Leaving a movement (FP3 Era)

That’s really helpful to hear about improved design hopefully leading to less hardware issues.

I don’t know if I’m leaving yet, I’m still trying to decide. Unlike others I didn’t have any big expectations about upgrading the phone. If it worked as well as it did at first (minus the random reboots) I would be quite happy with it.

I chose the FP2 for ethical reasons, I’m not very techy and wasn’t interested in replacing hardware myself. Although as it happens I have replaced the bottom module twice and did find it unexpectedly empowering to be able to do that myself. On the other hand, I’ve never really experienced issues with hardware in my previous smartphones so it feels to me like the modularity is actually the source of most of my problems.

From what I remember of previous smartphones, they lasted around 2 years before going into a slow decline leading to me eventually replacing them. If there was a more immediate issue I could go to a local shop and get it sorted out in a matter of days.

With FP2 I have had multiple issues that made the phone or important elements of the phone unusable. This leads to a slow back and forth with support and a very long wait if you actually have to send the phone away. On the whole I’ve found support to be helpful but it just takes forever to get to the source of the problem.

I recently replaced my bottom module but then the camera stopped working. The battery life is also very poor for reasons I can’t divine. So I’m thinking my FP2 is coming to the end of its usefulness. I’m tempted by the FP3 but I would be paying triple my current monthly bill. The other option I’m considering is a refurb of some normal phone.

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I guess, you are right on spot there.
As Bas van Abel is cited in this techcrunch article Can Fairphone 3 scale ethical consumer electronics?:

“You don’t need the phone to be so super smooth in taking apart to be able to repair it,” he says. “Fairphone 2 goes beyond the idea of repairability. It’s more a show off phone in that sense. And that also comes with risks.”

And it seems, they have learned and fixed this problem with FP3.
I full well understand, if you consider buying a second hand phone, as the FP3 is really expensive, even if you could get one for 400,- Euro now:


(and maybe this one is sold already).

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That’s encouraging. I feel more like leaning towards the FP3 now. Buying the handset outright is financially out of reach right now but I’ve just noticed the cheapest handset + bundle offered by the phone co op (UK) is actually £25 a month, not £36 as I originally thought.

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I recently changed my completely dead FP2 for an LG smartphone and I would like to share some reflections - as a frustrated user but also as an engineer and civil servant working in areas related to sustainability and circular economy.

I am very concerned about sustainability issues and working conditions around the world. This is why I decided to buy a Fairphone 2 in the end of 2016. Even if I had to wait for it and had to use an old phone my family had for some weeks.

I will tell you my personal experience later, but I will start by making my point. For someone to buy a Fairphone, I think he should meet the following conditions:

  • Have enough money and be willing to pay an overprice of 150-200€ for (alleged) sustainability.
  • Think a low-end smartphone is enough for his needs.
  • Be able to wait for several weeks to receive his device, i.e. his current phone must be working (or he can live for over a month without a phone).

So seriously, do you think this has any future?

Then, the problem is, is Fairphone actually more circular? In my opinion, as long as devices are not upgradeable (and I am not only talking about changing the camera, but the “performance hardware”), it will not be. Make it retrofitable or give the buyer an option to change his device for a new one (that keeps up with technological progress) or it will not be.

I see in this forum that there is a lot of talk about how the individual consumer should make a difference, which in the end means blaming those who are not willing to pay an overprice and wait to buy a FP instead of any other smartphone. Some others do the same. I guess they don’t live on a close-to-minimum salary and, in this case, they don’t mind having a badly performing smartphone whose camera cannot even take proper scans to send to customer service that works only on smartphones (true story, and not so rare nowadays).

I think that the change to a more circular economy should be led by policy, laws and proper resource and waste management systems. But remember that sustainable development is not only sustainable, it’s also development. FP2 is objectively a pretty bad product, and its distribution model does not help a person wanting to buy one neither - they can’t just go to a shop, check it and buy it.

