Smartphones seem to be everywhere these days, and although they can be handy tools for both work and for play, they're also fraught with both environmental and social issues, from their use of conflict minerals to the poor or unhealthy conditions for the workers who make them.
A social enterprise behind a new 'ethical' smartphone, the Fairphone, aims to change that by using conflict-free raw materials for the devices, paying the workers who manufacture them a fair wage, and working to set up e-waste recycling programs for taking care of other electronics at the end of their useful life.
We want our smartphone to be made only from good stuff. That means sourcing raw materials that don’t fund armed forces or violent conflicts, from mines that treat people like the human beings they are.
Conflict-free tin: Our soldering paste uses tin from conflict-free mines in the South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Conflict-free tantalum: The tantalum in our capacitors is extracted from coltan sourced from Mai Baridi, Kisengo and Luba – conflict-free mines located in the northern part of the Katanga Province, DRC.
The first iteration of the Fairphone was three years in the making, but the phone finally launched late last year, thanks to pre-orders of 25,000 devices from enthusiastic backers of the concept, and the company is now almost ready to release the second batch of Fairphones, which will be for sale starting in May.
One of the biggest consumer benefits of the Fairphone is that it is designed to be able to be serviced, unlike many other smartphones, and to that end, the company has partnered with iFixit to not only supply spare parts for the device, but to also write a repair manual for it. The iFixit Fairphone manual can guide users through the replacement of every component in the device, from the display to the battery to the motherboard.
iFixit published their teardown of the Fairphone, and gave it a repairability score of 7 out of 10, and has been asked by the company to help them get the next version of the phone (for launch in 2015) up to a score of 10, which would be the highest rating they've ever given to a smartphone.
"Fairphone is making sure replacement parts are in ready supply, and they are including the iFixit app on every phone—so every phone comes with the repair manual. So while Fairphone’s accomplishments may seem small, they are planting the necessary seeds for a better social and ecological future." - iFixit
The second batch of Fairphones, which go on sale next month, has an upgraded chipset from the original, but other than that, the specs are virtually the same. The phone features a durable and scratch-resistant 4.3" touchscreen, 16 GB of memory, front and rear cameras, a quad-core CPU, and its operating system (Fairphone OS) is based on Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean).
The cost of the Fairphone, which is currently only available in Europe, is 310€, with production of the new model beginning in May and delivered to buyers sometime between the end of June and the middle of July. The company is only making a limited number of phones, so if you'd like to get in line for a Fairphone, be sure to subscribe to their buyers list.