Fairphone

Worker welfare is built into the modular Fairphone.

Apple has drifted in and out of hot water for its labor practices over the years. There was the 2012 New York Times expose of the “human costs ... built into an iPad.” There was the searing This American Life report about harsh working conditions in the company’s Chinese factories—and its retraction. According to a February 2015 report by China Labor Watch, Apple is still suppressing wages and overworking employees at its Chinese factories. But it isn’t the only tech company exploiting cheap overseas labor; Samsung, Dell, and other tech giants have similarly shady records on worker welfare.

What should you do if you want the gadget without the guilt? If you’re in Europe, you can turn to Fairphone 2—a modular smartphone designed to be as “ethical” as possible at each point in the supply chain.

For starters, the Netherlands-based company is committed to building phones with “conflict-free” minerals and metals whenever possible. That means making sure that the proceeds from mining tin, tantalum, and other resources go back into local economies in places like Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo—and not into the hands of warring militias.

At the manufacturing level, the company is working with the Economic Rights Institute to establish a “Worker Welfare Fund” for its factory in Suzhou, China. With contributions from Fairphone and the manufacturer, workers will be able to invest in benefits, training, leisure, and other services, and have a say in workplace conditions.

The device itself is also built to last beyond a standard phone contract, with the ultimate goal of reducing e-waste. The Fairphone separates into seven parts so you can easily open, repair, and swap out individual components instead of replacing the entire phone. The company also plans to release upgrade modules to lengthen the gadget’s lifespan.

With a quad-core processor, 5-inch 1080p HD screen, and 32 GB of internal storage, Fairphone holds its own against other premium Android smartphones on the market. But if you’re looking to make a social statement with your mobile device, it’s in a class all its own.

Fairphone, €525 ($590) pre-order on fairphone.com.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Illustration of a house with separate activities taking place in different rooms.
    POV

    The Case for Rooms

    It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design.

  2. Car with Uber spray painted on it.
    Transportation

    The Dangerous Standoff Between Uber and Buenos Aires

    While Uber and Argentine officials argue over whether the company is an app or a transportation company, drivers suffer fines, violence, and instability.

  3. Videos

    A Glimpse of an Unbuilt ‘Pei Plan’

    The late architect and planner had some very big ideas for Oklahoma City in the 1960s. But the final result wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.

  4. Life

    Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life

    Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.