Finally, a mobile device you can feel good about—not because it’s shiny and new, but because it’s ethically made and built to last
Bas van Abel wanted a phone that worked well enough, but avoided the conflict mineral issues and harsh working practices built into mainstream devices. So two years ago, he created the Fairphone, a phone that would be adequate in its functionality but exemplary in its supply chain.
Since we last spoke to him, he seems to have succeeded. The Dutch company has sold 60,000 units and established a string of direct and traceable relationships with mineral suppliers around the world. Now it’s launching a wholly new version, one that considers not only the phone’s pre-life but its longevity and afterlife as well.
As you can imagine, building a phone from scratch isn’t easy, especially when you have ethical expectations. “We had a lot of people expecting us to kind of create world peace at the same time as making a phone,” Van Abel says. “I felt a little bipolar. Sometimes I felt like dying. At other times, I felt on top of the world.”
The new version is different in that Fairphone designed every aspect itself. The previous version was mostly licensed, with Fairphone concentrating on the supply chain relationships. Designing from start meant the company could look more deeply at how that design affects the supply chain. “With Fairphone One we had to reverse engineer the supply chain and we got stuck at a certain point. Now we can use certain materials and we can choose the partners we want to work with,” Van Abel says. On top of the fair-trade relationships it had for tin, tantalum, and copper, the company now has new ones for tungsten and gold.
At the same time, it has thought about how to make the phone last longer, so there’s less need for a constant stream of new materials. The new version is made to be durable (with a hard, integrated case) and repairable. The back comes off easily, revealing a transparent layer of components, each of which can easily be taken out and swapped for others. And the screen is a separate piece, so you can source a new one without buying a whole new model.
The Latest on: Fairly Mined Minerals
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The Latest on: Fairly Mined Minerals
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