I own a Fairphone now. When I first heard about the Fairphone project it looked interesting to me, but I haven’t thought about it seriously for two reasons: 1. price, 2. I wanted the phone to be fair not only in the production chain but also to its users. When I recently started looking for a possible replacement of my old smartphone, I found out that the second problem has been fixed.
Now how about the price? A smartphone with similar hardware specifications can be obtained maybe for half the price. But Fairphone has some unique features:
- It officially supports a free operating system with optional root access. You can freely choose whether you want to use a restricted proprietary system with Google applications or a free operating system without them. Both the options are officially supported.
- You may also install another operating system on the phone without voiding the warranty. You’re still responsible for damages caused by malware or improper use of the root access, but the mere fact that you install another system on the phone doesn’t void your warranty.
- Some parts of the smartphone are replaceable and they may be (in theory) upgraded in the future. And you can replace them yourself easily.
- The smartphone is designed to last. I think nobody can tell whether it will really last, but there is at least some effort to make it more likely to happen.
- And of course, the production of the smartphone tries to be fair. Ethics matters.
Fairphone is not perfect, but it’s the only reasonable smartphone I’m aware of that provides such a level of fairness. Considering that fact, the price is actually reasonable – freedom and ethics have their price. We must be ready to pay it, otherwise we lose those basic values. Fairphone is very unique on the distorted smartphone market, where harsh restrictions, previously rejected on the PC market, were successfully introduced without any big protests. Consider my previous smartphone:
- It occasionally rebooted itself. Well, I could live with that.
- The provided operating system was proprietary and contained proprietary applications that I didn’t want to use, that wasted the small storage space available and that I couldn’t remove. This is not acceptable.
- The provided operating system was already obsolete when I bought the smartphone, even security upgrades weren’t provided. Using an old operating system is debatable, lack of security patches is not acceptable.
- Installing an alternative operating system was possible but only with a clear message from the vendor that it would void my warranty. I’m not sure it’s legal in the E.U. but it’s not acceptable in any case.
- Nothing was advertised about how the smartphone was produced and what harm it caused to workers or regions of the world.
Would I like to pay any money for such a device again? The obvious answer is “no”. And that was one of the better smartphones on the market, where additional restrictions such as impossibility to install a different operating system or even just unapproved applications were present.
There are some problems with Fairphone too, for instance:
- Not everything in the supply chain is fair. The nice fact is that the vendor admits it and tries to do what’s possible in the current world.
- Proprietary binary blobs are used in the operating system. This is the sad reality of the current market that Fairphone can’t change itself. We all must call for the change.
- There’s no waterproof version, I miss that feature from my previous smartphone. The nice fact is that the vendor explains why the phone is not waterproof, with good arguments. (Compare it to an approach of a well known company that sells more expensive smartphones without offering a waterproof version; it officially sells an expensive waterproof case instead, which is not very useable according to the user reviews.)
- It doesn’t provide the best hardware and the newest Android available today. But it still provides all I need and is much modern than my previous smartphone, so I don’t care much.
- When the smartphone is charged, the touch screen works very unreliably with most chargers (charging from a computer USB port works fine for me). It was scary at first, it’s very annoying and it must be a design problem.
- Switching from Cyanogenmod, which I used on my old smartphone, to something close to the stock Android is frustrating, many useful features are missing.
- Fairphone can’t change that much. But it raises the awareness and makes some important steps towards a better society.
No smartphone is perfect and I like the fact that the company tries to be transparent about problems.
So I decided to buy a Fairphone. I dislike how most other vendors treat their customers and I don’t like paying them for that. I’m sad that many people pay big money to companies that mislead users and try to restrict their freedom and privacy. Fairphone 2 reviews often complain about the hardware etc. and don’t mention how nice it is to its users. That pretty well illustrates what we care most about – having funny toys without caring about our freedom.
One of good ways of fighting evil behavior is to support good behavior. And this is one of the major reasons why I decided to buy the Fairphone. I still can’t equip my whole family with Fairphones, it’s not affordable. But I wish that would change one day, so I should support the project.
Did I say that I own my Fairphone? Yes, it’s a great feeling of owning the device, instead of being owned by the device. The phone is fair.