Would upgradeable design be more sustainable


Hi there!
My life with FP’s started with FP2. Maybe I had a bad apple, but to be honest that wasn´t too good a phone. Then Fp3 and 3+ came out and I bought FP3. I have been really satisfied with that.

Now Fp4 is out and now, as well as when moving from 2 to 3, I am wondering: Wouldn´t it be even more sustainable to design phones that the user would be able to upgrade even “cross models”? By this I mean for examble being able to use my old FP3 but just take the new Fp4´s better camera unit, back cover and what ever is needed to make the new camera work well.

Tech moves forward and say in five years you probably need more powerful phone in order to use all the apps and software of the date, but does it really have to mean you have to buy a new phone?

Does the display size have to change? Does the overall design have to change? Or would it be possible to just buy and change the parts that need to be changed in order to give your phone “a facelift to the date”? Just like we now change camera units etc from FP3 to FP3+ in our phones. Now that the camera unit in FP4 is different from FP3, would it be possible to just buy the new camera unit and a back covert that fits with it? If not, why not? Weren´t the slogans “Challenging the impossible” and “rethinking the innovation”?

After all, one user might not care about the camera too much but would like to give one´s old fairphone an upgrade to this decade, and another user might particulary interested in upgrading the camera.

Of course you could have the entire new model too for new users or if someone would like to upgrade the whole phone alltogether.

Sure you can mix and match FP3 and FP3+ parts, but if every new model is not compatible with the older ones, how many people actually do the exactly same thing that they do with other phone manufacturers: buy the new model because it´s suppose to be better.

Is that sustainable?

My friend has an older iPhone, and when the battery needed to be changed, it cost her about 30-40 euros in a store. So, apart from the ethical materials, what is the benefit of having “a modular phone” here? She is able to do this in an hour, I have to wait that the new battery ships from the Netherlands. And it´ s just the same with the display, only with a bit more euros.

My question here is: Before Fairphone, how many times did you buy a new phone because the old one got broken and wasn´t able to be fixed? And how many times did you buy a new phone just to upgrade to a better, more modern one, because the old one didn´t support updates or was just getting sooo slow? If you are like me, the reason was almost always to upgrade.

So, apart from the ethical materials and carbon neutrality (which are very good reasons, don´t get me wrong), what is the benefit of having a modular phone, if every time the new model comes out you have to choose either to buy a new phone (just as we did with other brands) or to stick with the old one, maybe buy a new battery, knowing that it will eventually be out of date and you have to buy the new model then anyway?

Personally, I don´t care if the new design is a couple of millimeters slimmer or the screen is a bit bigger or the new model is a few grams lighter. I feel like the shape and the desing of my FP3 is good as it is.

What I would like to see though is that I would be able to buy and change just the parts that need to be upgraded, such as the camera, the processor (is that even what matters :smile: I´m not too tech litterate) to keep my old phone up the speed with the tech development.

Other phones, such as iPhones, can also be fixed and the parts can be changed in order to keep the phone longer, so if Fairphone chooses to change the design four times in about 8 years (since the first FP in 2013) and have users to choose either to stick with the old one or to buy an entirely new phone, what is difference (apart from ethical resources and carbon neutrality)?

In this video Fairphone says that “the system is build to always sell the next innovation” but isn´t that exactly what Fairphone itself is now doing by launching an entirely new model every now and then instead of designing upgrades for the old models?

Thoughts on this? Do you think this “inter-model upgradeability” would be possible?


Hi Your ideas have been touted many times in different threads, so yes a number of people would agree.

My simplistic view is that the word ‘sustainable’ is used too flippantly and I don’t see a phone approaching the ideas you have for a very long time.

However there could be a precedent in the laptop world you can see it at https://frame.work but I’m not sure this can be scaled to something as small as a phone without extraordinary costs, which would make the business unviable.

As Fairphone started of with sourceing ‘fair’ minerals and I think were the first to acquire Fairtrade gold, then as long as they stick to and enhance that aspect I’m not concerned about the phone.

However if other manufactures pick up on the fair trade there may be a competition to make a phone that is more ‘sustainable’

All the best


Thanks @amoun ! I´d never heard of Frame.work. Looks interensting.

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The more that phones (including Fairphones) are made more sustainable, repairable, upgradeable / crossgradeable, the better that it is for the planet. So for me, it isn’t enough to just source fair trade gold and other minerals.


Yes my view is the exact opposite. But it’s not just fairtraded gold and minerals it’s the 30% increase to all the workers in the factory where Fairphone is assembled even if they are working on other makes.

My view is there is nothing wrong with the planet and it doesn’t need saving.

All sustainability does is allow us to exploit it differently and I care more about the people’s welfare I’m exploiting by my consumerism today, not the general effect on the biosphere tomorrow.

How we treat each other is the underlying issue, everything else follows.

The topic and the word sustainable ~~~~~ sustaining our desire/need to consume ~~~~~ something (a lot ~ all else ) has to give to the most strong :frowning:

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It would be really nice if truly upgradeable phones were to become reality, but it may well be simply not the optimal path for Fairphone.
Besides, they are already doing much better than the alternatives. :stuck_out_tongue:

A small aside, Fairphone emphasises “fair” to the people in the supply chain. I believe that was the reason for the founding of Fairphone, way back in the days of phones with removable batteries.
I cannot blame them if that is where they concentrate their efforts. :slight_smile:


I certainly agree. Not strange, as we have similar backgrounds :slightly_smiling_face: I worked at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 46th. plenary session among other things…

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Seeing people suffer is a moving issue. It was a daughter’s working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, UK that prompted the Fairphone.

Stuck with it forever now :slight_smile:

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Thank you for this post @Teeko ! I agree with you 100%! After some trouble at the beginning I’m now satisfied with my FP3+ but I have to admit I was quite surprised to hear a FP4 was just released… And my first thoughts were ‘oh too bad, I already have a phone and it’s quite new so not gonna upgrade now’ and even worse ‘Oh no, my mother in law just got the FP3+, she is so screwed’ . In my mind a fully sustainable phone would be more like an envelop for components that can evolve and be upgraded over the years. Otherwise, as you said, it involves being stuck with an outdated phone for years (especially if the phone can be repaired, battery changed, screen replaces… then why would we change?). I had Iphones before (2 different models), bought second hand, and they both lasted for 4-5 years, my dad was able to replace battery and screen himself so it was very cheap to fix them. I’m hoping the FP will last even longer but technology evolves so fast! So, being stuck with a 10 years old FP without software/hardware replacement/update, does not sound so appealing.
I want to support and believe in Fairphone’s vision but to me the fair components are not enough, at least not to attract a larger pool of consumers. I’m not saying it’s no an added value or an important aspect but in my mind it was one the arguments to buy a fairphone and not the only one… So let’s hope the future brings us some good surprises!

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It’s not so much an envelope as in a case but more the core module that cannot be upgraded that other components atache too.

The range of attachables is limited, by the housing/envelope and the SoC on the core module let alone all the other detail of the module. So a new core module is developed.

The copre module is a) the most demading in terms of manufacturing footprint, subsequently the most expensive. So it makes sens eonmce that has been manufactured/designed to design the modules and case ‘envelope’ to fit the core.

So sensibly the core will not be made to fit an old envelope.

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