Fairphone: Changing the World One Smartphone at a Time

The world’s first ethical smartphone was unveiled at the London Design Fair recently by a spinoff of Medialab Waag Society.

The team behind Fairphone believe they can take our smartphone obsession and use it to bring justice to those working in the supply chain as well as greater transparency to an industry that may be lining the pockets of African rebels.

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The idea for a fair-trade smartphone came as an extension of the group’s campaign to raise awareness about conflict minerals in electronics and their part in fuelling war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Several smartphone brands, including Apple and Samsung, have faced criticism over the potentially exploitative practises behind the manufacturing of their products.

The tin and tantulum that make up the body of the Fairphone are taken from conflict-free mines in the DRC — ensuring the proceeds go to local miners instead of illegal armed forces.

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Fairphone also promises fair wages and working conditions for those on the factory floor.

They will also donate a portion of each sale to Closing the Loop, a program that advocates for the recycling and reuse of cell phones. Future environmentally friendly goals include making new Fairphones entirely from recycled materials.

It seems this is the kind of big-hearted idea that the public is keen to support. So far 15, 436 people have used their consumer dollar to get behind the project. As founder Bas van Abel put it, “(they) have already pre-ordered a phone that doesn’t exist yet from a company that’s never made a phone before”.

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“Consuming is a political act.. if you have a choice,” van Abel said. “With Fairphone I want to offer buyers this choice, while raising the bar for the industry. By buying this phone, you join a movement to change the way things are made.”

Each Fairphone costs €325 or about $434.

The group claims they have considered the phone’s “full life cycle” in the design process and given the consumer total control. Batteries are removable and replaceable allowing greater longevity than other smartphones. There is also dual SIM capability allowing users to merge their business and work phones, reducing the number of phones in circulation. Consumers can completely open their phones and crucial spare parts will be available through the Fairphone’s sales channels.

Click here to learn more about how you can ‘buy a phone, start a movement.’