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Why I won't buy a Fairphone

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#1

I’ve joined the forum with the objetive of explaining what rationale I followed in order to decide not to buy a Fairphone. I’m doing this in an attempt to help the Fairphone team to improve, since I suppose I could represent the way some potential clients (“sales leads”) are thinking. These are the topics that I reviewed to help me decide to buy a Fairphone or not, in this order:

  1. Social Values
    Some research convinced me that so far Fairphone is the best choice if I wanted to have some influence in trying to create a fairer market and working conditions for several people around the world. So regarding this point, good job of the marketing team and the Fairphone staff (for example I read some interviews with Fairphone personnel and they seemed OK).
    Regarding this point I think the team should keep ensuring that the web and media reflects that Fairphone is continuously trying to make things better: my only doubt was that some of the actions (pictures of a visit to Congo, for example) seemed to be quite old, but of course since I also saw new actions (Uganda gold, for example) this only meant that the company has a tradition of good practices, which is perfect.

  2. Price
    After using some comparison webs I had the impression that FP2 was way more expensive that mobiles that had much better technology. I found that the price breakdown at the web page wasn’t updated to the current price of 400€, and it didn’t mention other companies or the market situation as a whole. Therefore, I had the feeling that it didn’t properly explain why the difference with other companies was so huge. As a point of improvement, I think marketing could try to justify why this gap exists, and provide a thoughtful explanation at the web.
    In any case, I decided that the price was more or less OK for me anyway, while not feeling all that happy about it. In summary, I think the price gap with other companies wasn’t properly justified.

  3. Software Freedom
    Next I checked the web in search of opinions about rooting the device, installing alternative OSs… In this regard I was convinced that with FP2 I would have much more freedom that in any other company, specially with Fairphone Open (for example I had the impression that I could actually try to have a Google-free phone). So I think this point is perfect for the “techie user persona” and I don’t see clear points of improvement: good job of the community, IT and marketing teams.

  4. Device Longevity
    So far I have only had two smartphones that lasted about 5 years each. I understood that Fairphone was aiming to be long-lasting, so I wanted to check if I could use it for 5-7 years. Sadly I had the impression that this wasn’t possible, and that the modular design didn’t help. For example, I checked if FP2 supported Galileo, and apparently not only it didn’t but the modular design was not going to allow to add that support, since the core module is not modular. The current FP2 processor was already outdated technology, and I had the feeling that this was kinda hidden in the Fairphone web.
    By buying a much cheaper mobile by other company with current technology, I had a better chance to use the mobile for more years than with a FP2. I had the impression that Fairphone wanted to support the device for a long time, for example with Android updates, but that they apparently abandoned FP1 hardware support was a warning for me.
    As a point of improvement, I think marketing could try to state what are the future plans for the company and try to be more honest about the longevity of the device. For example, I found confusing comments about a possible future FP3 and no clear plan with support dates and overall strategy.

  5. Device Reliability
    At this point I had some doubts but I still wanted to buy the phone because of what I perceived its strong points: social values and software freedom. Last thing I was going to check is device reliability. I was going to buy outdated technology, with what it seemed a high probablity of being abandoned in the next years, at a very expensive price. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that at least the phone was going to work properly during that time. Sadly I was disappointed. Based on the forum and other webs, I had the impression that the mobile has a very low hardware quality with a high failure rate. I don’t know if this is a point of improvement for marketing, technology, or support team, because I couldn’t find real transparency in the web. Is FP2 failing more than other companies or not? I would need to know the truth to suggest improvements:

  • If there is really low quality, maybe marketing team could write a rationale for it and then I could even side with the Fairphone. For example if there is a reason for a modular design to fail more often, or other companies are served better quality components because of their financial pressure over the chinese manufacturers, whatever. Of course, the best solution would be to increase investment in quality checks or the manufacturing process, but I guess this would be very expensive. Maybe Fairphone could offer some statistics to show if the reliability is improving with time, or what is the evolution of technical bugs being dealed with.

  • If quality is similar to other companies, maybe the investment in the support team could increase. I read suggestions in the forum “to better call support instead of opening a ticket because those are sometimes ignored” and I knew I didn’t want to deal with international calls in order to solve any possible problem. Maybe Fairphone could offer support in different languages, in an attempt to convince potential clients that their possible technical problems will be easy to deal with. Other point of improvement would be to offer clear information about how these problems are dealt with: how much does it take to send a part to different world regions? what is the cost of sending the phone to be fixed? What are the typical times for the process of exchanging the phone?