The “fair working conditions” and fair-trade mineral stuff is good but you just have to believe it, so it was not the reason with I decided to buy a FP. It’s still mostly manufactured in China (65 hour working week) so it’s not like buying only clothes made in EU and other countries you can trust in this respect (with I do). I know there is no manufacturing capability for many components and smartphone assembling in Europe so I am not blaming the company. What made me buy a FP was the modular design and my belief that the phone would be upgradeable. I know they didn’t claim it, although they did say something like “maybe in the future”, “this would be a nice thing”. I thought this was going to happen because it is really the only way to reduce obsolescence in such a deflationary industry as this one (or, said otherwise, in which product technology improves massively every 2 years, and new OS and SW relies on relatively new HW). Maybe my previous experience in the turbomachinery industry, in which products are usually retrofitted, influenced my thoughts.

Anyway, now I can say I have tried a FP2 and I couldn’t make it until it’s 3rd birthday. And I really tried hard to make its life longer. Is this really the spirit of Fairphone? I don’t think so…

First, I started having problems with the screen (part of it didn’t work at all, I had ghost touches, double letters when typing - so “o” was “ip”, and this suddenly disappeared, then appeared again). I already paid around 150-200€ more than for a smartphone with similar specs and then (as guarantee had expired) I would had to pay another 100 odd euro (plus wait for a week or so at least) to make my FP2 work - the problem being that I was repairing a phone that had other issues and that was soon to become quite obsolete. 4 years after its lauch, the only thing you could upgrade was the camera (from terrible to mediocre), and anyway I don’t care much about the camera as I have a full-frame DSLR. It clearly didn’t pay off…

Then, I started thinking of buying a new phone. I ruled out FP3, but I thought about buying a Shiftphone. These guys make better (and more expensive smartphones). But still they have a big problem, it takes a while to receive your phone, especially if you don’t live in Germany. Anyway, I was going to do it and take the risk… the my FP2 really stopped working. It doesn’t charge and plugging it only managed to cause overheating.

So I bought an LG 8s that has a better screen, a better processor, more RAM, more memory and a better camera than a Shift 6m for 100€ less and went with it out of the shop (if I wanted the Shiftphone in 1 week I had to pay 55€ more, otherwise I had to wait at least 6 weeks). LG offered me a 5 year guarantee, which makes me think they are confident that their device is robust and designed to last, while Fairphone offers only the 2 year legal minimum. Time will tell if it will last me longer than my FP2, but I think it will. So probably this purchase will be more sustainable (and obviously cheaper and it will provide me a better user experience).

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Have enough money and be willing to pay an overprice of 150-200€ for (alleged) sustainability.

Yes, it sucks that fair and sustainable means higher prices - although you should really view it as a fair price, with ‘normal’ phones being underpriced because they’re poorly put together and workers aren’t getting compensated.

Think a low-end smartphone is enough for his needs.

Is it low-end? The FP3 does everything 99% of users need, and more. I’m a Linux nerd and I use an FP2, which I don’t see becoming obsolete for the next decade.

Be able to wait for several weeks to receive his device, i.e. his current phone must be working (or he can live for over a month without a phone).

I don’t think Fairphone are to blame for being a small company that’s being overrun with orders. Sure, it’s not good and can lead to frustration, but hardly a reason to call the product ‘shit’.

So seriously, do you think this has any future?

It’s been going since 2013, and it’s been quite successful. FP3s are flying off the shelves, even after the issues the FP1 and FP2 had and have. Clearly, a fair number of people care more about fair electronics than luxury gimmicks and the latest specs.

Make it retrofitable

Make it smaller! Make it 3D! Give it a pair of wings and make it fly! These things are easily demanded, but far harder to produce. Try selling people a five year old form factor as a new phone, see what happens. Keep producing parts for aging phones that fewer and fewer people are using, and watch your company die.

