How sustainable is fairphone?

Dear Fairphone community
When I first heard about fairphone, I loved their social values and their concept of sustainability and I was proud of being one of the first owners of a fairphone 2.
However I got the phone 1.5 years ago. Since then I had to replace the back cover two times, I got a new battery and finally a completely new phone, at the moment I am waiting for a new screen and I my phone starts to act weirdly during charging, so I guess, sooner or later I will also have to replace that part.

I started to ask myself, how sustainable is that? During these 1.5 years I produced more waste than I ever produced during a whole lifetime of one of my old phones. Not to speak about the energy it needed to send all these things back and forth to the Netherlands and the time it cost the fairphone team and me to deal with these problems. Isn’t using a “normal” phone for 4, 5 years but without having to replace anything more sustainable than keep replacing things on the fairphone? When it continues like that, by the end of the five years fairphone promises, I’ll have created three completely new phones with all the spare parts I’ll need.

When is it enough? Not only is it kind of annoying when something breaks down as one has to deal with an unusable phone sometimes for months, but it also disagrees with my understanding of sustainability both ecologically and economically.

I don’t know whether that was already discussed somewhere else, but I would be interested what other people think about that.


That is not really sustainable; that’s for sure. But it’s for sure as well, that those troubles are completely unintended and not part of the business concept.
Those are the troubles, that accompany development phases of new products and concepts almost always. Global players just happen to be able to sort such kinds of trouble out before they can be perceived by the customer.
I guess, we will never know, how many displays are wasted with IPhones or the other brands, as they are sorted out by a more rigid quality control. My guess would be, that in a way even more displays are wasted: If there is just a shimmer of doubt on behalf of display quality the manufacturer is more likely to dispose of a whole batch of displays for IPhones, because Apple is a customer you can’t afford to loose.

In my opinion the troubles with Fairphone modules therefore are just a hint towards how many stuff is wasted in the process of producing electronic devices each and every day.
Buying another brand would just seem more sustainable, as the problem detection happens at an earlier stage. At least to a certain degree.

Some othre problems might be due to the new modular design concept.
Insofar it’s a bit the same. Big brands have the means to spend much more time and money on testing when developing new things. The waste in this case happens before reaching the customer as well.

In all: In my opinion all those troubles might bee seen as another kind of transparency of the whole business.


From the experience you’ve made I can completely understand your doubt. If all devices failed so often as yours then also in I my eyes sustainability goal would not be reached.
But I think you have had bad luck. There are other devices (as e.g. mine) which are also in use for more than 1.5 years and remain without any hardware failure except 2 back covers (of original style - I think the new version is more robust).


Dear @BertG
I guess you’re right and I have to admit that I have not really thought about that before. I have never thought about that “being part of a movement”, might also mean being part of the development itself. If I look at all these people with problems, including myself more as being part of the quality control process instead of being customers, who buy a working phone, that already went through all these steps, it immediately feels less frustrating.

You’re right, we will never know how many parts are wasted by other companies and simply because we do not see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because with fairphone we see all these things that go wrong, we shouldn’t get the impression that things like that do not happen elsewhere, rather should we be glad that at least they show us.

Thank you for your answer, it did bring back my hopes in fairphone. I guess at one point I simply got too frustrated about all the returns that the idealist in me was shut down.


That’s so absolutely the way I have gone myself and I’m glad I could help to see some light again. :wink:


“If I look at all these people with problems, including myself more as being part of the quality control process instead of being customers, who buy a working phone, that already went through all these steps, it immediately feels less frustrating.”

That’s nice. As I look at this, I can’t second that change of mind. I bought the phone for the right reasons, at least I keep telling me that. But one reason I certainly don’t have bought it, is being beta-testing a spare part or a whole phone for about 530 EUR. It might be worth looking at the amount of screens, suppliers for Apple, Samsung etc. throw away to learn some thing about their quality control. But that certainly is no argument for having bad quality control on the FP end. An argument would be, that the price of the phone correlates with the amount of problems the consumers are stumbeling upon. More problems, sinking price. An argument would be, that the customer service is way better than the service Apple etc. have. But that isn’t the case, either. I’ve got a defective microphone. After about 3 weeks of waiting for a spare part under warranty, I bought myself a new one. That came quite soon. So the mic. was not out of stock. I didn’t get the spare part under warranty till now. A very, very good argument would be, that customers who are experiencing a certain amount of issues or more are getting part of their money back.

Understandable point of view. Limiting factor of course is the size of the company and the account balance. Imho that’s the reason for the limitations in staffing support, pressuring suppliers into more thorough quality control, storing spare parts etc.

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I completely understand your frustration and it is everything else than great when so many customers have faulty devices. However I do not think that fairphone is doing that on purpose or that they actually have other options. If customers keep reporting about faulty devices, they sooner or later will have an image problem and they certainly are not interested in that. However, they are still a small company with limited resources and I guess at one point they had to decide whether to put more money into quality control or to release the phones they had and hope that only as little customers as possible get affected. In that way they can at least earn some money, be able to grow and maybe someday invest more money into quality control.
Furthermore we do not know what proportion of customers actually has a faulty device and how many got lucky. It might seem as if no phone is working properly when one reads through that forum. But keep in mind; only people with problems come to that forum in the first place.

