Fairphone is a social enterprise with the aim of creating more ethically sound electronics and its second-generation smartphone is forging the way ahead.
Hitting pre-order from today, the Fairphone 2 is going to continue the trend set by its predecessor in serving up top-tier smartphone quality, whilst assuring users that it’s hewn from ethically sourced materials and manufactured in safe, suitable conditions for workers – matters BBC’s Panorama explored when investigating Apple’s iPhone supply chain last year.
In truth it looks as though Fairphone is building more than just a smartphone, but rather a modular platform that hopes to push the device’s longevity beyond anything currently in the market. It doesn’t quite follow the same tact as Project Ara, but the Fairphone 2 has been specifically designed so that you can simply unscrew and disassemble the handset into its constituent parts.
The end goal is that a year or two down the line, you’ll simply be able to upgrade parts like the processor, or the camera without replacing every other perfectly usable component in your smartphone at the same time. What’s more Fairphone will serve up replacement parts should elements of your device become damaged or suffer from reduced functionality. Even the body of the phone is designed to be protective enough that it negates the need for an additional case, conserving on material usage.
Fairphone isn’t using hardware that’s on the bleeding edge of mobile technology, but rather offering up a smartphone that’s more than capable of serving the majority of user’s needs right now. It features a 5-inch Full HD display behind Gorilla Glass 3, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of inbuilt storage with microSD expandability, a 2420mAh battery, 2 and 8-megapixel cameras, 4G, dual-SIM capability and Android 5.1 Lollipop.
As a social enterprise, Fairphone uses its pre-orders to fund production of the smartphone and the first edition sold 60000 units over two years. Not quite Samsung or Apple-sized figures, but this comes from a new name in a hotly competitive space with a very different approach to manufacturing and aims at a more conscientious consumer.
The Fairphone 2 costs €525 (£370) throughout Europe and everyone who pre-orders before the end of September this year will receive a special edition version of the handset.
The Amsterdam-based social enterprise expects handsets to be ready by November and beyond manufacturing and business costs, will be reinvesting the money made from pre-orders into the programs it’s both created and supporting. It’s current exploits range from sourcing conflict-free tin and tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo to improving e-waste recycling initiatives in Ghana and expanding a worker-controlled welfare fund in China.
Fairphone and the products it’s creating raise an important question that’s often overlooked by the average high street consumer, ‘Do you know where your electronics really come from and if not, what does that mean for everyone involved in their supply chain.’