That new iPhone 11 Pro looks great, but I've always wanted a Fairphone. They just released the Fairphone 3, and there's no question; it's not an iPhone 11. The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs calls it boxy and utilitarian. “There are no two ways to do it: the Fairphone 3 is an old-fashioned design. Large parts of the body at the top and bottom of the screen are reminiscent of smartphones from five years ago. You are not impressed with how it works. "The overall performance isn't terrible, but it's certainly not fast, even compared to mid-range smartphones that cost less."
But he also points out that "the Fairphone 3 is a device full of compromises with one great advantage: being ethical."
There are two things to love about Fairphone's ethics. The first is that you can fix it yourself incredibly easily. It's modular, so you can separate the components and replace them as needed, or even upgrade. Our friends at iFixit gave it ten out of ten for repairability; They haven't finished their iPhone 11 teardown yet, but the XS has six.
Key components such as the battery and display have been prioritized in the design and are accessible without tools or simply with a regular Phillips screwdriver… Replacement guides and spare parts are available on the manufacturer's website.
In fact, when you look at the website, you can buy each component of the phone separately, because they say "The most sustainable phone is the one you already have."
But they also try to get all the materials to make sure they are fair and they try to avoid the conflicting minerals.
Gold is one of the four conflict minerals identified by the Dodd-Frank Act. This means that gold is known to fund rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Because small amounts of gold are extremely valuable, this mineral is also very prone to smuggling. Even outside of conflict and high-risk regions, gold mining poses a wide variety of social and environmental challenges, including disputes over land, substandard wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor, and mercury contamination.
Fairphone pays a premium to buy FairTrade gold which unfortunately mixes with other gold during processing, but they are working to improve it with the Fairphone 3:
For Fairphone 3, we currently have three suppliers sourcing our Fairtrade gold through SGE [Shanghai Gold Exchange]. Previously, we have purchased an average of 100 grams of Fairtrade gold per year, but our new scalable approach means that we now aim to increase that amount to one kilogram of Fairtrade gold per year (in fact, we have already purchased 500g in the first half of 2019). And with this improved scalable model, it is also much easier for other players in the industry to obtain Fairtrade gold.
So why don't they sell me a Fairphone?
In their support section, they say "we want to stay independent and make sure we can adequately expand our operations, customer support and repair services to successfully support our customers in more geographies, so we are looking forward to starting sales outside of Europe." They do say that "we are investigating the market and the logistical possibilities to sell outside of Europe", but sadly, they were saying that when we reviewed the Fairphone 2.
It is a pity; I suspect there are many people like me who would go for an ethical phone that they can look at while having their FairTrade coffee. It would be the right thing to do. Last words to CEO Eva Gouwens:
What sets this phone apart is the idea that millions of people have become incredibly powerful - a proof of concept for a more human and earth-friendly future. A statement that a better world is possible. That change is in your hands.
Lloyd Alter, article in English