Issue: June 2016, Obsolescence – Causes, effects, strategies
Piece by piece
The Fairphone 2
At a time when mobile phone companies promote themselves by offering annual upgrades to the latest smartphone, the Fairphone 2 seems like a relic of a bygone age. The makers of this smartphone want their customers to feel a stronger connection to their product so that they keep using it for as long as possible. “We decided to create a completely original design,” says Olivier Hébert, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Fairphone. “We had a complex set of goals guiding us in this process. For example, we wanted consumers to gain more ownership of the product.”
Social and environmental sustainability is key for the second-generation Fairphone 2 as well. The designers’ goal was to create a product that was built to last. “So we looked at the weaknesses affecting other smartphone designs,” Olivier explains. “One of the problems with most other smartphones is that the display can easily crack. So we built a high level of protection into the Fairphone 2 display – and if it does break, it is very easy to replace.” And not only the display: thanks to the modular design, users can easily replace parts such as the camera and flash, battery and speaker units themselves. Instructions are available on the Fairphone website. “The fact that users can do their own repairs is a big plus point for product longevity,” says Olivier. No technical skills are needed: “If you can use a screwdriver, you can repair your Fairphone 2.”
The Fairphone 2 is built to last – but that does not mean that users have no access to new features. “We design different cases and covers so that users can change their phone’s appearance, for example,” says Olivier. “And new technology can be integrated into the phone later on.” A relic of the past? On the contrary – when it comes to user-friendliness and sustainability, the Fairphone 2 is ahead of its time. Christiane Weihe
Other articles from this rubric
Faults, flaws and rampant consumerism
The obsolescence issue
Ultra-high definition and HDMI, smart TVs and 3D, curved displays and OLED screens ... each new generation of TVs offers an...
A task for the whole of society
The useful life of electrical and electronic devices is shortening, according to the Oeko-Institut's latest obsolescence...
Throwing out the throwaway society
Guest article by Hugo-Maria Schally
On 2 December 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious package of measures to stimulate Europe's transition...