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The end of Fairphone 2

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“This phone will last forever”, I used to tell people who asked about the FP2. I’d casually lay it on the table, transparent logoside upwards. The modular idea behind Fairphone 2 really appealed to me, but as the years went by, I grew a bit anxious: the upgraded parts I was expecting in the shop never showed up. Yes, a camera. Nice, but not essential.

Today I have several issues with my phone, including pixel screens, and several parts of the screen are ‘dead’ or react weird. The phone also reboots and freezes more than once a day. Apparently my core module is very ill and needs to be replaced. The phone is 3 years old, so I don’t find this very surprising.

What does surprise me though, is that Fairphone offers me a €225,- replacement core module (which is not for sale in the store) that is 5 years old. It is the same module that was already in the first FP2!

I’ve supported FP since the beginning, I had the first FP1 with inscription. Now they have me stranded. Am I going to spend that much money to send my phone back to 2014? The FP2 has been around for 4 years now, and it wasn’t already very up-to-date to start with. Okay, we knew that, no problem. However, the oldest ones will start to have troubles like mine now; this doesn’t come as a surpise. Why aren’t there any upgraded parts available?

If new parts or complete new models are on their way, I’d like to know about it before I’ll have to buy a BadPhone - which is very soon I’m afraid… But it is awfully quiet on the other side. I know FP has collected a big investment from (Dutch) insurance company ASR recently. Please let us know what the plans are in terms of updated parts. New initiatives on leasing a phone and circular economy are great ideas, but which companies would want to lease those elderly models?

Seriously out of date phones that cannot be upgraded despite the promise, the brand promise, they would. I am disappointed…

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There has not been any public announcement on new models yet, but some reliable sources indicated that it is on its way.

See for instance this topic (in German):

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It’s never been viable to upgrade the core module. Fairphone never made such a promise, and there’s plenty of threads on this forum where it’s explained how upgrading this piece is infeasible. TL;DR: unlike desktop processors with “standardised” pin-outs, you can’t just swap out an ARM SoC for another without redesigning the whole “motherboard” and completely redoing the Android build. The latter I’ve long been deeply unhappy about because it’s caused by SoC vendors cutting corners in their software design process, but either way the upgrade process is expensive, takes serious time, will become a support nightmare and goes against the idea of keeping the same phone for years.
Trying to build a phone that lasts 5 years is not the same goal as trying to build a case that lasts 5 years, but in which most users will swap out every component after 2. The latter is environmentally just about as bad as just releasing a new phone every 2 years.

FP has announced they’re working on a new phone to replace this 4-year-old design. It’s work-in-progress, and I’m sure they’ll announce more as soon as they have something tangible. I understand you personally are in a difficult situation. The life expectancy of the core module was longer than 3 years, but you got unlucky. And now you’re between a rock and a hard place. I’m sorry to hear this.

I think what you’d want to do is first ask yourself the question: was it worth it? Do you think that the 3 years you got out of your phone (with its ethically sourced materials, its wide range of operating system options… whatever matters to you when you pick a phone!) was worth while? Essentially: would you buy an FP3 when it’s on the market?
If the answer is yes, perhaps the most sustainable path forward is to find yourself a cheap second-hand phone to bridge the gap between now and the FP3 release. A second hand phone has already been produced and had a life, so from this moment on the environmental impact is smaller than anything else. And with a bit of searching you can probably find something cheaper than the core module with slightly higher specs.
If the answer is no, then I hope you will find yourself a different smartphone that is to your liking.

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Thanks for your insights. I don’t have any technical knowledge about these things, so it’s just my thoughts on the subject. And apperantly I’m right when I say it’s the end of the FP as we now know it… Whether there will be a new model remains to be seen, and in terms of sustainability and longevity I don’t think 3 or 4 years is such an achievement, to be honest.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The production part of Fairphone I still support and admire very much! To illustrate, check this story I recently told: https://www.asr.nl/blog/waarom-mathijs-kiest-voor-de-fairphone

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Great story! Good to see ASR involved in this way, as one of the investors in Fairphone.

