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The Fairphone One Aims to be Economically, Environmentally, and Hacker Friendly

The Fairphone One Aims to be Economically, Environmentally, and Hacker Friendly

by P. H. MadoreJune 25, 2015

fairphoneEver wished it didn’t require a degree in engineering to update a single component of your phone? Ever thought it was unsustainable the way we have to throw out our old phone just to upgrade some certain feature we now find lacking, such as the camera?

You may have heard of the original Fairphone, which is an economically and environmentally friendly phone that aims to get high technology into the hands of the economically disadvantaged. But now, with the second version of the Fairphone, things are about to get a lot more interesting, and not just for people looking to save money. The new version of the Fairphone will feature removable and replaceable components, making it, as the title says, “hacker friendly.” Hardware hackers will appreciate the ability to develop their modifications to the hardware. The best thing will be how such a design enables the phones to last much longer, as only a small part of the hardware has to be upgraded to keep it running alongside modern phones. As Fairphone CEO Bas van Abel told Fast Company:

We made a phone that people can open, so they can change parts themselves. If they can take care of it, they are probably going to use it longer and that means they’re probably going to use it longer.

The new version of the Fairphone will use “fair trade” materials, including tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. The use of alternatives to gold is part of the way that the company manages to keep costs down. Extending the life of electronic devices is not just good for the bottom line or your wallet, however. It is also good for the environment. One of the less-publicized factoids about electronics, for instance, is that it takes 2,200 gallons of water to produce an integrated circuit. Much of that water has to be pure, as well, meaning that it will be polluted and potentially unrecoverable.

The company isn’t just addressing the direct environmental impact of high technology, though. They’re also focused on the labor practices that are employed in the creation of their product. For instance, many of the materials that go into smartphone production are sourced from the Congo, and often enough these materials will end up in the hands of warlords who may have killed to get them, or could be running slave operations. Fairphone believes these are characteristically bad trade-offs to make, and has decided with the new Fairphone One to source only ethically produced materials.

The new phone will be selling for 525 Euros in Europe this year, and will debut in the United States next year at a similar price. It is not presently carrier dependent and uses standard European GSM bands. It is unclear yet if the new version of the phone will support CDMA and 4G in the US, though the last version did not.

Images from Shutterstock and Fairphone.

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