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Fairphone: A seriously smart phone
30 Aug 2013 By Isabel Benitez
One of the main challenges that products with social and environmental principles have to face is proving they can match the higher standards expected by consumers. "Yes, you are ethical, but does your stuff work?", customers may ask.
Fairphone is producing the first smartphone in the market to open up its supply chain with transparency about how it is produced, distributed and disposed of when its first and second phases of life come to an end. While you are reading these lines, the team in the Netherlands and the UK are squeezing their brains to find the best materials (conflict-free, less pollutant); a group of sharp researchers are looking into the potential footprint of the handset, and an independent company is carrying out a social assessment at their partner factory in China.
Everything is going according to plan for Fairphone to reach their social and environmental goals, but what about the technical aspects of this handset? How smart will this smartphone be at using apps, surfing the internet and, most importantly, at making phone calls?
Fairphone is working on a high-performance mobile phone. A full list of specs is available here, but some relevant features are:
- Dragontrail glass. It'll be still be light, but more durable and scratch-resistant. Making a greener mobile phone also means contributing to stretching electronics lifespan and reducing e-waste.
- Android OS (4.2 Jelly Bean). That's open source software.
- Dual SIM. Useful if you have two different numbers but you don't want to have two phones.
- 16 GB internal memory, for music, movies, apps, games and more.
- Dual front/rear camera. 8 mp + 1.3 mp for photos and video calls.
In addition to these features, Fairphone will ensure this smartphone is easy to repair, the battery is replaceable, and it doesn't come with accessories (the standard USB cables and earphones you have at home will work with it, and Fairphone thinks there are enough of them loose in the world already!). Sounds interesting, doesn't it?
"Fairphone is not an original design, we have selected it from a 'catalogus'. This means it is based on a standard model, although it's definitely got some differences", says the team responsible for the design of the handset. "The resources used are more honest, the battery cover is adjusted, we have replaced the touchscreen, and have added a compass and gyroscope. The memory is expanded from 4GB to 16GB".
Fairphone explains this smartphone will be comparable to the Galaxy SII, "though it will be a little thicker and not the most beautiful phone you've ever seen". It won't be perfect ("is not a speed devil and falls somewhere between a mid-range and high-end phone"), but there are other aspects that add value to it:
"The most special thing about the Fairphone is that all parts are for sale via the website; everything from th e battery to the camera motherboard and all the other parts that can possibly be replaced. It includes a manual that helps users to repair it themselves. Our adopted manifesto is 'If you can't open it, you don't own it'."
Fairphone will be ready to get to its first users this late Autumn. Over 13,700 people have ordered this handset so far; that's 13,700 people who have not just bought a phone but also joined a movement which aims to change the way the electronics are made and build an economy founded on fairer principles.
Photo credit: Fairphone
Would you like to learn more about Fairphone?
Visit www.fairphone.com and watch out this space for news and updates.
Next month: Recycling my phone - the end of the chain.
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