FP in the past made some promises that they couldn’t keep up with, so I can imagine that they don’t want to promise a release date at the moment. The new model is in development, for sure.

How do you define ‘the FP as we now know it’? A modular phone? A phone with fairly sourced minerals?

A dogmatic point, but I’ll highlight it nonetheless :wink: Sustainability is of course more than just longevity: use of recycled materials, minimising waste in the production process, use of fair materials that supports miners and their families rather than destroys their lives, minimising the impact of repairs.

And with this I agree to a large extent. However, with tech there’s always a luck factor involved. Mine is 3 years and 4 months old, and apart from some minor issues with the screen it’s been as good as the day I bought it. If nothing unexpected happens, I look forward to keeping it for another year and then maybe some more before I jump to a 5G enabled phone to be future-proof again.

If I go over the list of phones I’ve owned since I my first one, I think the bulk survived for ~3 years, so I agree with your assertion. However, the FP2 is the first phone that after all this time still feels like it’s sufficiently up to date to serve me, a casual, as a day-to-day phone.
I do not think that’s entirely down to just Fairphone, but rather an achievement of the industry as a whole. Consolidation into the Android+iOS duopoly has its downsides, but at least I’m not facing the problem with my previous (PalmOS/WebOS) smartphones where I just couldn’t use the few essential apps anymore even if I tried. WhatsApp had never been supported. Fairphone definitely helped minimise the risk of unsupported software by upgrading from Android 5 all the way to 7, but more broadly the sector seems to have “slowed down” to the point that casual users have less incentive to buy a new phone than they had ~5-10 years ago.

Hardware breakage is unfortunate, but to a certain extent just luck of the draw. As much as I feel bad for you, I do feel that the retirement age of 3 years and a bit is an anomaly on the low-end rather than a trend. I was pretty frustrated a couple of months ago to have to replace my car’s tyre after 150km, and my first instinct was to blame the tyre manufacturer for a faulty product, but… at the end of the day I just got “unlucky” and hit the curb at the wrong angle when parking. As much as I would’ve loved you to have your phone for longer (seriously, it sounds like you have some very agreeable values in life, I like you for that :wink: ), life just hasn’t been fair and it hardly ever is.
It’d be interesting to see the distribution of ages at which each user retires their FP2 and their reasons, so we can back such a claim up with real data… but that kind of thing can only be analysed after lots of people retired their phone - so after the piece of information has lost its relevance.

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Out of curiosity: where have you found that announcement?

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Well, the launch of a new product (see my post above) does not necessarily mean a new phone, but I can’t imagine Fairphone launching a product that is not a phone.

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Well, actually I am very disappointed of many users here permanently talking of “promises” from FP related to “upgradeability”. I read through this page more than once, but could not find any word like “promise”.

Some people does not seem to be capable of understanding the (maybe slight) difference of using the explizit word “promise” and expressions like “Potential for upgrades and expansion; …However, to help our phone stand the test of time and the development of new features, we incorporated elements that enable upgrades and expansion without having to change the entire hardware.”

I can read words like “test of time”; “enable”; “upgrades”…where exactly did I miss the word “promise”?
There were some software upgrades as one may have realized…Android7 after Marshmallow and Lollipop, does not seem to count as it looks. :roll_eyes:

I simply read what’s actually written, not interpret things into expressions just as I wish.
Imho this is straight unprofessional and speaks for bad reading comprehension.

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Have you thought about installing lineageOS? It resolved almost every annoying issues I had with my FP2, including random reboots.

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Exactly. The main goal here is to replace any faulty component.

The rationale was that I/O devices (srcreen, microphone, speaker, charger port, etc.) were more likely to fail than the core module.

Now everything breaks. Wear and tear, sand intrusion, anything. The main question is when ? The core module will break down some day. It just statistically will do so (well) after any other part.

