Leaving a movement

When I first heard about a smart phone being produced under fair conditions I was really excited. So excited to order one phone right away (I got number 11000 or so) and to spread the word and telling everyone within my circle of friends and family. This resulted in 4 more people buying the phone aswell, including my girl friend.

I joined the Fairphone movement.

Today I am going to quit this movement and I would like to tell you why.

My girl friend ordered one of the phones from the second batch and received it in August 2014. We both like the idea that the people that are part of the production line of the products we buy are treated in a fair way. We also try to save resources, meaning that we don’t get new devices just because there is something new on the market. We share the opinion of this quote: “the most ethical phone is the one you already have” from the Fairphone blog (https://www.fairphone.com/2013/10/03/guest-blog-the-restart-project-fp-repairability/). Therefore we treated our devices carefully to make them last long. They do both look like new.

Even though we treated the devices carefully her Fairphone broke down. In March 2016 (after 18 months) we were not able to charge the device anymore and neither the replacement of the USB-cable or the replacement of the battery changed that. So I wrote to the support telling them about it. After 4 weeks of no reply we got an answer telling us to try a different cable. After the second more in depth reply from the support we were still not able to solve the issue and I was asked to send the device in to find the reason for the problem and repair it.

We did that and they found the issue which was the coating of the USB-connector to be rubbed of a bit. This can be seen here (http://www.image-share.com/ijpg-3288-100.html). They blamed us to have used the device improperly (“probably due to using a defect cable”) which leads to the reparation not being covered by the warranty. So they told us that we either pay 172€ to get the device repaired, to pay 59€ to get it back without being repaired or have the device to be thrown into the trash bin. We do not use a defect cable, we use one USB-cable to charge all of our devices and except for the one FP everything is working fine.

When asking why this is so expensive and if the USB-connector (which costs 0.50€) could not be replaced they told me that this is not possible. They mentioned that the phone was checked by an independent company that has “vast experience in repair of smart phones and other consumer electronics (over the past 12 years)”. The answer to my question why they are not able to really repair the device if they are so experienced was that the FP1 was not made to be repaired in that sense and that the FP2 was a big step in the direction of modularity and therefore repairability. “Rome wasn’t build in one day…”, they said.

This really felt like a slap in my face. This comes across like it would have been better not to buy the first version of the Fairphone and wait for the second, better, one. This gives me the impression that all the “Thank you’s for making this possible” that the company sends around via e-mail are just empty words.

I am fine with paying more for a device which is produced in a fair way. I am fine with a product not being perfect, weak GPS performance, weak camera performance, … I am fine with still using Android 4.2.2 in 2016. I am fine with giving a free credit for 6 months to help starting the idea of a fair phone. I am fine with delivery date after delivery date not being satisfied and waiting 6 months for the device.

But I am absolutely not fine with a company not caring about the early supporters. A company that is not able to find a way to offer a fair repair for the failure point of the device (I don’t consider paying more than 50% of the price I paid initially to be fair). A company that claims that sustainability is one of their major goals but that throws away a working mainboard just because of one minor part.

My Fairphone journey ends here. I am leaving this movement.


I think you misunderstand not-caring with not-giving-away-spare-parts-underpriced. It’s not always possible to tell for sure whether someone treated a device carefully or not, so they have to look for signs of mishandling to determine whether to repair under warranty or not. There is always the risk of not getting repair done under warranty when you send any device to the manufacturer - to arrange this process more fairly Fairphone would probably risk bankruptcy.

It’s a pity that the USB socket - a part that easily wears off - is located on the most expensive part of the FP1. One of many aspects where the FP2 exceeds the FP1, but still the FP1 was and is a very important step and not a bad device at all.


I agree with you that is not always possible to tell sure whether someone treated the device carefully or not. The question for me is could I have done anything different that would have prevented the device from braking down. And if I get to the conclusion that only by not using the device as much leading to not charging the device as much as I did then there is something wrong.

And I did not ask for free parts, I suggest to get the device repaired by their highly experienced 3rd party company and I would be willing to pay for that. I just do not accept the fact that I should pair more than 50% of the initial price if I don’t see anything I could have done differently.

There are companies, as mentioned in the forum that will fix your usb port.

I personally think that FP should be a bit more accommodating regarding the usb port and work with a company that can replace usb ports.

Its bad quality and placement is a design flaw (mentioned in many reports) and I’m not even sure if it was fixed in the newer mainboards. But as you said the FP1 is not really worth an expansive repair. It was the phone to get the FP company started so they would be able to build their dream FP2.


I saw that before but I do not live in Vienna nor in Madrid.

I do get that feeling, too. And this is really disappointing.