FP2 is objectively a pretty bad product

What’s your metric? They sold like hotcakes, even the refurbished batches. Even lots of people who have issues with their FP2s still love them. I talked to a guy yesterday who had replaced four parts over the course of two years, and he didn’t mind one bit. He told me, in so many words, that he wouldn’t give up his phone if they paid him what he paid for it in 2017.

4 years after its lauch, the only thing you could upgrade was the camera

So there were upgrades - both camera modules, in fact. And the slimcase. Fairphone never touted upgrades as a selling point, still managed to produce them, and somehow this is still mentioned as a promise not lived up to. Why?

So I bought an LG 8s that has a better screen, a better processor, more RAM, more memory and a better camera than a Shift 6m for 100€ less and went with it out of the shop

Alright, and people didn’t get paid and worked shitty jobs in shitty mines to produce it for you - which is why it’s so impossibly cheap.

It sucks that your FP2 didn’t last longer, though keep in mind that there’s plenty of FP2s out there that are lasting without any issues. You had a bad experience, the whole tinkering-with-your-phone thing isn’t for you, you want more RAM for god-knows-what. That’s fine - if a Fairphone isn’t for you, just get that LG phone; you don’t have to type up an angry diatribe to make yourself feel good about it.

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The other devices are too cheap for the materials used, the workers are squeezed out. This is not the fault of Fairphone. Fairphone is on the right track and is doing the right thing. The FP2 is a second attempt.

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You got me completely wrong. My intention is not to write an angry diatribe, my experience just illustrates some of the problems that many people are encountering with FP. But this is not about me or you - a product that only computer geeks who like fiddling around with a smartphone (but are fine with worse-than-average hardware, which narrows the target quite a bit) and activists who have money to spend (are fine with worse-than-average hardware) is not going to change anything, because there are just not enough people.

Sure, it can make you individually feel better every day when you think you are changing the world by having a FP and get less angry when it crashes again, but it won’t change the industry nor make a significant impact. This is what I am talking about, because I am really concerned about the sustainability problems of this industry (and others), and would like to see a real change happening.

Your message is just what I expected, a proud FP fan feeling offended and blaming people for not paying more for a worse product and saying that it’s not really worse (maybe you haven’t tried something else for a while or your knowledge in software engineering lets you improve the device performance).

The truth is that still nowadays I talk about Fairphone and meet many people who don’t know what I am talking about, and very rarely I see a FP around. Is this a real impact? I don’t think so…

About the product, I don’t know why I need RAM for, but I do know that my FP2 (when it worked) performed pretty badly compared to other people’s phones (and not compared to a 1000€ Samsung, but to devices cheaper than FP2). It got stuck quite often with some apps, it restarted suddenly for no apparent reason, the battery didn’t last much and it often went from 20% to 0% in a few minutes, I had problems using the camera during a customer service call I needed to do to get a debit card (and turning on the torch caused the call to end)… So the performance is pretty poor and it’s also not reliable. When my FP2 broke I used as an emergency phone an old Samsung S III - its performace was worse (but not so much worse) and it’s OS was not compatible with some apps, but it still worked. Therefore, I can say that FP2 is objectively a bad product, I don’t even need to check the specs.

You don’t need to be a geek who needs stupid tech gimmicks to find user experience better with any other phone - just be objective.

The claim is that a FP lasts longer than any other phone because it’s more durable and it’s repairable. The truth is that it’s less reliable than other phones, and other phones are repairable too. Sure, you can’t disassemble them at home, but you can take them to a shop in your city and they will do it there, not taking more time than what you would need to receive the FP parts you need and doing it yourself (sure, this can be more fun for some people).

Second, a smartphone is not a garment, or a washing machine - in 4-5 years’ time the hardware becomes obsolete (you will have problems in running some apps, performance problems, not enough memory…), prompting the user to change a device, even if it’s working. This is why upgradeabilty is key if you really want to make a smartphone circular. I accept that making a phone retrofitable may be a very difficult mission (I don’t know why because I don’t know the technicalities of this industry, and I honestly don’t see the reason why it is impossible to design new components so that they fit in the same space that the old ones they replace), but then you should offer hardware upgrades as Shiftphone is doing (give me back your old phone and for 100€ or so you can get a new one). Then FP would be 1) more sustainable and 2) not more expensive than its alternatives.

