If you are anything like me, you probably do not put a lot thought into the origins of your electronic devices, food, clothing, or other items. On the one hand, you do not feel particularly good when made aware that a particular item was created under less than pleasant conditions. But, on the other, we tend to get used to certain items in life and are willing to purchase them, even if we are providing further incentive for certain companies to chase profit at all cost. Dutch startup Fairphone has attempted to provide the best of both worlds with a modular, Android-supported smartphone built using conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Full specs are available here, but the Fairphone 2 is a 5-inch phone that runs on Android 5.1 and includes 2 GB of RAM, a 1080×1920 screen, Snapdragon 801 processor, and a 2420 mAh battery. One of the nice aspects about this startup is that they seem to have the customer in mind, as they have designed this latest device to be modular (i.e. you can open it up and replace parts, as necessary) and have stated a commitment to making their source code open to developers. If there is a downside here, it is that those outside of Europe are out of luck if they wish to purchase one.
Fairphone says that the Fairphone 2 will retail for 525 Euro. What is interesting about this startup is that they do not merely list the price, but have offered a cost breakdown for the device, explaining where the customer’s money goes when they purchase one of these phones. The startup says that 65% goes into the production of the device, funding the Worker Welfare Fund in China, and e-waste collection efforts in Ghana. Other parts of the price cover general aspects of running the business, while the remainder is devoted to projects that contribute to their goal of creating a more ethical supply chain.
Fairphone got its start back in 2009 as a project for raising awareness about conflict minerals, particularly those used in modern electronics, but, in 2011, the founders decided that it may be worthwhile to go ahead and create a smartphone of their own. They encountered some bumps in the road, but by late 2013, they had built and shipped a device, ultimately selling 60,000. In the case of the Fairphone 2, they have cleared the 16,000-mark in terms of pre-orders.
Just this week, Fairphone made a big splash when they revealed that they have raised 9 million Euro through crowdfunding, a move that the startup bills as important for funding production and allowing them to remain independent from external investors.