Is the Fairphone a social phone?

Weird. A smartphone incorporating the real cost (non-conflict minerals, fairer wages,…) is not “social oriented”? Maybe you misinterpreted the goals of Fairphone?

Personally, I believe it’s a scandal phones are being sold for 50€. How could anyone buy this and not realise somewhere, someone had to pay for this price difference?


Ethical <> Social. A social device by definition can’t be accessible only by rich people. If you want social equality everybody must be able to access the same technology. Raspberry Pi is much more social technology than Fairphone.

I agree with the ethical aspects of the Fairphone, I just point out that because of it’s price it’ll never be a social revolution. Those people who are producing the Fairphone components will never afford to buy one.


Neither can people working at Airbus. I don’t really see a problem with this. Products don’t have to be cheap, just because everyone wants them. They should reflect all costs (especially the ones that are now externalised) to make consumers more conscious about their behaviour.

Wouldn’t you prefer a more expensive phone where Chinese workers get a fairer salary, compared to a phone that’s so cheap you nobody can believe it reflects the true cost? Or do you believe that workers producing a 50€-phone get a salary that’s high enough to buy that same phone?


I believe in a society where fair products are not a luxury. Organic/Bio potatos can’t cost double price as the conventional one. I believe that only then, we’ll have a “social revolution”. I can buy the fairphone and feel better, but I will change nothing.

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Yes, I can buy the fairphone and feel better, because I gave changed something.
At least by buying this phone some persons get a decent payment, contains no conflict minerals.
Just by thinking small, we can making something bigger happen.

When I give a compliment to the council garderner, he/she is glad to someone notices his/her work and feels beter. It just could happen that because of my compliment, he/she returns my compliment not to me, but somebody else, etc.


Hi @Soprano, I split the topic because your post had nothing to do with coops.

First of all, we would have to know, how Fairphone defines “social”. If you define “social” as “concerning the society” then I’d say that Fairphone most definitely is social. They are trying to change society.

I agree that the FP2 is not cheap, but on the other hand it is built to last for 5 years. Divide 530€ through 5 and you get 106€ per year. If you buy a smartphone for 250€, but it only lasts you 2 years, it is more expensive for you in total, and it also damages the environment (twice as many resources used within 5 years) and abuses people in other countries (twice!). Even more so if a phone costs only 50€. I see Fairphone’s mission as:

  1. Changing the society in Western countries: Cheap is not always best
  2. Changing the society in development countries and emerging markets: Our consumption doesn’t have to mean your abuse

Since I feel that your definition of social means “everyone should have the same opportunities”, I’d like to address that issue. Please correct me, if I interpreted you wrong.

I think that it is not social if companies sell cheap [phones | clothes | whatever] and conceal the problems connected to those cheap goods. It is a relation built on lies and people are not given the opportunity to decide against abuse of people in other parts of the world.

This is something about the dignity of human beings. Would I still only pay 50€ for a phone if the company would show me pictures of how that phone was made, under what conditions its resources were mined, etc.? Would I want to be responsible for other people’s suffering just because I suffer from low income?


Stefan, thanks for splitting this in a separate thread.

I was thinking to open a new thread right away but I didn’t want it to appear as an open criticism to the fairphone, which indeed I like and appreciate.

I agree that social has various meanings and we need to specify exactly which of them are we talking about. I think social more in the sense of socialist, a term which I don’t like to use so much because, for some reasons, in parts of the world carries a negative connotation. Or we may say co-operative, egalitarian, as you prefer, you get the idea.

If we see ICT as a necessity good, if we like the idea of reducing the digital divide, we cannot consider the fairphone to fill the gap. Other initiatives may go in that direction (OLPC, FAIR), Fairphone not.

And yes, I wouldn’t (and don’t) buy cheap goods most probably built by modern slaves somewhere in China, I don’t eat junk food, have my cool pair of expensive “made in Germany” trekking boots. I’m fair because I can. But it’s somehow unfair that only those allowed to be fair, at the end are. Right ?


If you take the cost breakdown of the Fairphone what is your suggestion to be more social then?


I’ve a few ideas about that, but we’re moving out of topic and moreover it would look like criticizing too much the fairphone model, which is a very good idea by any means.

The whole of my point however is that the be a real “social” revolution, this device should be more accessible for lesser wealthy people.

My criticism about OLPC: They build cheap laptops and risk that the electronics they use were produced in unfair conditions.
FAIR on the other hand refurbishes hardware that, like the Fairphone, was expensive when it was sold as new.

I think that old Fairphones could eventually be refurbished and sold for a cheaper price.


You can’t unsettle old community members! :wink: Criticism is good because it helps us rethink possibly bogged down opinions. :slight_smile:


That’s cool and I am really have interests in your ideas. I think it is not offtopic because to be more social in your terms the Fairphone should be designed and produced more cost efficient to be sold cheaper. With the numbers of phone sold and the willingness to maintain the phone as long as possible the financials are pretty realistic for me.

