Look around you, and just about everyone you see probably has a smartphone. And if those smartphone owners were aware of the sweatshop labor in dangerous conditions and minerals which finance arms-buying, conflict and bloodshed that go into the creation of their mobile device, they would probably feel queasy and repulsed.
So it’s a relief to know that a Dutch firm has developed Fairphone, a smartphone that has been as ethically sourced as possible. The device is about to be shipped in Europe at €325 (US$440) a piece. Its initial pre-order run of 5,000 was quickly purchased and was increased to 25,000 -- and these have all been snapped up too. Fairphones are expected to be available in the U.S. soon after.
Fairphone is transparent about its supply chain, focusing on decent wages and working conditions for the factory workers in China who assemble it and ensuring, as far as possible, that minerals such as tantalum and tin used in the phones (and other electronic devices) don't come from mines where profits fuel violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but from mines where workers are paid fairly.
The resulting Android phone boasts respectable technical specs and -- in a smart move -- sensible waste-reducing features that can save its owners money. It has a dual SIM card slot, allowing business and personal phones to be merged into one, reducing the number of devices in circulation. The phone is unlocked, has a replaceable battery, and is designed to be as easily repairable as possible, extending its life.
The idea of reducing the wasteful habit of throwing away a smartphone every year or two is spreading, with Motorola exploring devices with modular components that can be upgraded individually, instead of discarding the whole phone for a new one.
I look forward to more choices for smartphones -- and other electronic devices -- that are protect lives, living conditions and the environment, choices that everyone can take.