Subscription model to continue FP1 development

Dear Fairphone-Team,

I’m a Fairphone backer from the very start and many friends of mine also own a Fairphone 1. The phones work well with some caveats that I guess everyone is aware of. The phones have proven themselves to be quite robust and we’d all like to continue using these phones for quite some time. We got the phones because we believe in the idea of fair electronic products and wanted to support the project. Not because we wanted to have a ‘power-user’ smartphone. And for our needs, the FP1 would still be fine for years to come. I’d suspect that there are many supporters like us out there.

We, however, all share a common problem: The lack of support by the Fairphone developers for software updates.

Last week, you’ve sent out an email to your FP1 backers that their phones are ‘approaching the end of their life cycle’. From knowing ~10 people owning FP1 I can tell you that this is not true. You’re approaching your end of the life cycle for support. We’re now forced to produce the electronic waste we wanted to avoid by supporting the idea. This feels like a betrayal to the initial backers of your project. The phones would be fine, if only you were able to put some small resources into continuous support.

I’ve great respect for what you achieved and of course understand that running a start-up with such ambitious aims like you guys comes with lots of uncertainties and financial risks. And continuous support doesn’t come for free, that’s clear. There has been quite a discussion on this in the forum as well, but no solutions have been proposed as far as I can see.

To move this issue forward a bit, I therefore would like to make a pragmatic proposal:

I’d be more than willing to pay something between EUR 15-30 per year (or even a bit more, if you can convince me by presenting a budget for this) in something like a subscription system to ensure that you guys can employ a developer (or more) to provide continuous IT support for the FP1. If the community is big enough, this would be a system to ensure IT support as long as enough people continue to use it.

I’d be interested in other FP1 users view on this proposal. If possible, I’d also like to hear views of the FP team on this and hope that this can spark some much-needed discussions about the future of your support for the FP1 backers.


It’s not the lack of support from the FP devs but the lack of support from Mediatek. The FP devs are doing all they can to keep the FP1 up to date as you can read here.

You misunderstood the mail. It said “you may be approaching end of life cycle”. The mail is not trying to warn you about some planned obsolesce that will be happening soon, but simply tries to prepare you for the inevitable that is sure to come some time (maybe in 5 years ;)).

Your suggesting might be a good idea if the software side was the only thing that was keeping the FP1 from being future-proof. The other issue is that FP is unable to acquire new spare parts for the FP1 as producing in such small quantities as they’d need is neither economical nor ecological.

So would you really think a lot of people would pay a yearly subscription to keep their phone’s software up to date if they know that any hardware damage would mean they can’t save the phone anymore?

Also because of the lack of new spare parts (especially main boards and screens) the number of FP1 users decreases constantly so you’d have to pay more and more each year per person to keep this going.


Quite an interesting idea, but I guess they need EUR 15-30 per month to achieve such goal, and that is not granted at all. They struggle a lot to make “KitKat” work on Fairphone 1 because the manufacturer of the SoC does not allow access to source code, but they are working hard to make it possible:

As time goes by, there will be less Fairphone 1 users because sooner or later the hardware conkes out. Less users -> less supporters -> less budget for IT administration.

Edit: @paulakreuzer wrote it all, thanks! :slight_smile:

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In general I’m not opposed to the idea of paying a yearly amount in the proposed range to get longer support for an older model (the only older model being the FP1 at the moment).

But as paulakreuzer already highlighted, under the given limiting factors, I don’t believe that throwing money at the problem is going to solve it. In my opinion that would be flogging a dead horse.

On the other hand, maybe the idea itself helps for the future. If it would help FP2 users to avoid the same kind of problem in about two years, I would donate some amount once that could be spend on manufacturing more spare parts for example (or whatever helps most and can be addressed by simply throwing money at the problem).


Dear Paul,

thanks for the rapid answer. Few points

  1. Running 4.4.2 eventually means ‘end of the life cycle’. Bunch of standard apps are not working anymore under 4.4.2 not to mention security issues.

  2. 4.4.4: I’m aware of all of this and am running the alpha. Encountering all the problems people report, but at least some more compatibility. I’m rather tech-savvy, but one cannot expect the majority of users to be. But frankly, it’s also quite frustrating to have to encounter all the issues that naturally occur with an alpha on a daily basis.

