I’d like to summarize the arguments a bit. Basically, most of your are saying Fairphone doesn’t provide a privacy oriented OS for their phones because:
- They are a small company and focuses on the ecological goal first
- There isn’t many people interested to buy a privacy focused phone
While this seems logical, I feel like the situation could be very different.
First of all, about the interest for a privacy-oriented phone. I think you’re really underestimating the number of persons which are looking for a smartphone like that. The current situation, with everybody being tracked every time, is not like that because people doesn’t care. It is like that because companies make money doing it, so they are going to do all they can to keep you in the cage. But people wants to be free. Maybe not teenagers with snapchat, but I’m sure more than 50% of the people over 40 are like this. And those are the one with the money to buy phones.
As already being said in that topic, the 5% number is wrong IMO, as it doesn’t count people who will never flash a new OS themselves, and more importantly all the persons looking for a privacy-oriented phone who never bought a Fairphone.
Now the important point: there is no privacy-respectful phone on the market at the moment. Fairphone isn’t marketed like this. See how the Librem and the PinePhone are exciting everybody: there is a huge demand, but those companies never created phones before, and will do a lot of mistakes before doing it right. It toke more than 6 years for FP to be where there are now. I’m spending hours everyday chatting with PinePhone and Ubuntu Touch people. There really is something going on for linux phones right now. This is a very big opportunity, does Fairphone want to be part of it, or on the side?
And to the argument “only geeks care about Linux and privacy on their phone”. Well, maybe. But geeks are the people who “knows about electronic stuff”. It’s the nerd nephew everyone in the family is going to ask for help when looking for a new phone. And he will ultimately be the one who will choose the phone the others will buy. So to have a good reputation in the linux / tech community is very important. This is how mozilla initially spread Firefox when Internet Explorer was 95% of the market, and it worked very well.
Now, to the “very limited resources / focus on the environment” part. There, I think you’re overestimating the cost for Fairphone to see the FP3 supporting other OSes. This is not the way free software communities work. Do you know that Pine64 is producing thousands of PinePhone without creating an OS for it at all?. I’m not saying the phones will ship without an OS, I’m saying they are selling the phones and give back to FOSS community the money they are making doing so (read more about that on their blog). Thanks to that money, communities are able to make their OS working well on the phone. And Pine64 can then ship the phone allowing the users to pick the OS of their choice. Exactly like computers, and this should be the situation for phones. There are already more that 5 OSes targeted for the first end-user batch of March 2020. They are estimating 50k devices sold in that first batch, thanks only to the people interested of running a real GNU/Linux on their smartphone. I have no idea how many phones FP is selling, but this number doesn’t seem small.
A summary, you ask? Building a ecological and privacy-oriented phone is possible in my opinion, even with the limited resources Fairphone has. This is a business strategy question, they are the ones who have to decide. But looking at the tech market, there is clearly a card to play.
What should they do if they wanted to go there? The phone bootloader is already unlocked, that is great. They are providing the kernel sources, this is very nice. Now, work with FOSS communities from the very beginning, when picking up components of the phone, to have as little of binary blobs as possible, and succeed to push in mainline kernel upstream as many patches as possible. Just doing that would make the interest of the tech community explodes. Then if you can, give some moneys to the communities, and you will find some shiny OSes on your phone. Also, hardware kill switches would be awesome.
Wow, that post was a long one.