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Going against the grain to design a sustainable phone

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Editor’s note: This is a guest feature from the Fairphone 3’s lead industrial designer James Barber.


What if you could buy a phone that will last five years, can be easily repaired and is made as ethically as possible?

We’ve been working on this question for a while now. For more than 5 years, we’ve been doing our best to change the industry from the inside. The Fairphone 3 is our latest response to the growing demand for a more ethical, reliable and sustainable phone. Let me walk you through some of the choices we made, to design a long-lasting companion that’s easy to care for.

Our goal has always been to design a tough, well-made, repairable phone that lasts as long as possible. The prevailing industry trend is beautiful, sleek tech that is glued together and impossible to repair… so what happens if something breaks? Most of this tech is disposable. We design our Fairphone with modules, so if anything breaks, the module can be easily swapped, instead of replacing the whole phone. To make this easier our phone has guidance and instructions on the inside, directing the user to the part that needs to be replaced.

Even if you are very careful with your phone, the battery will eventually degrade and stop charging. This happens to all phones.
So we decided to make the battery the easiest part to replace – by simply removing the outer cover, taking out the old battery and popping in a new one. All of this is squeezed into a tight package, that fits comfortably in the hand. The back cover has a fine, textured finish, allowing the phone to be easily gripped. While the side keys have a distinct, tactile surface.

 Barrier-free fixing: No adhesive prevents you from unveiling the Fairphone 3’s inner life.

We are proud of our phone. Inside and out.  And because transparency is such an integral part of the Fairphone story, our phone is transparent too. I like to think of it as not just another smartphone: it’s an entirely different way of thinking about how a phone and its creation fits into the world.

We invite you to dive deeper into the Fairphone story. Our story and impact pages are a great place to start exploring – And if you’re curious how our designs became a reality, you should meet the makers.

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