Upgradeability /retrofitability is not a stupid or crazy demand as you are implying - it’s not asking a phone to fly. It is the main thing we should ask to a circular phone. You tell me there were upgrades: a new camera (which I already mentioned) and the slim case. Are you serious? This doesn’t improve the phone performance nor prevent its obsolescence (the camera can help a bit, but it’s pretty mediocre anyway).

Let me finish with a remark on the working conditions and fair trade issue. As I said in my initial message, this was not the reason why I bought a FP2, because there is no way I can know if this claim is true. Anyway, for Western European standards, the miners who source minerals for FP components also have shitty jobs with a shitty salary - and mines are usually shitty places to work anyway. Workers in the Chinese factories that produce its components have 65-hour-weeks, as this is the legal working week in China - their work-life balance and their purchasing power is shit compared to that of a middle-class northern European (like most people who write here or own a FP). This is why issues like sustainability, working conditions, etc. should be tackled in international policy instruments such as trade agreements, but one should not blame the consumer for not buying a worse product for more money, because most consumers are not rich and need this money for something else.

Anyway, if you want this to work, you really need to make the device more reliable AND upgradeable - even if you can’t disassemble it at home, which is not really needed.

As for the distribution, I am pretty sure there are ways of selling it in a real shop so people can buy it right away, and also get to know it. As I said, in the real world, not many people know what Fairphone is.

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In my opinion it gives no sense to discuss about FP2 when this is no longer sold and FP3 is out - and lot of issues seen to have been adressed with the new model.

Don’t know exactly what your “you” is referring to. I assume you know this is a user forum.

FP3 is sold in stores (at least in some countries).

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I agree, that the FP2 was flawed in many points.
As @Volker already posted, this was adressed by FP3.
When critizising Fairphone for not being available in shops, you seem to have missed their different/fair approach to funding.
They still are no big company with big money. And that would be vital to push the phone on the shelves. Fairphone - in my opinion wisely - has decided for a slower, more sustainable and more efficient approach. In the long run, that is.

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A smartphone which I happened to have had as well, from day #1 after release. My last Samsung, as well. Flagship device, they supported it for 1 year with software updates. Probably still vulnerable to Stagefright today. It also has the abysmal pre material design interface which is on approx the same level as end '90s desktop UI. No thank you!

If you wanna go for an old or secondary smartphone, fair enough, but then I am also gonna point out the flaws that choice has.

There are more mods as well, including non-official. There was someone who made a Qi charger on it (same with FP3). There has been someone who made USB-C module for FP2. No, it has not been an ample amount of official modules from Fairphone but why would you expect such from a small company? They were busy with supporting the FP2 which had a series of serious flaws. That’s more important that a gimmick of a module (and I missed NFC and fingerprint scanner, to name two features).

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I am really sorry to say: it is hair raising how much opinion you generate over your very limited knowledge of hardware.
I got your point, that you expected a lot more from Fairphone. But they did not mentioned that in any way.
Retrofit hardware with your ideas and expectations are not possible at all. And I do not even try to explain it to you. If you had tried to upgrade you knowledge with the same enthusiasm you wrote your rant here at the forum, your need to do so would be limited just to the flaws you experienced with the FP2. And as most others here at the forum you would got helped in most ways.
Instead of an idea how electronics were produced and remedy flaws the only thing you got is your rant. If this is want you want for personal satisfaction you reached your goal.
Have a nice day.

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Where? I am curious. I come from Spain and it’s not sold here.

Sure, but my point is to make an impact you have to get bigger. If the company is fine in staying as a marginal player for geeks and people who like the idea of having a sustainable phone (and hear about it from someone, as it’s not so well known) but who will probably get disappointed, that’s OK, but I was discussing how such a movement can grow.