But of course, all of that does not change your situation, nor is it what you got promised when you bought the phone. By the way, I have to admit, that “hey we have a new phone, buy it and maybe you’ll get lucky, maybe you won’t”, indeed doesn’t sound like a great selling argument :wink:

I guess the most important question is: What can and should fairphone do for the ones facing one problem after the other? You talked about getting your money back. Of course that would be great, but I do not think that they have the resources for that. I can only assume that they already lose more money than initially calculated with all the refunds they have to provide (maybe this is also the reason, why they are making it so cumbersome to get a refund, which again, is not the way it should be).
A year ago it was quite easy to get a replacement of a defect piece, they changed that now. Most probably not out of cruelty but maybe they simply do not have the money anymore to be so generous.

In my opinion, it all comes down to customer support and unfortunately I have to agree with you, that they are not doing a great job in comforting customers with problems. They make it seem like they do not really care, which is just frustrating and makes you questioning yourself why you go through all that trouble.

I can only agree with @bfb when he sais that

In my opinion the support should stop making a fool out of their customers by giving lame excuses and making wrong promises. I whish, that fairphone could honestly apologize to people facing problems and show some sympathy. It should not be such a big deal to get a refund and they should not treat you as if it was your fault that the device broke down, until you can prove them differently. I do not know about you, but for me that would already make a big difference.

However, I can understand that you not only want some nice words from the customer support, but you also want get the money back for the microphone you bought. Maybe you can persuade them to let you send in your faulty microphone and after they have confirmed the defect, claim back the money you have spent for the replacement on your own. I really suggest calling instead of writing them. It takes ages until you get a reply from the contact centre and usually the first few answers are not helpful. I have made good experiences with calling them, although it is not the cheapest way. I understand that this is a lot of effort you have to make for something that was not really your fault and I really hope that fairphone soon will change their warranty support.

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You should read this recent blog post by Fairphone-CEO Bas:

Not sure what you want to tell me with that…
I guess you are pointing to that paragraph:

Following this strategic move, scaling up our production volumes will allow us to have more leverage with suppliers and therefore more opportunities to negotiate a healthier, more future-proof supply chain. It means we will be in a better position to put our principles into practice, including improving the availability and lifespan of spare parts, sourcing fairer materials and improving working conditions.

That all sounds great. But to be honest, that article reads like a selling argument to me. It is loaded with great phrases that in the end do not really mean anything. In the end it’s the same as the “we are currently optimizing our production process” phrase with that we all have been put off since January, when spare parts were out of stock again.

Anyway I am happy for fairphone that they could raise some money. So they might be able to give @MikeSixPointEight his money back :wink:

I want to tell you that Fairphone needed money and that they apparently now have that money. That should improve aftersales support on the one hand (more spare parts in stock) and give them the ability to order more phones in advance (shorter delivery times after preorder).

The investments ensure that Fairphone stays economically sustainable because they now have reserves for unexpected issues.


How will FP do that when the device is faulty and people like me are suggesting not to buy a FP at the current status when being asked for recommendations?

Well, luckily not all devices are faulty. And I would guess, that quite a lot of the Fairphones out there are working just fine.
Mine for example has just a battery-draining problem when using WiFi since the update to Android 6. As I normally just use it as a phone, not activating WLan, Bluetooth and GSM, my phone lasts me 2 to 3 days.
FP for sure will have statistics on the failures and equally sure will have addressed them for the batch on sale now. E.g. besides the camera modules they got a new display as well, as you have to update your FP2 to the latest OS version to get it working.
I would suspect, that they present their informations and numbers to business partners.

I agree. I had to buy a new phone before 1 year

And luckily not everyone asks you for recommendations. That would overwhelm you! :wink:

Look at the posts in the threads where exactly that is discussed. I am not alone with that point of view. So… The number of anwers I can give on that topic to different people is simply irrelevant.

My screen went a little crazy after somewhere over a year and I had to jump through all the hoops in order to get it fixed. This included pulling the thing apart in order to copy out a couple of serial numbers that were so small I could scarcely read them.

After fitting the replacement part the back cover cracked and the rubber started to perish. I assumed this was something that I had done whilst pulling the thing apart so I I bought a replacement, and almost as soon as it was fitted it started to go in almost exactly the same places as the previous one. So I tried to get it replaced, after all, I’d only just bought the thing.

No such luck. I still had to convince Fairphone that I was the legitimate original owner of the 'phone itself. Why? I’d bought something and it was faulty. If I’d bought it here in Britain I’d have just taken it back and demanded a replacement, but because it was an overseas purchase I apparently had to prove it was my 'phone. I don’t care if I’d stolen the flipping thing, I’d still paid for the faulty part and they should have that information on their records.

In another 6 months I’ll have paid for the 'phone, until then it’s being held together with rubber bands, and then I shall regrettably replace it with an unfair 'phone produced by, I hope, a slightly fairer company.

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