Sustainable smartphone manufacturer Fairphone has announced a new subscription service that offers its latest phone, the Fairphone 4, for as little as €21 a month. Fairphone Easy is only available for customers in the company’s home market of the Netherlands for now, who’ll be able to rent the phone for anywhere between 3 and 60 months, but Fairphone spokesperson Ioiana Luncheon says the service could be expanded to more countries in Europe in 2023 depending on the results of this initial pilot.
The subscription service is the sustainable manufacturer’s latest attempt to cut down on the environmental impact of smartphone production, and it’s designed to encourage users to hold onto their existing phones for as long as possible. The monthly cost includes free repairs (Fairphone says it’ll get a replacement phone to you within 48 hours when required), and there are also discounts that kick in for each year you manage to go without needing to repair it. After the first year customers get a €2 monthly discount, €4 after two years, and €8 after three.
We’re happy to announce our next steps in raising the bar for longevity: #Fairphone Easy! The sustainable smartphone for a monthly fee. Free repairs, maintenance and a 48 hour swap service. Available in the Netherlands for now…but watch this space! https://t.co/Z6dO7AwCQm pic.twitter.com/Md9WsCcS3V— Fairphone (@Fairphone) June 15, 2022
Although the subscription’s structure bears a superficial similarity to paying for a phone on finance or when bundled with a phone contract, there are a couple of crucial differences. First, you don’t actually own the phone, even at the end of your subscription period. Instead, you’ll have to send it back to the company for it to be reused or recycled. And there’s no included network contract — customers need to supply their own SIM card. There’s also a €90 deposit payable when you first take out a subscription.
Based on the minimum €21 per month pricing, and using some rough back-of-the-napkin math, it looks like it’d take a little under three years to pay as much in subscription fees as you would buying the Fairphone 4 upfront (the 8GB RAM / 256GB storage model provided with the subscription retails for €649). That’s assuming you never need to repair it, and hence benefit from the discounted rates in years two and three. But if you do need to repair it, then the subscription service could make sense over an even longer period of usage.
Fairphone Easy is a little more restrictive than traditional phone financing options, but the company’s laser focus on sustainability often leads to these kinds of trade-offs. For more details on the Fairphone 4, check out my review from last year.