Fairphone, the Dutch social enterprise that builds modular ethical smartphones, has announced a new version of its current Fairphone3 (FP3) model.
The Fairphone3 Plus (FP3+) retains the same design as the existing model but features improved front and rear camera and audio modules with a larger proportion of post-consumer recycled plastics used in its manufacture. The standard version also comes with Android 10 installed rather than Android 9. Existing FP3 users can buy the upgraded modules separately.
The idea behind the modular design of the FP3 is to get people to use their phone for longer, reducing the amount of e-waste and the environmental impact of production. The company calculates that a FP3 user keeping their phone for five years rather than the average of two years reduces the overall CO2 emissions by 28 per cent rising to 42 per cent if they retain it for seven years.
The company claims the new 48 and 16 megapixel units provide clearer pictures especially in low-light conditions and improved focusing. The modular design allows Fairphone to improve its offerings where there is a demand while continuing to iterate on the current design, said Wayne Huang, VP of product operations, during a video presentation. The main reason most people upgrade their phone is to get a better camera, he said, and in many cases vendors simply upgrade a few parts and then sell a whole new phone. Meanwhile, Fairphone's ethos is to continually improve what's already in place.
"Most brands generally don't improve the materials used in their phones while the device is still selling. The camera upgrades gave us that opportunity, especially around the plastics. We wanted to reduce the amount of petroleum based plastic and increase the amount of post consumer recycled plastic," he said.
The body of the new device is now made from 40 per cent post-consumer recycled plastics up from 9 per cent before, and the new camera and audio modules are made from 75 per cent recycled plastic.
Another reason that people ditch their phone for a new model is lack of software support, Huang said, which is why the company took the opportunity to move to an Android 10-based version of its operating system and to upgrade some of its apps accordingly. Android 10 is required for the new camera and audio modules. Existing FP3 users will be able to download the new OS from mid-September.
The FP3+ model goes on sale today at a price of €469.00, while the price of the existing FP3 model - which is also available with /e/ OS installed instead of Android - drops to €419. The new modules - which will work in the existing FP3 after an operating system upgrade, will be available at €60 for the main camera and €35 for the selfie unit - or €70 for the two until the end of September.
The company also announced improvements to its supply chain sourcing and in the conditions for workers in the third-party manufacturing plants in China where the devices are assembled. The sales distribution network is also being expanded, said CEO Eva Gouwens.
"That is very important for us because it's only when we are available at the places where people go to buy a new smartphone that we become a real alternative in this market, and the FP3+ can be an obvious choice." she said.
"Commercial success is key for us achieving our mission. We want to reach a broader audience and that was also our goal with launching FP3. Because the more phones we sell, the more we prove there is a market for ethical phones, and the more we prove our business model. And the more like-minded people we can inspire and also other companies and organisations in this industry."
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