A Conflict-Free Smartphone: Is It Possible?
(3BL Media/Justmeans) - The world has just had Apple announce another record-breaking opening weekend on 21 September, 2013 for the iPhone, this time for its seventh-generation iPhone models, the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. “This is our best iPhone launch yet―more than 9 million new iPhones sold―a new record for first-weekend sales” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a press release. However, there is another smartphone wanting to disrupt the status quo of this lucrative market; the Fairphone.
The Fairphone is a Dutch social enterprise that started in 2010 as a campaign to create awareness of the abuses in the electronics supply chains, and soon realised that creating a conflict-free smartphone was a tangible goal. It created a phone that is also reasonably priced at around £275 or $440. Using existing initiatives such as Conflict-Free Tin Initiative and Solutions of Hope, it has managed to ensure sources of tin and tantalum are conflict-free and is trying to be as transparent as possible throughout the supply chain, from the mines to the factories to the end user. It has even released a cost breakdown of where every pound is spent. Part of each sale goes towards Closing the Loop, a global programme that encourages the reuse and recycling of old mobile phones.
Fairphone openly admits that its product isn't "100% ethical", but is proud of the fact that it is putting people and social values first. A Twitter search brings up plenty of tweets from people who have bought a handset, where the majority of Twitter users approached indicated that they were buying into the movement, supporting the cause and helping create public awareness.
It runs on the Android operating-system, a software market dominated by Samsung, which makes 95% of Android phone sales. The complexity of the relationships in the electronics industry – for instance, Apple has been known to use parts produced by Samsung – does beg the question of whether a phone can ever be free from conflict or avoid being connected to a company that is failing to clean up its act. At the same time, those asked admitted that if Apple, Nokia or Samsung were to release their own conflict-free phones they would consider buying one.
However, there is hope through the Dodd-Frank legislation coming into effect next year, companies will no longer have excuses and can legitimately claim that their supply chains are 100% conflict-free by the end of 2014. Till then Fairphone is a welcome development in highlighting the issues of ethical conduct of the smartphone market and for providing a more ethical option.
Photo Credit: Fairphone Website