Ethical smartphone start-up Fairphone detailed its move to end support for its first generation device, describing it as a “bittersweet decision”.
The company recently said it would no longer sell parts for the phone, and had stopped developing a planned software upgrade. In a blog post, CEO Bas van Abel said that “after supporting the Fairphone 1 for three-and-a-half years and the Fairphone 1U for nearly two years, we’ve simply reached the point where it is no longer possible to keep supporting our first phone”.
With regard to specifics, the company said that while it was producing devices, its manufacturing partner Guohong was “managing most of the supply chain”. But this company stopped producing phones altogether, leaving Fairphone to contact suppliers individually and order “a certain amount of spare parts based on an estimate of the number of parts we would need in the near future, as well as the financial resources that were available at the time”.
Now, most of the needed spare parts have been superseded, and “the minimum orders required to produce new batches of spare parts is beyond what we can afford”.
van Abel also said the initial focus was on sourcing conflict-free minerals, and as such the company “decided to put our own stamp on an existing phone design”. By making components available and preparing tutorials, “we were moving towards longer-lasting devices, but it wasn’t our primary objective”.
With Fairphone 2 (pictured), the company created a modular design, and “having ownership over the phone’s design comes with a number of major advantages”. This includes enabling it to focus more on increasing device lifespan through repair and spare parts, with the modular design allowing individual parts to be tweaked.
Ownership of the design also gives Fairphone direct access to suppliers and a better overview of what is happening in the supply chain.