I do think it is necessary to make consumer electronics (and industry in general) more sustainable and more respectful with workers’ rights and conditions, but like this it won’t happen.

For me this is one of the biggest flaws, even more in a device that may break from one day to the next (even more if you have a FP) and without which many people can’t live for a week because we rely more and more on it, and not only for communicating. As I said, I wanted to give an opportunity to Shift but I really couldn’t wait more. It would also make more people know Fairphone.

Sure, I just said that the hardware continued working. I only used it for one day until I bought a new phone. I am not a big fan of Samsung but if I could turn on my FP2 like this one I could at least recover stuff from its internal memory, or use it as a backup.

My point here was just that FP2 didn’t keep up with the claim that it could be used for 5 years (or maybe they should have added “spending in changing modules as much as for the initial purchase”).

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Have a look for the according symbol on the list of resellers.

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You have two years of warranty. If the product is replaced, the warranty is not renewed, except when it is a flaw in the product. Then the warranty is not exhausted after 2 years.

If your core module breaks and you’re out of warranty, you are toasted, I agree (except if you are an EE who can solder and figure out what is broken). For the other modules, you can replace these both in and out of warranty. Yes, out of warranty makes the smartphone more expensive, that is true. But it isn’t much on the entire budget. If you consider 3 batteries required (replacing each after ~1,5 years) then you get the smartphone for about 600 EUR, and about 700 EUR with the new cameras.

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Well, then it will never be circular, so you can try some other product. By the way, Shiftphone does offer upgrades (give back your old phone and take a new one for 100€ or whatever… Not 20€ for your old phone + 20€ if it’s a FP2), so it’s not impossible.

I never claimed to know about software or hardware engineering, actually I mentioned what my current and previous job was about. So I do know about engineering in general, and about economic and environmental policy and its interactions, which is more what I am talking about.

I am just saying that without this, a smartphone cannot be so circular / sustainable and last for 5 years or more, as they say, and even less if it’s very far from being top notch when it is sold… Unless you can cope with outdated HW. The truth is most people don’t want a smartphone with 7 year old technology, not becuase they want the latest hardware gimmicks to feel cool but because there are some things everyone else can do with their phone that they cannot. If the device is not even reliable for its essential functions (calls, battery, screen, staying on…), even worse.

So instead of answering me in a disrespectful way because I write things you don’t want to hear as a fun you can explain me why this is impossible (I really want to know).

Anyway, I did ask if it will be retrofitable and I was told something like “not yet, but it would be nice”, they didn’t say “I’m sorry but that’s impossible”, which would’ve been much more honest if things are as you say.

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That is not an “upgrade” that is a swap and absolutely not sustainable.

Like I said. Just talking theoretically is not enough. Examples can be seen in politics everyday. #FFF

My FP2 is nearly 4 years old. Working perfectly with absolutely no flaws. I think about to sell it, as it have the potential to stay functional for another two years.

They are free to sell it to someone and order another (Fair-)or(Shift-)phone.

That is only your personally experience. Like I said, mine is different.

Disrespectful is to talk about things which one did not completely understand. And I did not mean it disrespectful at all. If I do not get behind circumstances, I know I am very welcome to ask, especially here in this forum. Many things are not as bad as they seam to be.

Who did you ask?
Anyway, the developing of hard and software is a burdensome process. Especially when the company is developing just one product. If that would be easy, also in view of sustainability, Fairphone as a company were not needed.
It is your personal decision to support these fair goals.

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I asked Fairphone support before buying the phone.

Good luck selling your Fairphone, how much can you expect getting for it? And why can’t the company buy it for that residual value then?

This is what I am talking about. And why is this “upgrade” / swapping nor sustainable?? The device you give back may be usable, so it can be resold for a lower price and keep it working or its components can be reused. I don’t see any problem there. On the other hand, this makes the product a lot more attractive, which is something one should take care of too - you will save in the long run. This also means that a disappointed FP2 user could still consider buying another FP.