That doesn’t mean that “it will last forever”. It just means that if your phone is broken due to a minor part of the phone, you can replace it and have more time with it (up until the core breaks and it becomes expensive) before purchasing a new phone.

A note on the upgrade : the upgrade to a better component that fits (hardware-wise AND software-wise) is certainly a big bonus but it was never a given.

Now FP isn’t just about modularity. It’s responsible sourcing in an increasing number of minerals and metals, better working conditions for the manufacturer so they can be real human beings, and a whole mindset for managing waste differently.

Now you can have a (assuming that the core is the only problem here) healthy phone (flagship of 2014, 5 years ago) for 225€. Of course it’s expensive when you look at it that way. But the core was maybe built two months ago, because they continued manufacturing it (with refined processes and expertise). And considering that the phone is still sold for around 500€, it would make it worthwile. Imagine someone saying “I have this phone that I would repair for 225€, or I could buy the same but new, for 500€”, what would you say to them (considering the ethical, environmental, etc. issues)?

That said, the life of the FP2 is clearly coming to an end. Even if it still has some sensible, or robust qualities, the lifespan expected of it is, for the firsts, past.

TL/DR : The FP doesn’t mean to last forever. It doesn’t mean to be upgradable on a whim. The modularity just meant to replace faulty component to reduce the device turnover and waste production.

I’m sorry if you thought otherwise, or were led to believe otherwise, or even were hyped up so much. If you wanted to have a mega-chad phone of which you can change the SoC because the current one doesn’t support Asphalt 26, that’s too bad because even Google threw in the towel.
If you want a phone that’s just unkillable (why would anyone want that?) just, i don’t know, make one outside of the material plane.

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While - in general - I agree, that there was no promise; I do understand disappointed FP-owners as well.
A promise is not there in words, but obviously the claims made were raising expectations, and they were confirmed and fueled by the new camera module. Tbh, I was waiting for new stuff. The never (at least by FP) used connection-pins on the back of the core-module were part of that “promise” as well.
For me, that’s quite ok, as I realize, that FP is a small company having big dreams. I guess, they themselves hoped to do more and were full of energy and ideas, when they developed the phone. Reality - as in most cases - is a different piece of cake and there were quite a few troubles with the phone as it was, they had to focus on (like the first cover-design and a batch of slightly too large battery frames). My guess would be, that this took their time and money intended for developing new modules etc. They really did a fantastic job presenting all those updates.

I am absolutely satisfied (being still on Android 6), but can understand as well, that others were hoping and waiting for more.

Maybe my thoughts on the problems FP was facing and what they have done can help putting things in perspective a bit, although that’s nothing official, just my two cents.

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Hm, I partly agree.

The thing with the expectations of the customers is, that the Fairphone 2 is the one and only really existing modular phone (!) where the individual dreams the people have (had) about modular phones were projected in.
There are some skilled people who invented extensions for the FP2 and tell about it in the DIY section, like wireless charging, additional buttons on the backside, new cases, aso.
That did not happened for any other phone I knew about.
In addition to that, Fairphone officially released as the first ever company (!) new camera modules for upgrade the FP2. The best part of it: You can do the upgrade by yourself in a few minutes, thanks to the modular design and they were very cheap: 35€ for a new main camera!
Lets think about the same scenario if Apple had the idea first. A huge image campain would had present us the upgrade like the invention of the wheel for a price of a space ship. And the people again would line up at the Apple stores like lemmings to get the gadget first.
My question to you people: What else do you want? What Fairphone did with the FP2 is all new territory. They did mistakes and if you ask them, they would do it completely different from scratch now, cause they learned a lot of lessons, I am sure.
To project all your expectations, that by the way have no base at all, to this one, first product they made, are you sure this is as fair as this phone is?