SUMMARY
In summary, I wanted to buy this phone because of social values and software freedom, even though I felt that the huge price wasn’t properly explained, but I decided not to do it because it seems that it won’t last long enough (5 years), it’s technologically faulty and possibly not properly supported for its rate of failure.

Obviously I may be totally wrong on my assumptions, but I hope that if anybody in the marketing, IT, support, manufacture or any other Fairphone’s team read this, I would help a little. In any case, for sure I’ll come back in the future to check if I can buy or recommend a possible FP3, and I wish the company the best of luck.


#2

Welcom to the forum @Alzhaid.

Regarding points 1 and 3 I completely agree with you. The higher price is explained easily with the lower quantities compared to the competition.

Here I have to disagree. Obviously longevity only works if your expectations don’t change too much during the years you use it, but why would you need Gallileo support if you get a location via GPS within 1-3 seconds? For me it almost never takes longer on Lineage OS.
The modularity is mainly for repairability and less for upgradability. For me at lease I don’t see a reason why I would not be happy with the same hardware I’m happy with now years from now.

The FP1 was not designed by Fairphone, so they had less influence in how long they could support it. The FP2 is a completely different case and also there will probably be no limits to upgrades for community ports any time soon.
Also there is a community port for the FP1 with almost completely up to date security patches.

Tbh any announcement prior to the release would only hurt the marketing. Even Apple only introduces their new devices on the day they are released. When Fairphone released the FP2 as the first modular phone they made a big impact - if it had already been old news when the device was available it might have been a smaller splash.

Emphasis by me

Sorry, but you can’t seriously think that a forum where people come to discuss their issues with a device is a good way to get an impression on how reliable a device is?
Also a lot of FP users are first time smartphone users, have maybe avoided tech products their whole life and often are not even familiar with the concept of 2-year hardware-warranty - not exactly good conditions to be good judges of a device’s reliability. Instead of getting their issues fixed under warranty many of them just think it’s a problem of “the fairphone” and then rant about it in the forum or elsewhere.

These are old posts. The support situation was bad in 2017, but in 2018 you got a helpful reply very fast if you mailed them.

They do. See #contactsupport.

Fairphone doesn’t deliver outside of Europe and even there some countries and remote locations are excluded. So delivery usually takes a few days.

What I wonder now of course: What device will you buy instead? I can see that Fairphone is not the front runner in all the points you made, but I don’t think any other device is better in the combination of all points. Sure a used phone could be an option, but even then a used FP2 (see #market) is probably one of the best options.


#3

Sorry to disagree on this important topic. My experience is quite the opposite of your statement that your phones “lasted about 5 years each.” Among about ten smartphones owned in my household before I bought our first Fairphone, which included brands such as HTC, Huawei, LG, Wiko, and Samsung, all of them where in pretty bad shape after only two years of use, and some could only reach the 5-year mark after much improvisation and skilled DIY on my part. For a few of them the 2-year battery change challenge was simply deadly. Their cases were also typically in pretty bad shape after only two years, despite the use of external silicone jackets, which I don’t need to use with our Fairphones (love it).

In contrast, my two-year old Fairphone still looks like new, inside and outside, thanks to easily replaceable battery and case, and also thanks to modularity. This exceptional quality alone gives me more bang for the buck than I’ve ever had before with any other smartphone, and I would never buy any other brand of phone now that I know how much better the Fairphone design model is in comparison to others.

A good rule of thumb is to consider that a typical smartphone isn’t made to survive beyond the life of its original battery, meaning, a couple of years at most.


#4

Hmmmm, the grapes of disappointment are always sour! 400 Eur is not so much for a FP2. Instead by a second hand FP2 to try it and then have a point if it worth the price.


#5

To make extra sure you could use https://www.fairphone.com/en/about/contact-us/ and point them to your post here because this really is the community forum. I could imagine it gains more weight/attention that way.

Do you already know https://www.shiftphones.com/? They are in a similar niche and put out new models regularly. Which would address your point about the outdated hardware.


#6

Hei, but the price of a shiftphone? Too high. And what about those mtk chipsets? Yakk. Noooo, snapdragon or exynos all the way. Too many don’t know or don’t want to understand how the chipset/phone/OS industries works and why the devices become obsolete (software and hardware) in such a short time. Now smartphones are fast moving consumer goods, no matter the price. Price is only for status. And vanity is devil’s favourite sin.


