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No service in North America / Battery drains: FP2 is not really mobile

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I moved to New York for a year in September 2019. And since then, I have been living a life off the grid thanks to my FP2.

Overall, I must say I am really disappointed with the experience I had with my fp2. Since the first month of purchase, the mic, the camera and the battery have been faulty, never had the chance to fully appreciate this not so tiny gadget in its full functionality. Having said that, I assumed it was OK, since I thought of it as an experimental project. But seeing there is a FP3, instead of working towards a fully functioning ethical phone and capitalizing on the brand image, negates the whole idea about the critique of consumerism: hence I rant.

FP2 is not compatible with most of the network carriers in the USA. I had a Mint number/subscription, and it has been a total failure. There’s no way I can use the internet, unless there’s a WiFi I can connect to. And with the Wi-Fi, every time I wanted to connect, first I had to turn on and off the plane mode so that FP2 could rescan and find available WiFis. Apart from the internet roaming, the network coverage was not there either. I got used to this, as I tried to think of it as being forced to decrease the amount I spent over the phone. But then, suddenly, the phone stopped charging itself. At first, the battery started to drain itself. Like turning on the phone and literally watching the battery charge amount dropping to 0 as the phone was loading itself. And now, it simply can not be charged. The screen flashes, as if it is being disconnected from the power source in every millisecond. While other phones can be charged through the same power source/cord/cable, FP2 can just not charge itself.

And if it’s a faulty battery situation, or something wrong with the bottom mic/charger part, I can’t get any spare parts to shipped over here. So practically, my FP2 is dead in the US, might resurrect once I am back in the European soil.

I am really frustrated. The lack of responsibility on the consumer-end, the implication of keeping people update their phones with a new model rather than providing solutions to improve their existing phones makes me question the model FP promotes.

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First of all: it’s never nice to hear someone is frustrated by their purchases - especially when done with good intentions. I’m sorry to hear that.

What follows is a bit of counter-weight. This is after all a discussion forum. :wink:

Fact! Fairphone would tell you this too. And when you check compatibility over at Mint, they’ll tell you you only get 2G coverage.
FairPhone isn’t sold outside Europe. The reason for this is cost. Exporting to a country (outside the EU) involves more certification (in this case FCC), more testing (on Sprint, T-Mobile networks), more expensive SoCs with more versatile base bands, and more distribution organisation. At the time of releasing the FP2, Fairphone was a start-up company. They have to make concessions on these fronts to get going. Perfect only gets in the way of good. Even today the scale of FP is nowhere near that of the global players, but they seem to have more wriggle-room today.
Supporting a wider range of networks (and frequencies) would have meant forking out more money for the Qualcomm SoCs, and when those bands are not required in your predominant market you think twice. Only a tiny fraction of people in the EU migrate or regularly travel to the US and require internet while there. The cost of more expensive SoC probably either didn’t outweigh the custom of that “niche” or the available upfront investment capital didn’t allow taking that decision any other way. Either way, they didn’t make this a secret, there’s plenty of support pages all over the website that hint at this.

It’s always unfortunate when hardware breaks. And it has sadly been my experience too that the FP2 breaks a little bit easier than most hardware out there. I believe the FP3 has been an improvement for the better, but we can only say that for sure in hindsight.
I hope you’ll be able to connect with other NY based Fairphone users/enthusiasts to help you out a bit. There’s probably not many of them given how the phone works so poorly esp. in the US, but you only need one. Even though FP doesn’t ship to the US themselves, there could still be ways of bringing those parts from A-B through the community or local importers.

Be careful, it’s very tempting to redefine Fairphone’s mission to suit your own narrative. Regardless of whether you can get to fix your issues, your money has contributed to better working conditions in the mines and factories. It has contributed to a more repairable design. Even if you personally didn’t pick the fruits from that because you’re outside their reach right now, it’s kept many phones running for 4 years or longer in a market where 2 was the de-facto standard.

It was time. The only part of a smartphone that can’t be designed upgradable is the main board that connects the SoC, the DRAM and the storage. The communication paths between these components are simply too sensitive to timing differences and electrical interference to permit swapping out parts, and pin-out differences mean a new upgraded main board simply can’t connect to the other components in the phone anymore. Upgrading the SoC had to come with a change in the phone’s design that makes existing hardware incompatible.
Meanwhile, if you look at the FP2 specs today, in 2020, they don’t look as if they’d give me a satisfying experience 4 years from now. It wouldn’t make sense buying an FP2 today in the same way it made sense to buy mine in 2016. Hence, it was time for a new phone whose specifications are 2025-proof.

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You accepted a device which was faulty from the start?
What were your steps with Fairphone to get this sorted out?

I really feel for you.
Still, it’s not all on Fairphone.