  3. Parts: This is understood. But as I also said most phones are still running. Providing open calculations of these costs would also help people to get their head around the cost issues. Would be glad if you can point me to those.

  4. Issues with Mediathek and other dev-struggles. Yes, obviously one problem. But probably not the full story? Just to quote from the 4.4.4 thread: “In addition to delays caused by technical issues, our small team has been trying to divide our time between a range of other priorities, including the most recent update for the Fairphone 2. We realize that this is frustrating, but we have to be honest about what we can accomplish with the resources we have.”

  5. The scale of the problem: I’m not sure we’re all on the same page on what’s happening here. This is not a minor issue. It’s an issue goes to the very heart of the FP project, it’s symbolic. If you fail your first generation backers because you can’t get the hardware anymore: not optimal, but can happen. If people have to trash their phones because of software support: fail on all scales. Idea dead on arrival.

I’m not the only one in this Forum complaining about this. So people want to see you trying as hard as you can. If you try a ‘subscription system’ and it fails, fine. But giving up just like this is giving up on all people who supported you to make this happen in the first place. And credibility is a scare commodity. Why would FP2 buyers believe you if you promise long-standing support? Sorry to say this, but I’m not sure the project good too much good press lately…

  1. Dealing with critique: As I said, in my post, I’ve great respect for all that you’ve achieved. But I see a fundamental risk to all of it by what’s unravelling here for the reason outlined below. All I’m trying to do is to be constructive and to propose a way out of this very unpleasant situation for you as developers and us as users. And I can do basic math myself on the subscription system. But if you don’t try, you’d never know if it would to work. On a similar note, I think a project like FP should explore such a subscription systems in any case. You can’t provide multi-year support without selling new phones every 2 years or so. And, at least as a lip-service, that’s what you want to avoid. So you need other, constant revenue streams to allow you to go on.

I’d say you have a very open and supportive community. Instead of brushing their concerns aside, it might be more appropriate to enter an open dialogue about financing the project, ongoing support and other issues.


The idea of a subscription model is indeed valid, I remember back in the good old days paying a rather ridiculous amount of money for a subscription to get a heap of nice and useful software for my then already obsolete 8-bit Atari :slight_smile:

But then again …

That … and with that you perhaps can make a case with Fairphone, I guess :wink: .


I think any further development for Fairphone 1, whether for hardware or software, should be layed in the hands of the community. Fairphone should not put more time and cost intensive resources in a smartphone that is four years old already. They just cannot afford it.

A strong commitment from the community to Lineage OS for Fairphone 2 is going on right now. So it might be possible for Fairphone 1, too, who knows? And Fairphone could better concentrate on all the other tasks which have to be done. They might be relieved to let Fairphone 1 go, knowing it will be in good hands! :slight_smile:

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Douwe once told me that about 1000 displays would be needed a year but the minimum quantity to produce would be 3500.
So if we take 60% of the 70€ display price (according to the cost breakdown) that would be 147.000€ just for displays. Not accounting for the warehouse fee for stocking the leftovers.

Having outdated software after 2years is not exactly DOA!

No that would not be fine at all. That would be really bad for Fairphone’s image and credibility not to mention a waste of money, time and resources. If they try something like that than only if they are sure it will work.

I’m a part of the community and have nothing to do with Fairphone’s achievements. I’m not working for them so what I write here is not Fairphone dealing with critique.
And I’m sure if and when an FP employee randomly sees this topic and replies they will - even if they may say the same thing - reply much more respectfully. :wink:

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Displays for Fairphone 1 are no longer available. Now we all know, why… :unamused:


That was never a secret.

He could have ordered an extra batch of 3,500 displays to supply them as spare parts for 3.5 years.

However, it is too late now…


Hi Paul,

thanks for this and apologies for coming across disrespectful. That was not my intention and I could have informed myself about the different roles of community and FP support. Point taken.