BTW, bit off topic, in my eyes a smartphone is far away a necessity good and almost everybody around me has a more expensive telephone as the Fairphone


Wenn, social in your terms definitely is not fair (or eco) you can buy a Chinese phone for 50€, but production is not fair. Nobody can produce a reasonable powered smartphone for that price and pay workers or delivery chain correctly. Same with bio products, you mentioned. Bio production simply is more expensive than traditional production (be it meat or plants), because you need more hand work, not mass production with medicine or poisons. In this context, the world simply is not “fair”, and in afraid won’t be (at least for a long time). Only possible thing would be to narrow the spread of income. No need a "manager"earns a hundred time the wage of his workers. Then they would have more money to buy more valuable things, be it bio or fair produced. I don’t think a leftist utopia involves things being cheap it involves things being payed fair


I think you are right on the social point.
To narrow down the difference between a manager and normal worker is a really good thing but to have the same income is not fair from another point of view.

No. I’m not that"socialist"enough to propose that :-). different incomes are OK (I’m a specialist myself and think “earn” more…). But such a big discrepancy isn’t OK, imho. Different incomes are probably also an incentive.
Coming back to the topic, i know a lot of people who only can buy meat from mass production and not bio (or even not bio but directly from farmers who try to be more ethical in production). With better income they might. And the farmers might earn more and be able to buy better things. Same with a phone for 50€. You might be able to buy one, but everybody in supply chain (except maybe the distributor) won’t


Btw, still another angle: mass production also is not resilient for nature also. Just look at industrial fishing, mass meat production and industry, and how it destroys nature if you only try to be as cheap as possible, and don’t care for side effects


They still wouldn’t be able to do so if the phone cost 50€, because then they wouldn’t get any salary except for whippings.

That’s true as soon as the organic potatoes are produced in mass production. Mass production always leads to lower prices. So once the FP2 is produced in similar quantities as an iPhone it will cost about the same. But you can’t expect a social mid-to-high-end smartphone to cost the same as a shitty dumbphone - not without a catch.

That is definitely true. Being fair is unfortunately a 1st world privilege. Fairphone is fighting unfairness on many sides, but it just so happens that whatever good they want to do, they need funds for that.
If they’d produce 50€ phones they wouldn’t have the funds to break open the supply chain and incorporate more and more conflict free and fairtrade elements; they wouldn’t have the funds to pay the workers in china decent wages and create better working conditions for them; they wouldn’t have the funds to make sure the mines are conflict free and the workers there are save and they definitely wouldn’t have the funds to invest 4,09€ per phone in value chain projects.

Fairphone is just one company, they can’t save the world alone. They have to pick their battles. But I think their efforts in recycling are one thing they do that adresses your definition of social. I don’t know exactly what happens to phones they recycle, but my guess is they will be sold rather cheap. So if I’m not mistaken they do spend some of their funds helping people with lower incomes to afford phones.

OK I throw there some thoughts in no particular order.
I would have probably targeted a lower and wider segment of the population, and pushed much more for the free software. A cheap(er) phone with a rock-solid free os, something like a fairjolla lol.
Why push for the software: because it’s the easiest part of the phone to have it “fair”, we have already a big community of free software entusiasts in the world, but we miss a rock-solid, easy to use os, so far. A free os your granma can easily use.
Targeting the high-end customer profile is a much mure harder battle to fight. If you go the high-end route, you risk to be quickly obsolete because in a matter of months competitors will deliver much nicer and advanced phones for the same price. Who’s gonna buy a fairphone 2 for 500€ at the end of 2017 ?
I would have chosen something different to Qualcomm as well, which is not as free software friendly as other chips.
i would never ever have distributed the phone with non-free, google controlled, Android distribution.
The idea is that the most people doesn’t need a high-end device. I recently installed the replicant os on a old S3 and you know what, is more than sufficient for the daily usage of most of the population. How much would cost a fair “S3” today ? Could we produce it fairly for, say, 150€ ? If yes, I would have gone that way.

But again, I still greatly appreciate the effort and ideas behind the fairphone. They had though decisions to make and a huge wall to climb, but they delivered. If only for that, all my respect.

This is the reality today. Could be different tomorrow ? Maybe. For example, you said that mass production destroys nature, how much are we going to pay for that ? Some day countries may start to charge for the environmental impact of those 50c bags of potatos, and it could turn out that the bag of bio-potatos will be the cheaper one on the shelves.

The recycling idea is indeed a great one. I’ve not so much insight on how recycling works at fairphone, but it’s definitively the way to go. I would also like a cheaper faiphone toolkit to be assembled at home, ikea-style. Millions of perfectly functioning chips and processors are thrown away every day, it would be nice to have a reuse for that.
But again, I’m convinced that this may only work with low-end devices, you don’t want to mess with your new 500€ phone.

I think there is an interesting paradox in your argument: you want a cheap phone that everyone can buy. But want to use an OS on it that excludes everyone who is not interested or capable to learn how computers work.

Technology can be just as much a barrier as high costs are.

I have not used Replicant for a long time. But do you think that someone with only a passing interest in technology would be able to do the following within 15 min. on their new Fairphone with Replicant:

  • Connect to Google account for email.
  • Install WhatsApp, Facebook and local weather apps
  • Connect to their work Exchange server for address book and calendar sharing
  • Allow Device Management Tool from their boss

If more then one of these is no, then most users in this world are going to have a very hard time using the phone and probably not liking, or even buying it.