That was clear from day one. They don’t ship there for a reason.
Besides the costs for better hardware mentioned by @RSpliet
You experience the reasons for not selling to the US yourselfes right now. They would have to provide support there as well; and that really would have cost a lot; and was obviously not feasible for Fairphone.

You might want to read this article on techcrunch Can Fairphone 3 scale ethical consumer electronics?, that is based on an interview with Bas van Abel.
This might help you realize, that the FP3 is improving the phone.
The FP2 (and I know this from firsthand experience) is flawed by design. The super-modularity with clipping modules in place instead of using screws, is the reason for many flaws the users experience. The phone is overly flexible, possibly leading to loss of contact and reboots when carried in trouser pockets.
And that’s, why redesigning the FP2 leveling out the flaws did result in the FP3.
Most obvious example is the display.
While it was just clipped on at the FP2, it is fixed with 13 screws in the FP3. And - from what I learned in this forum - they started with less screws adding one at a time, until the result was a sturdy connection, making the phone reliable.

I was on the verge of suggesting “if the consumer-end sucks this bad, then maybe, if one could track down the arguments made on the production-end, the promises regarding working conditions and fair-sourced material might crumble too…” but i didn’t want to throw that big of a shade. But since you mention, there you go.

Yes. I already knew it, but even the 2g coverage has not worked. And that’s exactly why I am frustrated with FP3. I find it hard to comprehend that there was no way to introduce further hardware/software improvements to FP2 that would allow supporting a wider range of networks. Providing such an upgrade that would build on the existing framework FP2 had, would have been a much sensible and innovative way to address that limitation. But from what you say, I understand that it is impossible due to the intricacies of the mainboard architecture. In that case, acquiring the materials and manufacturing the phone in a “fair” way is what makes fairphone fair. Fair enough. Since I’m not in a position to travel to the mines and factories, I take their word, even though I scrutinize their claim regarding FP2 being ra epairable design from my experience. And the article @BertG shared kinda suggests that being able to “repair” those pieces that required to be replaced was in fact due to it being a “show-off phone”.

And @AnotherElk: i didn’t mind my fp2 being faulty from the start. Because I do not live in EU. I was living in turkey before New York. It was not easy for me to get spare parts or make a refund, so I lived with the problems FP2 came with. At some point, I managed to get a spare camera and tried to find ways to make sure the mic worked under certain conditions (ie not talking over the phone while it was charging, or low on battery -for some reason those were the parameters that felt as if they affected the mic working- ) or used my headphones’ mic when I had to be 100%sure that the mic was working… I have already taken the risk of using FP2 in a semi-European context, and it did work to some extent. Maybe versatility in design, ie, allowing a battery design that can be used by other devices, and vice versa, is a very simple way to respond to the kinds of problems that I am struggling with. I am positive that my frustration deflected at least one friend from switching to FP, so maybe with this rant, I want to make sure that it’s not all on me.

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I’m not 100% sure I understand what you are saying here. What the article (and the founder of FP) suggest is that FP2’s take on modularity was too risky. The screen being attached with two clips made it malfunction more often. I suspect the bottom module design was also flawed in similar ways, given how a lot of people fixed their bottom modules with a piece of cardboard behind the connector. It was nice that you could take it apart in front of someone’s eyes (and “show it off”), but in hindsight that design had quality issues.
Apparently they’ve learned from this mistake for the FP3. They use the “13 screws” as an example of a much sturdier design on the inside. I’d be curious to hear from FairPhone whether this has led to fewer returns, warranty claims and repairs already… Although it might take a while to get reliable statistics, as not many phones break down in their first few months.

It’s fair to have criticism on the FP2 design. Repairability isn’t worth much if it means it has to be repaired much more often than your average phone. Even if you get those repairs within warranty, the amount of shipping and extra materials required weakens the sustainability argument.
I personally don’t blame FP2 for this, as I assume it’s inexperience (with previously non-existent technology, mind you) rather than malicious intent. However, I do hold them to higher standards with the FP3. As long as my FP2 keeps running I’ll keep it, but when it’s time for an upgrade I will definitely do my research and make sure the FP3 is not as prone to breakage as the FP2. It’s my general attitude to life: I don’t judge by ones mistakes, but by their efforts to correct them.

This surprises me too. This article makes it sound like your carrier is more to blame than the handset. AT&T stopped offering 2G, and T-Mobile marginalised it to the point of being unreliable. If you happen to want to debug this problem further, try using a (friend’s) sim of a carrier that’s on the AT&T network. It appears as if AT&T uses at least one band for 3G that is supported by the FP2, whereas T-Mobile supports none of them. However, if you have already settled on a different phone, I can’t blame you!

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This is one of the reasons why I always being my portable phone charger with me. I love using the Fairphone but the battery does drain fast or maybe Im just using it too much. If youre looking into getting a powerbank, you should check out this website.

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