Why made the switch to a Fairphone with Phone Coop

My dilemma

I had felt that an Apple phone did not fit with my values, and lifestyle for a while.  They score an 8 out of 20 on the Ethical Consumer score cardfor phones. The major issues for me include; lack of environmental reporting, tax avoidance, workers rights issues and irresponsible marketing. Although in recent years the company has done great work leading the way in reducing the use of conflict metals, and toxic chemicals, within their products. The reality is that almost all electronic devices contain some conflict metals. These are “minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, and which are sold or traded by armed groups”.
The additional challenge for me, is Apple’s business model encourages people to consume a new iPhone almost annually. The world does not have enough resources for this. I appreciate they do encourage people financially to bring the phones back for recycling, which is great. However on all versions of waste hierarchy, or pyramid, recycling is quite a way down the list viable of solutions.
My phone was around 6 years old and an iPhone 4. The good thing about having a phone, which I believe has only lasted this long by having almost zero apps, is that I used it much less as a pacifier and a distraction. I couldn’t mindlessly scroll through Twitter or Facebook, in a queue, or on the bus. But my main push to change was that it was not going to be long before “What’s App” no longer supported iOS 6, the operating system my phone could cope with. This is the one App I do get a lot of value from. I also needed a working sat nav for driving my Mum, something my iPhone 4 could not handle!

My iPhone4 in it’s bamboo case.

What were my phone options?

  1. Get a second hand iPhone 5 or 6. Then at least I am not contributing to the issue of new electronic devices. This would have been the easier option, as transferring all your data from the iCloud to a new iPhone is simple. Even if you are not tech savvy like me!
  2. Give the Fairphone 2 a go. Fairphone’s mission is to create a positive social and environmental impact from the beginning to the end of a phone’s life cycle via long lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions, reuse and recycling.
It appeals to me for the following reasons; fully traceable supply chain, transparency in costs, conflict metal free, fair trade gold, pushing for worker condition improvements, modular and upgradeable. Fairphone also scores 15 out of 20 with Ethical Consumer.
Fairphone have also recently published an extensive update on their work in Uganda to create more responsible gold mining, which I found especially interesting.
However it uses the Android platform which made transferring anything I wanted / needed a whole lot more complicated.
I decided to get a refurbished Fairphone. This is one that has been used before, sent back and made good as new! This was because; there were no new ones available at the time, it was cheaper, and seemed an even better environmental option.

My Fairphone 2

Issues with Three as a provider

My phone contract was with Three. They score 5 out of 20 with Ethical Consumer Magazine. Some of which is due to their parent company CK Hutchinson Holdings being involved in; animal testing, tax avoidance, lack of environmental reporting, toxic chemicals, operating in an oppressive regime, poor supply chain management, investing in fossil fuels and tar sands! Also, the company Three do not provide the Fairphone 2 as one of their options.
The conversation I had with two different departments about why I was leaving Three after around 15 years of custom was very funny. I am not sure anyone has ever told them they are leaving because the company (and it’s parent) does not match their values. Hopefully I shook up their system, and the recording of my call may be being used as a training aid 😉

Why did I choose the Phone Coop?

They are a consumer co-operative being owned by their customers. This means their main aim is to serve the interests of their customers not shareholders. They score 14.5 out of 20, which is quite an achievement for most companies. They they are part of the fair tax and living wage movement. Plus they are the first UK operator to stock the Fairphone.

The transfer

If transferring to Samsung from Apple then there is an app to smooth the way. Not the case with Fairphone, I had to be really determined. My system for keeping in touch with friends via text and whats app, is date and history related, not just responsive and need related. So I wanted my text and Whats App history for my system to function. I had to load my text, whats app and contacts on to various apps, via laptop and a desktop computer to translate the content into Android! Somethings got a bit muddled up like my contacts were a mess, as it put loads of pre-existing gmail contacts into my phone contact list, why would you do that?! It pulled through all the archive What’s App conversations and groups into the active window. So it took a number of hours to organise everything back to some kind of useable normality, but I did it.
Probably the biggest challenge after all of this data fun was that Coop sent me a phone that was not running the latest version of the Fairphone operating system. They hadn’t told me I would need to update this as soon as possible. So it kept crashing and I didn’t know why. Once I knew this was easy to fix. I also had some challenges with the screen turning into coloured pixels as the screen was slightly misaligned, but the Fairphone website had great videos, and a forum, showing me how to take it all apart and back together again. It’s quite empowering being able to do this kind of thing.

What I learnt

  • Use the Fairphone website and forum for helping with the transfer.
  • If your phone is refurbished then check the “Fairphone Updater” as soon as it arrives.
  • Set aside time for the transfer and getting yourself organised.
  • Regularly clear down your phone of old apps you don’t use, photos, archive whats app chats, and anything else to keep less unused rubbish on your phone. It will work better and last longer.
  • Fairphones’ do not like totally running out of battery. If this happens you can’t just plug it in and switch it back on after 10 mins, it will only come back on again once it is fully charged. Aeroplane mode is my friend 😉
  • Although it comes with an integral case (what a sensible idea) a cover can help it not get scratched, or dirty, in your bag. There are some great handmade ones on Etsy.
  • It’s a great conversation starter, and I get very excited meeting someone else with one.

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