Fairphone, the 'socially responsible' handset, is go for launch thanks to crowdfunding

It's billed as "a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first". The Dutch company behind it says: "You can change the way products are made, starting with a single phone. Together, we're opening up the supply chain, and redefining the economy - one step at a time." 

If this all sounds a bit like marketing fluff to you, we don't blame you - but the creators of what the company hopes will be a more socially responsible approach to smartphone design certainly sound serious about it. Indeed, their commitments are so solid and convincing that they've now pre-sold over 5600 of their Fairphones, helping them to blast through their target for start-up capital to get their new social enterprise under way. 

So what exactly is this Fairphone all about? The organisation itself started as a project aimed at raising social awareness about conflict minerals - resources sourced from regions engaged in armed conflicts, and often the scenes of human rights abuses and atrocities - in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the company itself explains, they campaigned for three years before realising that the most potent way of telling their story to the world was to build a handset in the most socially responsible way possible.

Essential minerals such as tin and tantalum are sourced from conflict-free zones, while Fairtrade-certification for the gold used in the construction of the handset is imminent, which would make Fairphone the first electronics company in the world to gain this status.

It's not just about materials either; the company is dedicated to guaranteeing better conditions for those building the handsets in China, providing a safe working environment and fairer monetary benefits for workers. The company is even committed to responsibly handling waste, with recycling programmes, and €3 from every handset sold going to initiatives to clean up electronics-related waste in Ghana.

But what about the phone itself? Well, while it's not a range-topper, it's sure not an entry-level dog either. The first Fairphone features a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 16GB of storage, 1GB of RAM and a 4.3" qHD (960x540px) display, along with an 8MP rear camera and 1.3MP front-facing cam. There's also a 2000mAh battery, and dual-SIM capabilities, as well as a microSD card slot. The body is 123 x 64.5 x 9.8mm and weighs 165g, and it's expected to launch with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. 

The handset is available for pre-order now in Europe for €325 ($425 / £275), and it's these pre-orders that have provided the start-up capital that the company needed to launch its first production wave of 5000 limited-edition devices, with the company now focusing on its next 15,000 units.

Fairphone is also working on improving the specs before deliveries begin later this year; in mid-May, an e-compass and gyroscope were added to the spec sheet, while last week, 1080p video recording capabilities were added to the rear camera, along with faster 3G support. Expect further improvements to be made as pre-orders continue to rise; in the time it took me to write this article, another 30 Fairphones were pre-ordered. 

We'll have to wait and see whether Fairphone - both the organisation and the smartphone they're creating - lives up to expectations, but their aims are laudable, and we at Neowin certainly look forward to seeing the finished product. 

Source: Fairphone | via DutchNews.nl | Images via Fairphone

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12 Comments

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My hope would be that they would use stock Android to make updates easy and painless kind of like Nexus devices. That way we would not have to buy into the hype of buying new devices so often...

The most useful thing it may do is demonstrate that it is possible to build a competitive phone to such requirements.

Whether it's possible at present to build a phone in the volume of Samsung, Apple, HTC, Nokia etc is another matter.

I ask this in genuine honesty. Maybe I'm cold inside or whatever, but is it wrong that I honestly don't care if the case for my phone is made of a metal that's sourced from an area where there's conflict?

nik louch said,
I ask this in genuine honesty. Maybe I'm cold inside or whatever, but is it wrong that I honestly don't care if the case for my phone is made of a metal that's sourced from an area where there's conflict?

Some of the materials used for making miniature electronic components are the same situation as blood diamonds. Not that it has a "conflict" that happens to be in that region where the material comes from.

I get that, genuinely, and I feel like I "should" care, but...

I know this all sounds really "trollish", genuinely not. If anything I sorta feel a bit bad that I don't care!

Hey Troll, it's a good question. I think the idea is that conflict zone often use slave labour, of children as well as adults. I reckon it's pretty normal to think this is out of order. Kids are kids wherever they are, and people are people, and slavery's bull****, we all know it inside. I'd be happy to have one of these phones, and if it has wp8 on it, great.

i would not get my hopes up of them getting anywhere past the limited appeal pre orders.

good initiative, but with tech that will almost always be behind... imho.

Tech seems reasonable to me...i mean a quadcore processor is...fine. the screen could do with a bit of a bump in resolution to be on-par with the flagships...but even still, it's reasonable. Need to see how it actually feels and handles however...