I think this topic has been discussed here a few times. Most of the issues of using a standard china phone were not known and they needed partners to be able to add fair materials. And MTK wasn’t a super bad choice in the beginning, it was bad, but not super bad. The software and the usb-ports are the biggest issues of the FP1. There are no published statistics about the usb port failures and I don’t think we will ever seen them. I’m not sure why the mainboad manufacturer hasn’t changed the design, but I guess they never did a 3rd batch. But hey, it was a project. We all knew it wouldn’t be perfect.

The FP2 is really the better phone although I think they exaggerated the modular design a bit too much. But it’s been a long way … not everything is bad.


I am not willing to accept that. It was not like it was an cheap project for me. 300€ is a lot of money. To much money for a device braking down after only 18 months when they were talking about sustainability.

I don’t really get why everyone is mentioning the FP2. The support also did. I did not buy the second device I bought the first one. The one which enabled the second. I see that the second device is much better when it comes to hardware replacement but that does not help me with my FP1.


Thank you @FrankM for posting this.
I can fully understand your disappointment about this company.
It seems you were a staunch supporter of the idea and you have mustered up a very amount of patience.
But at some point you were just fed up - many other supporters (not the same as being a mere “customer”) would not have waited that long to quit.


It absolutely sucks when your phone dies after 18 months, especially one that should be as special as a FairPhone, there’s no question about it.
However, it’s also all too easy to project your own experiences on FP as a whole. With devices as complex as a smartphone, there is always a certain petcentage of phones that fail to function correctly. (This has been discussed previously here: Smartphone failure rates ).
So you’re just unlucky enough to be in that small percentage of people that experience problems.
That doesnt make it any less frustrating for you personally, but do realize that for every case like yours, there’s 90+ cases where the phone functions correctly.

Having said that, are there perhaps any repair café initiatives near where you live? If it’s the USB connector, then it’s not unlikely it’s only the connections between the USB port and the main board, something which I reckon could be repaired by someone that’s a little handy with a soldering iron. I’m no expert on this though, but it might be worth a shot.


Having to pay more than half the phone’s price for a USB connector problem is a real bummer. Luckily everybody I know owning a FP (1 or 2) hasn’t encountered any major problems.

But - is there something Fairphone could have done differently regarding your FP1 problem (I am not talking about the weird information policy regarding deliveries and all that here)?
They were open in what they wanted to achieve and how the path would look like. It was known that they were a small team, that the device would not be newly designed hardware, that they did not have and did not want money from third party investors.
I guess there aren’t many people in the company who expected the USB connector to be a risky hardware component. Currently they are still too small to repair themselves and have to resort to (and trust) third party companies (and who knowns what working conditions they have…).

However, it is irritating that according to your post they resorted quickly to blaming you for the damage and thus not having it covered by warranty. Then again, maybe from the technical information they had they had to conclude that charging in your case did not happen according to the specifications. Maybe there is something wrong with your charger/cable and your other devices are just more tolerant.

Anyway, hopefully you can find a different spot to repair the phone. And hopefully you somehow stay a supporter of Fairphone. There aren’t really any other players yet in what they want to achieve, so they are at least my best hope. If they fail, much more is at stake than just this company.
And while you may feel like having ‘wasted’ a lot of money, I still think that people working for Fairphone probably sacrifice a lot, too (I know nobody from the company personally, but I think they could all earn much more money if they had similar jobs in more normal companies).


I think I need to clarify two things.

The problem with the device is not that the USB-connector is not connected to the mainboard any more. If this would be the case than I would know that this was my fault and therefore I could have done something differently to prevent this from happening.
The problem is that the coating of the connector is damaged. http://www.image-share.com/ijpg-3288-100.html I guess this is caused through attrition. But what could I have done to prevent this from happening? Not charging the device as much which results in not using the device as much which raises the question why I should have bought the device in the first place.

I am not projecting my experience with my phone onto all the other devices out there. And I am not saying that the device is bad. I am disappointed that something like this happens after 18 months to me. But that is not the cause for me writing here. The reason why I am writing is that I am really disappointed how the Fairphone company / support treats my case.


I am using one cable to charge two different FP1’s. One is still working the other one is not.

I guess we all bought the FP1 for the same reason. The reason being that products we buy should be produced under fair conditions buy a fair company. I still think that products I buy should be made under fair conditions. I would have been willing to commit to the idea of a fair phone and buy a 3rd or 4th generation Fairphone after my device brakes down after 4-5 years.
But at some point I have sacrificed enough. Paying more for a device with flaws, paying 6 months in advance, not getting the device when promised, … All this would have not prevented me from buying a second device because every beginning is hard. But if the company does not care about me as an early supporter and customer than I am not willing to care about them and support them. What if I buy a second Fairphone and also get one of the unlucky devices braking down after 18 months. The company would act like this again. I am not willing to take that risk again.


I give you my “like” not because I agree with all your arguments (I don’t) but because I can understand that you’re frustrated.