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@koumilak
I think you hit the nail.
Furthermore I believe there are tendencies between users having a good experience and others who rather had more trouble with the device.
I can only speak positive for FP specifically as my device always operates flawless.
But users who had to struggle with FP in general (Service, repairs, replacements etc…) would rather complaint and show disappointment which is quite normal just as with any other product.
Unfortunately the core values of FP are often neglected and focus is mainly put on the physical “part” that caused the main costs - the handset.

FP is much more than only a phone company.

@BertG
I couldn’t agree more to your pov.
Just as with the first model reality catched up faster than expected but the small team done the best it could and tried to give support as long as possible/affordable.
So they could launch another model and up to now stay in business.
“Wakawaka” had to face the cruel reality meanwhile…:frowning:

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Oh, did they? The site is still up.

Yes, according to wiki it went bankrupt in 2018.
So who knows what’s next for it after TSM is finished with it.

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Sad for WakaWaka!
Solar panels are still quite a niche product, and those who use it the most (I guess hikers and sorts) look for good performance, strength and weight. Maybe not for social projects.
There is still Little Sun and they even have a partnership with Ikea now.
I have two models and am very happy with them. I use the charger for my Fairphone and the kids love the original. Good gift-idea for kids…

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I am using a fully extended “Solar paper” which I backed on Kickstarter as an early bird.
Now it’s not so cheap anymore, but mine operates flawless and I don’t want to miss it anymore.
I don’t know how _fair_this one is/was, but the follow up project(s) surely seems to be.
So I somehow do feel a bit better of being one who gave them a small boost on their way.

Nice to read that they haven’t reached the end of their road. Hopefully Ikea (sorry only in German) won’t mess it up as it is also well known for being “the mother of money/tax” saving.

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While we are really not that far apart, when it comes to “judging” what FP has done as incredible.
In my opinion we have to be aware, that not all users/buyers of a FP are nerds or willing to do experimental stuff with their pone. The more phones are sold by FP, the more users there will be, that just want their “perfect” phone.
When comparing FP to Apple (which I do not consider to be advisable), please take into account advertising as well. And just considering the blog-entry @Patrick1 already linked to:
The architecture of the Fairphone 2: Designing a competitive device that embodies our values

This concept also allows us to create multiple variations of the cover and in time, we intend to offer covers with different levels of protection and/or additional functionality.

Potential for upgrades and expansion

However, to help our phone stand the test of time and the development of new features, we incorporated elements that enable upgrades and expansion without having to change the entire hardware.

One example of how we could use this is replacing standard components with alternatives, like an IR camera instead of the normal rear-camera unit. We could also redesign some of the units to eliminate certain functionality while expanding other capabilities. We can also use future components to replace the original ones, in order to keep providing repair units long after the design of the original one. The possibilities are quite broad.

You really have to be very understanding and reading very carefully to not expect at leasts some of those things become reality.
Yet there was nothing besides a new camera module.
To be absolutely clear. I personally fully understand this and I am no way disappointed. Still I can see, why people expected different; and as far as I remember FP never explained on this.

Judging by the statement from TSM, they are interested in keeping it up and running.
And I really do hope so, as I am absolutely satisfied with their products. I just recently got me a solar link for the solar panel from my Power 10.

TSM will use its expertise in business administration and leadership development to make WakaWaka future-proof.
Source: SPJ 11 Juli 2018, Restart WakaWaka

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Well, two, both a front and a rear camera module. And of course the redesigned slim case… And the second generation battery from a different manufacturer (with like… 20mAh more capacity :smiley: ). Come to think of it, the only “modules” they haven’t upgraded are the core module, which I explained wouldn’t have been upgradeable, and the bottom module.
The latter is a shame because it turned out to be a weak point in the design with it breaking disproportionally often, so it could have done with a refresh. But feature-wise upgrades in this module wouldn’t have made sense or were impossible. There’s little to nothing gained from a different microphone or vibrator, and USB-C isn’t supported by the SoC hence sticking the port on there would have only made a difference in connector, not in functionality.

So I guess what I would like to respond to that is the question: what would you have reasonably expected and desired that they didn’t deliver?

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