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Not currently on display at the V&A

Fairphone

Mobile Telephone
2013 (manufactured)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Fairphone is a smartphone with 110 mm (4.3 inch) screen, measured across the diagonal, with replaceable battery, two sim card slots and front and rear facing cameras. The smartphone itself is a mid-range device, with an open-source Android operating system with user interface by Kwamecorp. It is based on a design licensed from Chinese manufacturer A’Hong, and is the first smartphone to be manufactured with a view to making the industry fairer and more sustainable.

Beginning as a campaign in 2010 by designer Bas van Abel, Fairphone was founded initially as a non-profit advocacy group to raise awareness of the relationship between conflict minerals and electronic goods. Smartphones use up to 60 different minerals in their manufacture, including tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold which are often extracted from ore mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rich in natural resources, raw materials are this country’s largest export, 50% of which go to China where the majority of smartphone parts are made. The DRC is politically unstable with ongoing civil war and endemic corruption which has led to many mines being controlled by armed groups.

The route to Fairphone becoming a real product started in 2012, when the company’s application for support was accepted by Bethnal Green Ventures, an accelerator for tech startups with a social and environmental conscience. Bethnal Green Ventures provided £15,000 investment and access to successful engineers and entrepreneurs in the technology sector. To make their ambition a reality, however, Fairphone had to raise full manufacturing funding through an online campaign. 5000 backers were asked to pay €325 for a phone before a manufacturer was even approached. Despite never having produced a phone before, through extensive media campaigning Fairphone reached the required 5000 on 5 June 2013. They then began to approach several manufacturers in China before being accepted by GuoHong (a subsidiary of A’Hong), who agreed to an order of 25,000 taking the funds raised for 5000 as down payment for the larger consignment.

This first production run sold out by November 2013, with a second batch of 35,000 phones produced and released on 21 May 2014. These were sold out by January 2015.

On 4 November 2014, Van Abel blogged about his ambitions for the next Fairphone model, which would be fully designed in-house1. It would be one of the first smartphones on the market with modular components, so that if any parts failed they could be individually replaced by the consumer. Shipping of the first 15,000 Fairphone 2s has been set for November 2015, following the same crowdfunding goal as the first.

One Fairphone was displayed in a case in the Silver gallery as part of the the Civic Objects distributed display of the 2015 exhibition All of This Belongs to You. It highlighted the lack of general understanding regarding the provenance of materials for consumer objects owned by almost every visitor to the museum.

The Fairphone is also part of our growing collection of objects representing new, ethical approaches to the manufacture and distribution of electronics, alongside the One Laptop Per Child, Aakash tablet and Mwanga Bora lantern, Rare Earthenware vases from Unknown Fields Division and the Toaster Project from Thomas Thwaites.

1Van Abel, B. (2014, November 4). Next chapter in Fairphone's strategy: Outlook for 2015 | Fairphone. Retrieved September 7, 2015.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 11 parts.

  • Mobile Telephone
  • Packaging
  • User Guide
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
  • Postcard
Materials and Techniques
Tin soldering paste, tantulam capacitors, tungsten used in vibration motor, gold printed circuit board
Brief Description
Fairphone Android mobile telephone with packaging and ephemera, Fairphone, China, 2013
Physical Description
Android mobile telephone by Fairphone, in box with userguide and 7 postcards.
Dimensions
  • Cd.3 1 2015 height: 12.6cm
  • Cd.3 1 2015 width: 6.4cm
  • Cd.3 1 2015 depth: 1cm
Credit line
Given by Fairphone
Summary
The Fairphone is a smartphone with 110 mm (4.3 inch) screen, measured across the diagonal, with replaceable battery, two sim card slots and front and rear facing cameras. The smartphone itself is a mid-range device, with an open-source Android operating system with user interface by Kwamecorp. It is based on a design licensed from Chinese manufacturer A’Hong, and is the first smartphone to be manufactured with a view to making the industry fairer and more sustainable.



Beginning as a campaign in 2010 by designer Bas van Abel, Fairphone was founded initially as a non-profit advocacy group to raise awareness of the relationship between conflict minerals and electronic goods. Smartphones use up to 60 different minerals in their manufacture, including tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold which are often extracted from ore mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rich in natural resources, raw materials are this country’s largest export, 50% of which go to China where the majority of smartphone parts are made. The DRC is politically unstable with ongoing civil war and endemic corruption which has led to many mines being controlled by armed groups.



The route to Fairphone becoming a real product started in 2012, when the company’s application for support was accepted by Bethnal Green Ventures, an accelerator for tech startups with a social and environmental conscience. Bethnal Green Ventures provided £15,000 investment and access to successful engineers and entrepreneurs in the technology sector. To make their ambition a reality, however, Fairphone had to raise full manufacturing funding through an online campaign. 5000 backers were asked to pay €325 for a phone before a manufacturer was even approached. Despite never having produced a phone before, through extensive media campaigning Fairphone reached the required 5000 on 5 June 2013. They then began to approach several manufacturers in China before being accepted by GuoHong (a subsidiary of A’Hong), who agreed to an order of 25,000 taking the funds raised for 5000 as down payment for the larger consignment.



This first production run sold out by November 2013, with a second batch of 35,000 phones produced and released on 21 May 2014. These were sold out by January 2015.



On 4 November 2014, Van Abel blogged about his ambitions for the next Fairphone model, which would be fully designed in-house1. It would be one of the first smartphones on the market with modular components, so that if any parts failed they could be individually replaced by the consumer. Shipping of the first 15,000 Fairphone 2s has been set for November 2015, following the same crowdfunding goal as the first.



One Fairphone was displayed in a case in the Silver gallery as part of the the Civic Objects distributed display of the 2015 exhibition All of This Belongs to You. It highlighted the lack of general understanding regarding the provenance of materials for consumer objects owned by almost every visitor to the museum.



The Fairphone is also part of our growing collection of objects representing new, ethical approaches to the manufacture and distribution of electronics, alongside the One Laptop Per Child, Aakash tablet and Mwanga Bora lantern, Rare Earthenware vases from Unknown Fields Division and the Toaster Project from Thomas Thwaites.



1Van Abel, B. (2014, November 4). Next chapter in Fairphone's strategy: Outlook for 2015 | Fairphone. Retrieved September 7, 2015.



Collection
Accession Number
CD.3-2015

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record createdDecember 2, 2014
Record URL