It’s just that there is not much that can be done about it. It would cost too much money to replace all the mainboards with the “weak” usb-ports. And I assume FP has already spend most of their money on “designing” the FP2. And it looks like the ODM contract with the FP1 manufacturer did not really include a good clause that could have been used for fixing this issue.

But maybe FP should leave the fixing of their Fairphones to a company that actually can solder if needed. For the rest … most people have modules now :slight_smile:


Tell me where you disagree with my arguments please. Maybe I am missing something which would make everything better.

I think you have a fair point if this has worn away through normal usage. You didn’t damage the port through carelessness, it has just slowly eroded with time.

It is also interesting that you have been charging the other phone with the same cable.Does the other phone’s port show any signs of damage? If not, any ideas why not?

I looked at your photo but couldn’t see much.

What if FP gave you a 170 euro discount on a FP2 - would you be tempted?
Good luck!

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I wrote a very long article in german to the thoughtful article "FP2 - is it a poor-quality product ? (german original: bad product) "
🇩🇪 FP2 - ein schlechtes Produkt?
( didnot want to include the german language here)

Although your case looks quite different: the cheap talk about getting rather a new FP2 while talking about repairing your FP1 is like a smoking gun … to my point of view. In germany we have 2 years of legal warranty and the attrition of a USB coating was already recognised as a problem made by design. Fair repair cannot mean to involve a professional repair company and let them make money from hopeless repair cases. it would have been fair enough before your return to give a clear statement from FP not to recommend the return.

What do we learn from this ? Fairtrade doesnot not mean fair support to end customers. In opposite we cannot have both kind of fairness. Not so small misunderstanding between FP and many frustrated customers.

Concerning sustainablity is rather influenced by quality of material and a proper chain of quality management including end quality testing for every produced phone. Compared to FP1 my FP2 will not get proned as a whole but only its modules or its internal parts. Therefor poor quality maybe still an issue for both FP1 and FP2. Real sustainability for newly produced phones can only be reached by better better quality management chain not by the modular concept alone.


I can check that, I need to get a magnifier first since it is pretty small. I’ll let you know as soon as I got one. If still working phone would not show the same signs of damage than the USB-connector in the damaged phone than it would be pretty clear that the USB-connector is of low quality.

I added a rectangle to the region that causes the failure in charging, not sure though.

No, I would not be tempted. I thought that I bought a product from a company that treats anyone in a fair way participants of the whole production process as well as costumers. I do not feel that I have been treated fair. I offered a way to get this repair done with a less effort for the company as possible (getting the device repaired by the company they do business with anyway for the hardware costs of 0.50€). The answer was that the device was not made to be repaired in that way. They are not willing to make any compromise. They do not care, if they would they would at least discuss with me and tell me why the highly experienced company the hired to check the phone is not able to repair it when other companies can do that.

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Can you tell me who recognized that the coating is a problem made by design?

I agree with your arguments. It is always better not to get one the bad devices in the first place. But I give Fairphone the credit that they are a new company and that things like quality management need time to be implemented. But if there are bad devices out there than they should take care of it.

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The FP1 is a lost cause. It was a prototype for learning on how to get “fair” minerals from a supply chain into a standard phone. It’s not the long-life phone some people thought it would be.

But just try to find a store that actually cares about fixing stuff, all the part numbers can be found in the forum. This is what you need right now. Fairphone moved on, they have enough issues with the FP2 right now … putting more resources into the FP1 will bring them down. The FP1 cannot be “saved”.


I don’t search the FP1 forum since I don’t have this phone. However I couldnot find in a day the other quoting cite that I once found in the past about issues with usb ports. So I took this quote here from @fp1_wo_sw_updates . Sorry, I know that you still search for evidents for exactly the same case from other people. Hope it’s OK. I think I should correct myself due to my missing quoting cite. It maybe not a problem by design. I cannot judge this by my own. But I guess it is rather a problem made by FPs poor-quality of material and management process. I also have to admit that I couldnot really read your given foto. It was dark and a bit unsharp to my eyes. Maybe you still have another foto from a different angle ? However I am convinced that FP has a poor-quality problem with material and quality management processes. Many customers complained from time to time about bad parts and DOAs (dead-on-arrival) . The problem behind this problem is the attitude of FP to compete with bigger smartphone producers beeing on eye level with other brands . To let us think they are on eye level with the big ones they tell us it is normal industrial standard e.g. with 1% spoilt phones. I don’t believe them. Not because they boast or swagger around but because the FP2 cannot be compared with other brands. The FP1 that can be compared with other brands e.g. the smaller brands is nothing special . But FP keep telling us it was. Yes I think I left the movement . But I am not sure that I ever really took part in this movement. Even CEO of FP made clear that even FP2 is only “half-fair” traded. But since it all costs too much for a small company they make a big thing out of it.