooting it is, to be honest, kind of a crappy phone. It behaves like a phone from 8 years ago that I’m trying to run the latest software on and it’s just being overwhelmed. This is just me speaking frankly and I mean no offense to the manufacturer. The only thing that has stopped me going back to the Moto is the story that Fairphone have told me. I would prefer to have a free conscience, regarding the matter of how my phone was made, than one which works extremely well.

This is a study of the world we have today. The Fairphone is a step backward in time, and style, but it is one I am willing to make as a vote in favour of accountability. It is interesting to see how much I have to sacrifice, indeed how less modern the world really is, if taking the basic ethic into account that:

  1. People should not be committing suicide in the factory where it’s assembled.
  2. The materials it’s made from should not come from a mine or factory which exploits its workers.

I hope that this story, and the money I spent on this phone (cost of the phone and my own personalised delivery method), mean something to the community and the company that produces it. I hope it shows how important it is to some people to bring transparency to supply chains. So much evil occurs in the darkness of these supply chains. Bring light to them, and a lot will change.

Fairphone could do to the world of manufacturing/supply chain transparency what Tesla has done to car manufacturing. Tesla will never overtake Ford, for example, but they have kicked most car manufacturers into action making electric cars. As a result, we now have the Chevrolet bolt, an accessible, useful electric car for the average citizen. Fairphone, through better marketing/shaming of other manufacturers, could do the same for supply chain transparency. You saw how hard it was for me to find out where exactly the Moto Z Play Droid was made.

Just like the nutritional information on food packaging, there needs to be a standard declaration of how, where, when, who and what went into making each product. It needs to all be in a global database which can be queried via a unique code on each product. Speaking of Bitcoin, there are a few supply chain blockchain projects which could do this (Digmus, Vechain, Walton - also Microsoft had a demo of such a blockchain for tracking the origin farm of strawberries). They’re probably bullshit, but at least the idea counts. I want to be able to put a unique product ID (serial number for example) in a database and get a complete, trustworthy record allowing me, ultimately, to judge whether the product in my hands was made in a way that I agree with.

Fairphone is trying, at least. The phone is terrible (although it is a cool gimmick being able to pull it apart in front of your friends) but the idea overcomes that, for now.

Wil

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I honestly have to admit I didn’t read your whole post (yet :wink:), but it’s really great that you put so much effort in getting a Fairphone! (Although it probably would have been more environmentally friendly to buy a 2nd hand phone in your country than flying to the Netherlands to get it, but I am still impressed to your commitment) :slight_smile:

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Expats in The Gulf must have status symbols :wink: I have managed to avoid getting an Omega Speedmaster until now through such escapades as this one.

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My FP2 also doesn’t like 4G. I’ve set it to 3G and the random reboots stopped. This should also work in Qatar.

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It’s really great, to read your post of commitment and devotion, that I happen to share, also it luckily was an easy mail-order case for me, so I can’t really say I would have had your persistence as well.
And I share your experience of reboots and battery problems as well.

For Motorola Mobility I found a reference in the wikipedia posting on “Foxconn”, that they are their customers (i.e. Motorola customer of Foxconn).
Source of this information is an older (2012) article in the Huffington Post “Foxconn by the Numbers”.
As Motorola Mobility is a part of the Chinese Company Lenovo since 2014, I guess, they will now produce the phones in their own factories.
Well, you can say what you like on paper, so I have no clue, how much is there behind the “Lenovo sustainability reports”. Chapter 6.0 is focusing on manufacturing and supply chain operations. That at least sounds better thant what I heard about Foxconn.
Yet, I am sceptic (even though I am wrtiting that post on a Lenovo ThinkPad), and would like to believe in it.
The "Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics has Lenovo ranked in fifth place (of 17).
With regard to that report, see the following thread as well:


(Beware, the thread turns a bit off-topic in the end. :wink: )

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Thanks, I just switched it over and I’ll see how it goes.

Thanks a lot for the extra research! I can see you’re more familiar with this than me and I’m relieved to know that Lenovo/Moto might not be as bad as I’d thought. What’s not ok though is that there’s a mystery. It’s the goddamned 21st century! We should be able to access a database which tells us the names and photos of the workers and the factory and a video, live stream, from a webcam, of the factory in action. Why do I have to read some report and spend hours trying to figure this out?

This, to me, is the real contribution the Fairphone project can make to the world. It cannot replace Lenovo, it’s like Tesla vs. GM. But it can shame them into action, just like Tesla lead GM to make the Bolt, which is a much better car than the Model 3.