#7

Thanks for your answers, I’ll go in order:

I found that in the official web page under “why is the Fairphone 2 more expensive than the Fairphone 1?” but I was suggesting that they could explain instead “why is Fairphone more expensive than our competitors”, in order to better convince people that is worthy to pay much more for much less (and I’m talking only about hardware components).

OK, then I understood that wrong! I was under the impression that the company or some users were promoting longevity because of the modular design and after thinking about it I thought that it is more likely to have more longevity just buying an ordinary phone with better specifications, since that technology would have a better chance to provide computing or other capabilities for unexpected future “requirements”. Regarding this I answer some other comments:

  • Hardware longevity: As I said, I thought people were claiming that wasn’t a problem thanks to the modular design. Galileo was just an example of a new requirement of hardware upgrade that the modular design didn’t cover, other people would say for example that they want to pay with a NFC chip, or play PUBG or who knows. (By the way, in my case I want to use Galileo to avoid depending of USA’s GPS and because I paid those satellites with my taxes :smiley:, not because of speed).
  • Software longevity: its nice to know that the community continued supporting FP1 and you made me realize that community is another very strong point for Fairphone. However, again I think that a phone that has more updated software out-of-the-box will have better chances to last longer that one that relies on the community.
  • Public roadmap: OK, maybe your’re right and to hide the roadmap is better for marketing. I’d personally would prefer transparency but maybe Fairphone will sell more if they hide this information.
  • Reliability: In order to get an impression on how reliable the FP2 is I have read several forums and external technical reviews (and asked just one friend who owns it). What I said is that I couldn’t find other information about that. What do you suggest me to do? What I suggested is that Fairphone could use some transparency and tell the public if they are improving quality, based on statistics, benchmarks, whatever.
  • Support by ticket in european languages: You pointed me to a post that reads: “Calling them. Opening times are 09:30-17:30 CET. Recommended for urgent queries. Experiences reported here on the forum indicate that they speak a range of languages. Support appears to have made improvements to call handling, and are implementing a language choice option”. The improvement I suggested is that Fairphone could advertise this as official information: “We offer support in several european languages!!” is the main page in big letters, (if that is true) is much better than “I’ve heard that people say that if you call them maybe they speak spanish/french/… do you think I could write to them in spanish/french/… too?” in a community page.
  • Device to buy: Longevity is a must for me. Therefore right now I’m considering buying a phone that I have the feeling that it will have a great longevity with a low price, sacrificing the social values and software freedom, since those apparently are impossible to get out of Fairphone. Other option would be to buy a second hand FP2 as some have suggested, but I have doubts about that (warranty, again longevity, costs…) Regarding longevity:

@Dr_Cool you had all of your 10 phones broken in 2 years. I do think this has never happened to me precisely because I buy phones that I feel they have good longevity. So far I have a record of 2 of 2 perfectly-working-during-5-years phones against your 0 of 10, so either it’s a matter of luck or I did choose well :stuck_out_tongue:
@Krell you suggested better hardware is just for vanity, but again I’m talking about longevity as I have explained.
@Ingo I had read many comments against Shiftphones (like in this forum “their approach doesn’t seem to be even close to Fairphone’s approach and IMHO their concept lacks transparency”) and I stopped there.

Thanks all! I’d send the thread to https://www.fairphone.com/en/about/contact-us/ as you suggested, but now I have the feeling that it’s more likely that they will react with a " the grapes of disappointment are always sour" than with a “oh, thanks for the insight!” :smiley: so let it be.


#8

Please have a look: New FP2 Motherboard


#9

No, better hardware will be obsolete in 2 years. A galaxy s7 barely receive oreo 8.0 update and cost now as new online 320 euro free of contract. It was launched 2.5 years ago maybe. Same thing happened with FP2. Also, please remember that FP2 is the single phone in the world using snapdragon 801 with android 7. Why? Because qualcomm decided that. For SoC 801 android 6 was the latest OS supported (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.androidauthority.com/android-7-0-snapdragon-800-801-712930/amp/). Fairphone people were curageous to start develop android 7 from the scratch for such SOC.


#10

I want to take nothing away from your post subtance-wise, but “from the scratch” is just a little stretch I think.

LineageOS 14.1 was an open-source Android 7.1 and went official - in its terms - on the Fairphone 2 in October 2017.

The announcement of Fairphone’s Android 7.1 in May 2018 said “we’ve been working hard with a community of Open Source Android developers and external parties”.

I have no inside knowledge of the matter, but I cannot help but guess which community of Open Source Android developers they might have turned to, to exactly not having to start from scratch :wink: .

