Sustainability is coming for your smartphone


When it comes to purchasing a new smartphone, what's the most important part of making a buying decision? Is it the brand? Does the phone's aesthetic factor in? Or are you concerned about making an ethical purchase, given smartphones' potential environmental impact? If that's an important part of the reason why you might buy one phone over another, check out Fairphone 3, a smartphone prioritizing sustainability on multiple levels.

Fairphone 3 is manufacturer Fairphone's latest refresh of its phone that's "committed to fairness." It's reportedly built with fairly sourced and recycled materials and the company prioritizes better working conditions as well as programs designed to help reduce electronic waste. The company strives for longevity with its phones, ensuring that they're modular, simple to upgrade, and can last users as "long as possible." What's more, the company ensures to include features users actually want to see in their phones, so this isn't a case of "resigning yourself" to using something worse. It even has a USB-C charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack for anyone who's still not ready for an all-wireless future.

The Fairphone 3 runs on Android 9 and rocks a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, 64GB of storage, a 5.7-inch LCD display with 2160 x 1080 resolution, and a 12-megapixel rear camera paired with an 8-megapixel front camera. It's nothing to sneeze at. It's simple to replace the battery inside as opposed to many smartphones that make it a difficult effort with hard-to-dislodge glue, and there's no bevy of accessories to keep up with. That means when you purchase a phone you don't get headphones or a charger cable because it's assumed you can get those on your own if needed. That's all in a bid to cut down on waste.

Many of us often consider the impact our cars, food consumption and waste, and a variety of other daily actions have on our environment. But when it comes to smartphones, people tend to overlook what the constant influx of new smartphones and the discarding of the old can do to our planet as well. With people swapping out their iPhone every year for the latest model or jumping to replace their Samsung Galaxy S-model for whatever the newest number is, plenty of waste is created.

Larger smartphone manufacturers are already taking it upon themselves to cut down said waste by offering easier recycling options and buyback programs that let users get additional cash by trading in their old phones instead of letting them languish in a closet unused. It's a tactic we're seeing more of recently, especially given the shorter release cycle between new smartphones nowadays.

But waste isn't just from the old phones – it's from creating new ones to continue keeping up with the sky high demand from customers. Manufacturing smartphones can cause an excess of environmental damage, which is the frustrating truth. Given the ridiculous amount of energy required both to keep factories where the phones are made and pumping them out as well as rare materials (like yttrium and lanthanum) needed to create them, this puts a strain on the environment. There's also the issue of unethical labor practices as well, which is bad for the environment (and society) in a much different way, like the conditions ABC reported on a few years ago after a visit to an Apple supply plant in China.

Fairphone is looking to revolutionize the way smartphones are manufactured, sourced, and even "upgraded" since we have such an issue when it comes to doing so now. If that sounds like the kind of tech you're interested in backing or just want to get away from the heavy hitters of the phone industry, you can pre-order the Fairphone 3 now for around $500 (€450).

The units are set to begin shipping in September. Additionally, you can trade in your old phone to the company (presumably to recycle) and get a small amount of cash back on your environmentally-conscious purchase. It's already an enticing deal, but shaving some cash off really does sweeten things.