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How about starting the Qatar Angels? You seem to have the same love of Fairphone as the other angels. :slight_smile:

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Welcome to the Netherlands :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I am pretty sure there is a secret society of bike shop dudes actually running this country.

Thanks for the great story!

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For the reboots: did you already try putting a piece of paper at the bottom of the battery? In some FP2’s including mine shocks can cause the phone to reboot because the battery fits rather loosely, and a piece of paper easily fixes that. Reboots on my phone are rare now.

@m4lvin maybe, but so far those dudes have kept my rusty city bike running - even though fellow Fairphoner @Stanzi believes that my bike is falling apart - so I’m ok with their presence here.

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@ndthl We have guides on the forum for both of your remaining issues: #rebootsguide #batteryguide

For reference, the Fairphone Angels Program is described here: #fairphoneangels

No we should not. We should know the working practices at a factory, but anything that harms the privacy of the workers crosses a red line.

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You’re right to raise the privacy issue. My comments were made in the spirit of how, when I would walk through the village where I live if it were 4,000 years ago, I would see people making things. I would know their names, and they would know mine. I think the village, and personal connection, needs to be brought to the supply chain.

Then we can add a feeling of affiliation between all participants. This can protect participants from being abused.

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Random inspections at a factory have down- and upsides. One downside is indeed that workers don’t know about it either, and inspections in general already invade their privacy.

Yes, it is only a matter of time before we get AR glass module which dox people using facial recognition and reverse image search (+cloud AI) in your field of view with superfast 5G or 6G. We go 2 steps forward, 1 step back. But just because things are possible, doesn’t mean we should resort to them.

I don’t wanna be negative nanny but please don’t resort to “Slight complication though, she wasn’t living at her apartment at the time, and the person renting […]” as it is illegal in The Netherlands. We got enough housing shortage as it is.

As for the rest of the story, it was a nice read but also sad because the phone didn’t work well for you.

This isn’t the first nightmare story I’ve heard about German customs. Once you’re cool with some additional costs for S&H there would’ve been an alternative way for you to obtain your phone though: send the phone without the battery, and then send the battery (consider to just make it two) separate. Customs don’t mind the former (even German customs). With the latter you can take some more risks because of its low value. Risks such as using someone in France or UK as a paid intermediary. If you wouldn’t have been able to receive the battery you could’ve probably also just asked Fairphone HQ if you could pick up a battery… at Amsterdam, where you were heading to anyway. The HQ is pretty close to central train station. IIRC you take tram 26 to IJburg. But, its probably best to ask that first :slight_smile: I still plan a visit to give them all my old components which I am not using anymore. Quite a list of 4 or 5 items!

Anyway, thank you for sharing your story! <3 :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the ideas @JeroenH about how to invade people’s privacy when I can get my hands on some glasses with a heads up display :wink: I’m looking forward to the future.

Yeah, I definitely could have persisted with finding a way to get it posted, but I had to leave Qatar anyway to renew my visa, I wanted to see my cousin and I thought why not just go and get the phone since I’d finally discovered where the hell it was :slight_smile:

And yeah it sucks the thing doesn’t work very well, the camera stopped working again today too. I’m wondering if the screws aren’t in hard enough, then again I don’t wanna over-torque them.

As I said at the end though, even though the phone is kinda crappy, the concept is top notch. It’s just like Tesla. Their cars are awful in terms of build quality, but they have spurred other manufacturers into action. This is what Fairphone should aim to do.

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How about I apply for a job at Fairphone as an evangelist/world domination expert? I’m kind of tired of The Gulf.

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Yeah it did make sense in your situation to pick it up somewhere in The Netherlands. Though perhaps having it send to your cousin in Winschoten made more sense.

Maybe the camera is just bad (can happen), or who knows what German customs have done to the device?

Have you considered to clean the contacts? I guess one should do that with isopropyl alcohol, but I’m not sure.

I don’t think its the screws. I had my new camera for a while with 2 screws instead of 3 (the 3rd was stuck in my old module with no way to get it out).

I mostly agree on the Tesla analogy. Good one!

Tesla simply rolled out an undertested technology killing various people already. Not so good IMO.

Nobody’s perfect. Heck, Tesla’s production of their cheaper model is a joke. They can’t fulfil the pre-orders IIRC they’re on a 33% of their target goal. But they also don’t have the many decennia of experience and efficiency for example the German automobile industry has.

Things like this are likely to happen with early adopters of technology like this. The same is true for innovation like aviation such as airplanes, zeppelins, and early cars.

“Traffic accidents kill 1.24 million people a year worldwide”. I don’t know if that number is correct, but for the sake of argument let us assume it is accurate. You’d then need to prove that Tesla statistically kills more people than non-autonomous cars.

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