Everyone has a cellphone graveyard in their house. Without a significant change to supply chains, consumers are going to continue buying new phones even for the smallest problems then laying their old phones to rest in the cellphone graveyard.
The Fairphone 3 and other sustainable phone brands are looking to change that by making their phones repairable.
The fastest and most common component to wear out over time is the battery. The Fairphone 3 not only has a removable battery, but also has an easily removable charging port, screen, microphone, headphone jack, motherboard.
iFixit has been creating guides for repairing consumer technology since 2003. One of the things iFixit also does is give the largest flagship phones a reparability score. The Fairphone 3 received a perfect 10/10.
To put that into context, the Samsung Galaxy S10, the Samsung flagship phone, earned a 3/10. The iPhone XR got a 6/10.
Repairing a regular smartphone phone is extremely challenging.
Depending on the device, you have to use a heat gun to melt adhesive, use a suction cup to pull up the screen then jam a business card or razor blade in the seam to cut the adhesive and open the device. Once you are done the repair, you need to use adhesive to glue the phone back together.
All you need is a screwdriver to get inside the Fairphone 3.
Manufacturers would just prefer you buy a whole new device instead of being able to repair it. Using a hidden camera, CBC News went into an Apple store in 2018 and recorded employees telling customers that older malfunctioning products are not worth fixing.
CBC found employees at an Apple store were being trained to tell customers that all the components needed to repair a MacBook would cost very close to the cost of buying a new computer.
No company should be doing this, especially not a company as big as Apple.
But luckily, consumers are keeping their phones for longer, according to a report from HYLA Mobile Inc., which says consumers keep phones for an average of 2.83 years, up from 2.39 only two years ago.
Flagship smart phones are getting more and more expensive every year. Samsung’s flagship “S” series of devices in 2016 started around $650 USD for an S7. In 2019, the S10 costs around $900 USD.
It’s the same with iPhones.
In 2016, the cheapest newest iPhone you could buy was the iPhone 7 at $649 USD. In 2019, the iPhone 11 Pro is $999 USD.
Smartphones lasting longer is good for the customer because they save money. But the life of the components still last only 2-3 years.
The Fairphone 3’s modular and repairable design lets you buy parts when they fail, which is good for a consumer base that wants to keep phones longer.
The Fairphone 3 hasn’t landed inside consumer’s pockets because the phone will only work in Europe.
Fairphone is still a small company but if they release a product in North America, savvy shoppers will buy it.
If you’re worried that after the two-year cycle of your mobile contract, your phone is going to end up in a graveyard maybe call Fairphone and ask them to release their phone here.