It is not only my fairphone which didn’t work properly, many users have faced many problems. Sometimes, they are bearable and get used to it - until you start using a phone that works well and you wonder how could you cope with so many malfunctions for so long.

In the same way as sustainable development is not only sustainable but also development (which is very easy to forget when you are a middle-class or higher in a rich country), a sustainable smartphone should also be a smartphone. It’s fine that it’s not top-notch, but not years old technlogy. And it’s not fine to expect that people will pay 40-50% more just for the sustainability, you can give them something more in exchange (for example, changing their old phone for a better one for a good price, cheaper components, better service).

If the modular design is what makes FP not perform consistently, why should it be continued? Is really the phone more sustainable because it’s modular? Sure, some people love being able to open it and fiddle with it, but if you can repair it as fast and for the same price, why should you care if it’s modular or a professional should fix it for you?

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So swapping in this regard is just sparing you the burden of selling it yourself, but getting the market price if possible.
This is not sustainable, as it is a kind of incentive for changing a working phone. It works along the lines of all the other companies, in making it attractive to get the latest device.
Fairphone on the other hand is aiming to change this attitude, so that everyone keeps the phone as long as it is working. The most sustainable phone is the one you have.

You need not buy into this concept, but then Fairphone might not be for you.

While I agree, that they have to grow to make an impact, I disagree to your critzising the way Fairphone has chosen.
As you yourself rightfully stated, the Fairphone 2 was a flawed device. They had to do some learning in developing the sustainable and modular concepts. And this did not happen without errors and mistakes.
Just imagine, they would have mass-produced the FP2 and sold it in shops all over Europe.
They would have been out of business one year later for all the flaws, starting with a cover they had to replace for problems with design/materials. They would have gotten such a bad press, that the next phone never would have been given a chance.
So they - wisely - started devolping the device directed at more tech savvy and forgiving customers. This community shows the outcome and the amount of useful feedback they received.
The amount of community OSs that was developed is another proof.

Just now, with the FP3, they aim at the mass market, bringing it to shops and selling it to much more online-resellers than before. Vodafone (EU-wide) is the latest and most clear example for this.

When it comes to the problems of upgrading a phone hardwarewise; this has been discussed quite a few times in this forum.
Read e.g. this one; the explanation already points out, that this discussion is reoccuring:

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Well, it is easier for the manufacturer to reuse working components of an old device than for a user. Of course, the ideal thing is retrofitability, which you say is not possible - with the current technology, maybe in the future…

Swapping is making things easier. Not everyone has the means to resell his own phone. There could be restrictions - no swapping of devices before a certain age. And there really is such restriction in FP as they launch a product every 3-4 years or so.

Actually, many people keep their phone while its working properly, not only FP users. They save money that way. The circular economy is actually a very old thing, even if people didn’t have much environmental consciousness… And this is personally what I have always done, regardless of the brand of my phone.

The problem when you try to do this while keeping with FP or Shiftphone is that you have to assume staying for 2 months without a smartphone which is something most people cannot accept nowadays, because in most places you can’t just go to a shop right away and buy a new FP or Shiftphone (actually this is why I couldn’t give an opportunity to the latter).

And then again the device should be reliable and durable. I see this as more important than modularity and this is why I want to understand why this movement puts modularity as the top priority - is it really sustainability or also tech geekiness?

As with any sustainable industrial product, price will always be key, and I think you shouldn’t blame the user. When I say price I mean price for the same performance, durability, etc. If you can’t make it cheaper or better, at least make it more reliable, durable and easy to repair when this is needed.

When I had a problem with my FP2 I had the impression the service really didn’t know what was going on, so they don’t really know how their product works. They basically asked me to disassemble and assemble it again, and it didn’t work.

You are right in that such a product was not fit for a wider market. So I really hope FP3 is not like FP2 for those of you who decided to stick with it.

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