Of course it was still courageous of Fairphone to develop an official Android 7 for the Snapdragon 801, and moreover to get it certified by Google, when seemingly nobody else did … but they had available a non-certified community daily-driver-grade Android 7.1 to have a look at and developers to consult about it.

(By the way … for use cases where “Google-certified” might not be important … LineageOS 15.1 is an open-source daily-driver-grade Android 8.1 and went official - again in its terms - on the Fairphone 2 in August 2018.)


#11

What a hero! Trying to craft alone a 12 layer PCB without any FP2 documentation available to him. I’m worried that after two months of amazing work and 136 messages in his thread about this very interesting effort, he says he is stuck because he has not been able to contact any Fairphone employee. Is the company reading that thread? Is the company supporting that effort? Is this project OK for the company’s roadmap and marketing? I’d love to know.

(By the way, I should ask this guy to add Galileo support to his board! :smiley:)

You have convinced me however that specially the community but also the company showed more interest than some other companies in extending the lifespan of this device more than the typical 2.5 years (not like in their first try with FP1, when they didn’t own the design). I wish I could know how long they will keep that support. I also wish this hero could had the same support that the company itself had (according to @AnotherElk) when they wanted to develop that Android upgrade!


New FP2 Motherboard
#12

You can’t buy any other phone than FP2 with Soc 801 and android 7 from a store (physical or virtual). When was the latest real update on android 6 delivered? April 2018-November update dont count, it was technical. Those people are working hard out there.

But my opinion is different on this matter but I won’t share it here. Anyway SoC manufacturers are first to blame and then we, the users, for demanding someting new and shiny all the time and too soon (even an OS can be shiny now) - it doesn’t matter, it can be fixed on the next update, next please!


#13

Oh sorry, that explains it: you are a great chooser. It’s a pity though that very few consumers have your skills. In order to educate them, would you kindly give us the scores of your phones according to the ifixit evaluation available in the following link please?

https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability


#14

I hope I can get in contact with them, beacuse I think they got me wrong. I don’t want to build my own phone, I want to cooparate with them, to finish this project. I don’t have experience where to manufacture this stuff in a manner that’s fair and good for the environment. They can manufacture and sell it, I just did the design.


#15

You are correct. Respect!


#16

@Dr_Cool sarcasm aside, I think I never said anything about other costumers, I only said I’m likely a better chooser than you according to our statistics so far. :smiley: Now seriously, I only meant that in my opinion those numbers show I’m more concerned than you in longevity when buying a phone (or that you have an incredibly bad luck!)

In order to please you I checked that link but neither phone appear there. In any case I didn’t need any repair ever: the phone I bought in 2009 worked with no problems whatsoever until 2013 when it started to reset randomly maybe once every couple of days, then I gave it away as a present, warning the new owner that it had started to fail. Phone bought in 2013, I’m typing with it right now, worked flawlessly until last month when it started to turn off randomly about once a week (I want perfect reliability so it’s time for a change)


#17

I see, how silly of me to not have thought of the possibility that I’m the only consumer of HTC, Samsung and Huawei products! I wonder though, for the sake of enlightening us all, uneducated users of this forum: could you kindly tell us what are the brands and models of those two wondrous phones that you were so skillful and thoughtful at selecting? That would be really helpful as instruction aid, so we can make a better choice next time.


#18

@Leo_TheCrafter I think there is no doubt about what your intentions are. Maybe the company is not interested in a new board component for the FP2 because that doesn’t fit their internal plans, maybe they don’t trust that the work of a lone developer could be actually be good, maybe they don’t pay any attention to the hardware community… There could be many explanations for their silence, but I really don’t think that they have misunderstood you and the whole conversation in your thread.
I used to make very simple PCBs in the past, so I understand that your effort is just amazing, congratulations. I hope you’ll get attention from the company at least to tell you if there is a real possibility of using your work or not.


#19

It is very wise not to buy a Fairphone! I bought my FP2 2,5 years ago (Summer 2016) and it started to disfunction already after a year: spontaneous reboots, difficulties making phone calls, hard/impossible to enter, spontaneously and randomly starting apps etc. Eventually I refurbished my FP2 Summer 2018. I bought a new battery, a new core module (very hard to get hold of!!), etc. Now all trouble are all starting again. It is dramatic. The FP2 is a very bad and after a short while not functioning smart phone. It is not worth a cent of its relatively high price.


#20

It’s not very wise to use faulty device for a year waiting for the warranty to run out and then complain about it.