Fairphone Tries To Figure Out How To Build A Smartphone Without Screwing Anybody

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When you’re shopping for a smartphone, “Was it sourced and built using fair, sustainable business practices?” probably isn’t question high on your list of priorities. Don’t feel bad, though — even if your are the sort inclined to ask that question, the resounding answer is going to be “Nope.” One company, though, is trying to change that. Netherlands-based Fairphone has started production on a phone that they hope will one day provide a model for other companies to build quality products for consumers without ravaging the environment or treating workers like grist for the mill. 

Fairphone has started it’s initial manufacturing run, and as of today, Folks in Europe can pre-order one here. The rest of us though, will have to wait to see if the first European batch sells enough — 5,000 is the magic number — to make it possible to bring the phone to the rest of the world.

As a smartphone user, I’m dimly aware that the resources used to make my phone come from pretty war torn areas of the world, and that they’re assembled into an actual working phone under rather miserable conditions in nations without much in the way of fair labor laws. Most days, it doesn’t bother me, because most days I don’t think about it too much — I’ve got a life to lead with it’s own problems and challenges, and… I don’t know what to tell you, folks. I’m no saint. I have a finite number of shits to give in the course of a day, and most of them got to my immediate friends and family.

But I’d like to think there’s a way to make a smartphone responsibly, and Fairphone is looking for it. They’re taking a close look at where the minerals they need for the phone come from, and at the labor practices of their parts suppliers and manufacturers. They’re also trying to make phones that are less disposable, with an emphasis on durability and things like easily replaceable batteries to increase the lifespan of the Fairphone and make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill any sooner than it needs to.

Fairphone is also endeavoring to be transparent about where their parts come from and what they pay for them. The result is a phone that may be a little expensive — $436 for a fairly middle of the line device. But if knowing where those parts came from is important to you, that’s a deal that’s hard to get anywhere else. The company also hopes that by sharing its best practices, they can encourage others in the industry to follow along — even if only because they demonstrated that it’s not really too hard to be less mercenary about the way you do business.

(via TechCrunch)

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