The decision to buy a Fairphone was both one of the hardest, and one of the simplest I’ve ever faced.
It was difficult because it is in my nature to be frugal. I am a proud yellow sticker shopper. I only purchase new clothes when I’ve completely exhausted those I already own and am walking around like an extra from Oliver Twist. I will Freecycle, upcycle, recycle-you name it, I’ll try and avoid buying it! I think it comes from my grandmother, who was notorious among the family for delving to the bottom of the crate in the greengrocers for the biggest broccoli she could find- then snapping the woody stalk clean off (with her bare hands!) in order to reduce the weight and avoid paying for anything other than the florets she was going to eat.
The decision to buy a Fairphone was difficult because, after taking into account the currency conversion rate (from Euros; Fairphone is based in the Netherlands), the PayPal credit card transaction fee and delivery charges, this new smartphone cost me the same as almost an entire month’s rent- it was £401.35- and clicking continue to complete that financial transaction made me feel more than a little anxious. I’ll admit it, I was downright queasy.
I should probably mention that I am not a techie by any stretch of the imagination. I asked my better half if the specs of the Fairphone were suited to my needs- my needs being, admittedly, minimal. I spend the majority of my “mobile” time on social media (why not come and say “Hi” over on Twitter or Instagram?) and the only non-negotiable I have when looking for a smartphone is a decent camera. I travel a lot and simply can’t compromise on being able to take really good candid snaps- memories are so important to me! I was assured that the Fairphone would suffice “for [me]” (he is much more technologically inclined and needs more whizzery than I). His verdict: it seems a good, solid mid-range phone, if a bit pricey for what it is.
I returned to the phone in my online basket and, seeing the sub-total, began to feel queasy once again at the thought of my hard earned, soon-to-be-departed cash. Then I returned to the About section of the website and remembered exactly why this technology was worth the money.
Fairphone is a social enterprise that is building a movement for fairer electronics. By making a phone, we’re opening up the supply chain and creating new relationships between people and their products. We’re making a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing and life cycle, while expanding the market for products that put ethical values first. Together with our community, we’re changing the way products are made. (source)
The Fairphone is more than a phone. It is a challenge to larger corporations to stand up and end the exploitation of vulnerable workers. The brains behind Fairphone want consumers to start questioning where their consumables are coming from, and who had to suffer to get them there. It is also going against the tide of handheld electronics that are sealed, disposable and (in the case of my current smartphone in particular) begin to cannibalise themselves with software updates way before you have finished paying off the monthly installments.
There are a few reasons why I support the Fairphone:
- It is 100% independently financed. This is not a PR stunt for an otherwise unscrupulous oil company or arms provider. This is change being made by individuals who truly believe in making a difference. The production model depends on pre-orders (like mine- number 7444!) in order to purchase materials from source, and so guarantee the sustainability of the project.
- Fairphone sources conflict free materials and aims to ensure all factory workers producing the units are fairly paid and well looked after. The small team based in Amsterdam acknowledge the human side of technology- the nimble fingers that put together these devices so often with blood, sweat and tears- and aim to ensure that everyone benefits, not just those at the top of the supply chain.
- The phone itself is modular in order to increase longevity. Tinkering is encouraged (once the warranty has expired)! Cracked your screen- presumably by throwing it into the blades of a moving wind turbine, as it’s made of tough Gorilla glass? Buy a new one- reasonably priced- from the website and use one of those teeny tiny screwdrivers you get in Christmas crackers to replace it.
- This social enterprise is transparent about it’s motives and it’s methods and, these days, that is more commendable than ever.
So, you see, I was nervous about shelling out for such an expensive piece of technology when actually it may well prove better value for money than a standard “replace every year because we’ve made a new model with very minor fundamental changes” smartphone.
A good proportion of the sale will go to produce the actual phone- the nature of the Fairphone doesn’t allow for economies of scale, yet, unfortunately. But the surplus above the cost of the actual unit is going to support a social enterprise that has the power to make real change. It takes a lot of confidence to take on such monopolisation in the tech industry but those behind the Fairphone have something going for them that none of the others do. By encouraging people to jump on board with this project they can actively change lives for the better. And, to be honest, the price doesn’t seem all that bad when you think of it like that.
I’m so excited to receive my Fairphone (est delivery in November) and see what the special launch edition contains! Have you bought a Fairphone, or are you considering jumping on board? Let me know if you are! After all, it’s the community that makes this project so successful! #wearefairphone
Note: All media on this post is courtesy of Fairphone and shared c/o the CC BY-NC-SA licence. Thanks!