Going against the grain to design a sustainable phone

Originally published at: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2020/01/17/going-against-the-grain-to-design-a-sustainable-phone/

Editor’s note: This is a guest feature from the Fairphone 3’s lead industrial designer James Barber

What if you could buy a phone that will last five years, can be easily repaired and is made as ethically as possible?

We’ve been working on this question for a while now. For more than 5 years, we’ve been doing our best to change the industry from the inside. The Fairphone 3 is our latest response to the growing demand for a more ethical, reliable and sustainable phone. Let me walk you through some of the choices we made, to design a long-lasting companion that’s easy to care for.

Our goal has always been to design a tough, well-made, repairable phone that lasts as long as possible. The prevailing industry trend is beautiful, sleek tech that is glued together and impossible to repair… so what happens if something breaks? Most of this tech is disposable. We design our Fairphone with modules, so if anything breaks, the module can be easily swapped, instead of replacing the whole phone. To make this easier our phone has guidance and instructions on the inside, directing the user to the part that needs to be replaced.

Even if you are very careful with your phone, the battery will eventually degrade and stop charging. This happens to all phones.
So we decided to make the battery the easiest part to replace – by simply removing the outer cover, taking out the old battery and popping in a new one. All of this is squeezed into a tight package, that fits comfortably in the hand. The back cover has a fine, textured finish, allowing the phone to be easily gripped. While the side keys have a distinct, tactile surface.

Barrier-free fixing: No adhesive prevents you from unveiling the Fairphone 3’s inner life.

We are proud of our phone. Inside and out. And because transparency is such an integral part of the Fairphone story, our phone is transparent too. I like to think of it as not just another smartphone: it’s an entirely different way of thinking about how a phone and its creation fits into the world.

We invite you to dive deeper into the Fairphone story. Our story and impact pages are a great place to start exploring – And if you’re curious how our designs became a reality, you should meet the makers.


LOL… Where is a stock rom to repair a FP3 os?

This is marketing speech, nothing else.

If the fp3 gets out of production the spare parts are out. See FP1 and FP2, the FP2 has actual software support but not all spare parts. So it is trash. If FP want to make phones to repair and longtime use, they would provide the production drawings/ files and software for spare parts after the selling in the FP shop.

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If you need FP1 or FP2 spare parts, contact your local Fairphone Angels:


You might take into consideration, that there are such petty things like legal obligations, copyright law. licenses and contracts.
That’s the stuff, you have to follow / agree to, if you want to get the parts and binaries for producing a phone.
And that’s the stuff, that makes it impossible to simply offer production drawings / files and software for spare parts.
Besides the fact, that you are lost, once a supplier decides to no longer produce the generic part you need for the phone. E.g. the manufacturer of the FP1 doesn’t even produce phones any longer.


Since we don’t know, when that will happen, one can hardly imply, that it will not last 5 years, as they stat in the blog-post, though of course it’s marketing.


I believe Fairphone does not react much different considering spare parts with FP3 as it done with FP2 to prevent FP3 turning instantly into crap if production (of parts) for whatever reason stops.
They at least should again cover a period of ~2 years for warranty cases. Probably they did by now learn this lesson and are just about improving.

Mh, I hoped to read something about the “secret”, what was leading to the decision to make the FP3 as big as it is…

My guesses would be twofold:

  • market trend (and prbably some market research)
  • modularity (like the FP2, but a larger battery and more sturdy connections taking up more space)

Tall, you mean. Not big (compared to FP2). Which is a market trend indeed.

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