European sustainable smartphone brand Fairphone is dipping a toe in the US market by making its flagship repairable handset available to buy there for the first time via another collaboration with e/OS, a French privacy-focused not-for-profit open source OS maker that offers a “deGoogled” mobile operating system.
The Dutch ethical electronics social enterprise remains focused on selling modular kit in its home region. But announcing a pilot to sell one of its smartphone models in the US today — namely the Murena Fairphone 4 with /e/OS — it said it’s keen to learn more about the market where it’s seen some interest in its devices.
The Fairphone 4 was first released in Europe back in September 2021. And while, at a glance, it can look like a pretty typical (slightly chunky) Android smartphone its superpower is that it’s modular by design — meaning it’s repairable and upgradeable without the need to buy a whole new handset.
Commenting on the pilot in a statement, outgoing CEO Eva Gouwens said: “We know based on feedback we have received that there are many people interested in Fairphone in the US. However, currently our main focus is on the European market. This collaboration with e/OS/ is a great opportunity for us to pilot selling devices in the US market with a long-standing partner and learn more about the American market.”
Fairphone’s mission is all about boosting device longevity to shrink environmental impact, rather than monetizing obsolescence to keep consumers buying more new stuff. It is also very focused on fairness around working conditions — hence the ethical aspect — requiring its manufacturing partners to commit to a living wage program, for instance.
The Fairphone 4 typically runs Google’s Android OS — the handset model ran Android 11 out-of-the-box at launch — but the version of the flagship 5G smartphone that’s been made available to US buyers is entirely deGoogled. (e/OS is a fork of Android that’s stripped of proprietary Google services in a bid to lock down user privacy.)
Gaël Duval, Murena CEO and /e/OS founder, said the not-for-profit it excited to offer Fairphone’s device to the US market. “We are excited to bring high-quality sustainable phones with advanced privacy features to the USA. With the inclusion of our pro-privacy operating system /e/OS, we are proud to offer users a device that not only lasts longer but also protects people’s personal data. At Murena, we are convinced that this is the perfect combination for a more ethical phone,” he said in a statement.
Local pricing for the Fairphone 4 on the Murena online shop is listed as between $629.90 and $699.90 (shipping within a week) — although Fairphone’s RRP are set a little lower: $599 for the 6GB/128GB version and $679 for the 8GB/256GB variant.
Just one wrinkle: It’s only being recommended for use with T-Mobile and MVNOs based on the T-Mobile network in the US, with the pair warning that using Fairphone 4 with other US carriers is “not recommended”.
It will be interesting to see how much US interest there is in an iPhone and (Google) Android alternative that packs sustainable and ethical smarts.
While Apple has been dipping a toe into repairability — likely with an eye on ‘right to repair’ regulations coming down the pipe — its hermetically sealed devices typically score terribly for repairability. Whereas Fairphone’s modular-by-design kit, with screwdriver included, is the unrivalled king of the hill on this front.