But apart from this, there seems to be a disagreement on the symbolic nature of this issue.
My point is not so much about me being upset that I have to get a new phone (which I apparently have to), but a general concern that this is an extremely heavy blow to the credibility of the whole project. :frowning:


I don’t know who you mean by “he”, but as I said that would just be displays and not cover their storage for 3,5 years. Actually if 3500 is the minimum to order then that will probably mean much higher per piece prices than I calculated above - and then new screens but no new main modules wouldn’t be much help either - that would only bring more imbalance to the unofficial #market.
So all together I’d guess we are talking about 3-500.000€ and a chance that much of it will go to waste if they won’t sell 3500 displays and x core modules in the next years.

Now let’s say - although that was not the original idea - the subscription fee would cover the spare parts and 3500 people subscribe, they’d have to pay about 1000€ in 3 years for the hardware alone. And then of course they’d expect to get replacements for free - at least one display and one core module in 3 years. So FP would only make money from FP1 users who buy spare parts that don’t have the subscription. That profit could compensate for the extra money everybody would have to pay due to decreasing number of subscribers over time - but probably not more.
So I’d expect the subscription fee to be around 350€ per year - that’s more than the original price of the FP1!

No worries, you didn’t. :slight_smile:

Not being able to unconditionally support the FP1 as long as they hoped for is surely one of the biggest regrets of the FP team so far, but if you consider the whole story then I wouldn’t say it hurts their credibility:

  • FP was started as a movement to raise awareness about conflict minerals - and that always continued to be the main goal.
  • They learned they’d have to produce their own phones to be able to even learn all they had to to bring transparency about the supply chains, so they bought the license for an old chinese phone and started producing it with their own supply chain.
  • They had the very ambitious goal to keep supporting the phone for as long as possible to reduce e-waste.
  • They were (and still kind of are) a small company without much experience and without a lot of power to demand things from the big players - so they didn’t have much say when Mediatek didn’t supply them with their source code.
  • They did all they can do to keep providing spare parts and hired a software developer that who was originally a community member to port Android 4.4.4.
  • With all that in mind it’s actually quite a success that they managed to make provide support this long - even if it’s less than everybody hoped for.
  • They have learned a lot that they could have done better and applied that knowledge to the FP2.
  • They now provide FP1 owners with options in case their phones die: the #market, recycling programs, refurbished FP2s at reduced rates and maybe an FP3 that will come in 2018 and will be more low end than the FP2 again.

OK, so according to your calculation (total of EUR 500,000.00 for 60,000 phones), that would be around EUR 8.33 per phone. Double or triple this, and I am sure it is still affordable.

Now, you and @Douwe know very well that so many Fairphone 1 users are in desperate need of a new display. Would you both like to tell them to throw their phone away? That really is waste for them if it cannot be repaired.

Please forgive my impertinence, but Fairphone definitely screwed it up… :worried:

I was not advocating a subscription; the cost breakdown for Fairphone 1 just does not integrate after-sales support for spare parts for a longer period of time. This case has been underestimated.

I forgot to take my irony tag with me, did not know that I would need it today, sorry about that… :smirk:

Not completely true: Fairphone does have access to the FP1 source code, but they are not allowed to publish it. In response to the other post: This also makes LineageOS near to impossible. (Someone has tried Lollipop and provides an in-depth explanation why it doesn’t work here.)

I’m sure you mean 4.2 because:

…is not possible because the latest alpha pre3 itself is Android Kitkat 4.4.2.

Unfortunately this “test build” hasn’t been released. So at the moment there is no 4.4.4 for the FP1.

Fairphone is thinking about these things, as a blog post from January 2015 reveals:

A follow-up blog post from August 2015 gives more details to circular-economy business models. I think the latest blog post on the topic is this one from October 2016, but unfortunately it doesn’t feature information about Fairphone’s current approach. My guess is that at the moment they leave the field to the mobile operators.

I hope that my screen won’t fail me too soon! :astonished: (It hasn’t needed to be replaced.) And, judging from the #market and even when FP1-users have their phones longer than average, I’m sure that there aren’t 60,000 working FP1s left.

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You are right, because a damaged display of a Fairphone 1 makes the device inaccessible, so it has been sorted out - “unplanned obsolescence”?

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Not necessarily. I see many people on the street or in the tram using a phone with a so-called “spider app” on the display.

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