Making hardware is hard, and making it sustainable is even harder. European mobile phone maker Fairphone is ending support for its first phone, the Fairphone 1, after the company announced it’s no longer able to afford making spare parts. This means it will no longer sell repair components for the model and will stop developing the software upgrade to Android 4.4.
In a blog post, CEO Bas van Abel wrote that the company has “reached a point where it is no longer possible to keep supporting” its first flagship phone.
“Due to the fast pace of change in the electronics industry, most of the original Fairphone 1 spare parts have now been retired by our suppliers. We’ve worked continuously to find new suppliers and convince them to keep making the parts,” he wrote. “However, after exploring every option within our financial means, the minimum orders required to produce new batches of spare parts is beyond what we can afford.”
The company was launched with sustainability at its roots, focusing on using fair, conflict-free materials, good working conditions, and long product life. Fairphone allows its customers to replace individual parts of the phone if they break, such as camera modules and batteries. The Fairphone 1 was launched in May 2013, and up until July 2017, the company still offered spare parts and software maintenance. (It now only does so for the Fairphone 2, which was released in July 2015.) The company says it wants customers who own a Fairphone 1 to use the phone for as long as they can, offering maintenance tips by email.
Van Abel said that going forward, the company will “generate more working capital” to buy spare parts upfront so they can continue to have spare parts available for customers over the coming years.