Counterpoint Conversations: Fairphone Leading the Charge in Sustainable Smartphones

Although smartphones have become an indispensable tool for many, the environmental impact of these devices has also emerged as a growing concern. To address these concerns, smartphone makers are moving towards sustainable practices like using recycled materials, removing charging bricks from the box, and even making these devices easier to repair. The Fairphone 5 from Dutch smartphone maker Fairphone is the world’s most sustainable smartphone, thanks to its focus on ease of repairability and longevity. At MWC 2024, Jan Stryjak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, sat down with Monique Lempers, Fairphone’s Chief Impact Officer, to discuss the company’s mission and how it stays ahead of the curve in the sustainable smartphone space.

The interview

Key takeaways from the discussion:

Focus on sustainability and reducing e-waste:

• Fairphone is committed to focusing on real innovation and tackling e-waste.
• E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream globally.
• The Fairphone 5 is the most sustainable and circular smartphone on the market.
• The Fairphone 5 is designed to last longer, be easily repaired and reduce CO2 footprint and waste.

Fairphone vs competition:

• Fairphone started as an awareness campaign to inspire the industry.
• Eventually, it evolved into a company offering scalable solutions.
• Fairphone focuses on product longevity compared to the competition which focuses on recycled materials and the traditional sales-driven model.

Longevity beyond hardware:

• The Fairphone 5 comes with 10-year software support.
• Fairphone chooses components like chipsets that will also be used for IoT products, thus ensuring they come with broader software support.

Analyst takeaways:

• Fairphone is undoubtedly the most sustainable smartphone company in the world. As a pioneer of smartphone circularity, it sets the benchmark against which other manufacturers should be compared. In an ideal world, all smartphones would be made the Fairphone way.
• But this is easier said than done. It is one thing to create a sustainable smartphone when you are selling a few hundred thousand of them a year. It is entirely another thing to replicate when you have hundreds of models in your portfolio and sell hundreds of millions of phones a year.
• Nevertheless, consumers are becoming increasingly aware and concerned about the environmental impact of smartphones, so sustainability among smartphone OEMs will become more and more important. By blazing the sustainability trail and showing others what can be achieved, Fairphone can influence larger players, such as Samsung and Apple, and especially most Chinese OEMs who are sustainability laggards, to up their game and move the industry in a fairer direction.

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