The Fairphone

At the end of 2013 two companies each released a phone designed to shake up the way we think about our mobiles.
The first was the Moto G; the first global phone (the X being US only for now) from the now Google owned Motorola for over a year. This phone was designed and manufactured almost entirely in secret, and somewhat surprised the tech reviewers and cell phone community. The new Motorola/Google company used their years of experience and tech know how to produce a powerful machine designed to undercut every other equivalant machine (it costs just £170.00 at release for the 16gb version); and indeed Motorola's aim was to produce a phone as good as a Iphone at less than 1/3 the cost. And if you read any reviews about this device, they would tell you succeeded. The other, unspoken reason for the cheap, but definitely cheerful Moto G was to restablish Motorola as a global mobile brand name after a hiatus of several years.
The other phone was the Fairphone, or FP1. This was produced by a dozen or so individual based in the Netherlands whose idea was to try an produce a "fair" smartphone. They wanted to produce a smartphone that "puts ethical considerations first," and makes consumers think about, "the social and environmental impacts of the electronics they purchase." They stated early on that producing a true Fairtrade phone would be impossible. However, they have used conflict free or recycled materials where ever possible. Their blog covers every detail of the phones design and manufacture. The phone funding was crowdsourced in May/June 2013 and financial measures are in place to use the money from the Fairphone to improve the livelihoods of those on the ground who actually made it, and to fund safe mobile phone recycling.
Because I signed up for the FP1, but my phone  (Samsung Galaxy S2)died at a crucial moment in my life, I also have the G, this FP1 review is going to be compared to the G, currently the best phone in its class (according to multiple internet reviews). For the record, this is about the 7th smart phone I have owned in 10 years, but I have never had an Iphone. They hall been Symbians or Androids. I have worked, using an Android phone, in a remote area of Malawi, so I have experience of what I would want from a smartphone in that environment as well as Europe. I have been using the FP1 now for nearly a week. I am going to let you look of the tech specs yourself, as this is going to be about how I, as a user/consumer, have found this phone.
Setup
So, you get the box. To save money, both companies have kept it quite spartan, but the FP1 comes in what appears to be recycled cardboard, but it is study. Neither box comes with a charger (unless preordered with the FP1) or headphones. The FP1 is shorter and thinner than the G (explained by the smaller screen on the FP1), but neither phone can be said to be anorexic, like the SGS2. My wife, a fariphone sceptic, picked it up and said, "its not a brick. I was expecting it to be a brick." My mum, a traditional consumer, said, "it feels quite sturdy. My [SGS4] mini feels flimsy like it might break. This doesn't." She has subsequently signed up for  update for the second round of FP1 production. It is heavy, but in reality it is on par with the G.
I have to say, it looks smart, even premium. And the protective back cover does not detract from that.
Turning on and initiating the FP1 has, apparently been tricky for some, but I had no problems. The opening screen gives a brief  overview of the phones heritage before directing you towards a normal Android setup routine. After establishing wifi access and your preferred language things begin to differ. The FP team, likely aware that some of it's supporters were getting uptight about frequent delays, released the phone without a true Google licence. So you are guided to a widget which automatically downloads google search, gmail and a few other apps. Then the rest of the install takes place. For me, this ran without a hitch.
Screen
The Moto G has about 360ppi. The FP1 closer to 290. To be frank, you will struggle to tell the difference. Both are noticeably better than the SGS2. The G has a slightly larger screen, which might be an issue if you play games/watch movies, but two factors nullify this difference. The home "buttons" for the G are on screen, where as the FP1 has offscreen haptic buttons, and the google search bar is across the top of all 5 of the home screens on the G, whereas FP1 lets you set up the home screens as you like. So for regular use, 4.3" is plenty.
What is a slight issue though, is that the G has a much more sensitive screen. The FP1 screen is less sensitive. This may be because the manufacture is designed to make it more easily replaceable, with the glass separate from the touch screen. For the sake of durability, this is an impediment I am happy to live with.
Software
Part of the design remit was to make a phone suitable for use in the developing world. So where as the G's minimal application suite require frequent internet access, the FP1 comes with an offline only notebook,  offline to do list, browser, backup app, calculator, calender, camera, music, clock, FM radio, iFixit, Fairphone updater, videoplayer and then a couple of Fairphone widgets. I love the Peace of Mind app. This is essentially a device for putting your phone into flighmode for a fixed period of time (you choose), and is really easy to use. I have set the "yourapps" widget as a home screen more for my own interest rather than for practical use, and so the jury is still out. This app has two columns. One for the most recently used apps (5) and one for most used(6). It is certainly making me think about my social media use (should this really be above the phone and sms icon?). So no complaints, but I would have liked to be able to easily uninstall the notepad and todo list, music and camera apps as I have apps I am already familiar with that I will use for these functions.
The UI/launcher
Intriguingly, FP decided not to go with the basic android launcher, but installed their own on top. It may seem like a minor thing to some, but I am so use to have five fixed icons at the bottom and a 4x4 layout for my own icon I am finding it slightly hard to adapt, although this does increase the amount of space available to each home screen for apps/short cuts/widgets. There is a slide out semicircle that appears by dragging from the very edge on which you keep your most wanted icons (eg phone,sms etc), but this does mean you have to be careful about swiping across home screens. I think it is growing on me, but if it becomes too much it should be simple enough to install GO launcher or equivalent to setup a more familiar feeling home screen.
Another thing I do like is that the background changes colour as the battery fades. A nice touch.
Battery
It has a 2000mAmh battery, about the same as the G. The battery life is amazing compared to the SGS2 and on par with the G. It might even be slightly better. To give you an example, I unplug my phone at about 7am. I cycle to  and from work using Endomondo (a fitness/GPS app) - a hour in total. I work in a concrete building with reasonable 3G reception overall, but frequent mobile black spots dotted around which I find drain my battery (which ever phone) quickly if I spend too much time in them. I have it set up to check email frequently, use it for browsing, a reference book, and note taking. I have always had more than 50%by the time I leave work at 17:30, which is comparable to the G, and much better than the SGS2, which is often nearly fully drained at this point. I am impressed, and the main reason I hope this gets upgraded to Android 4.4 soon is so this is further improved. I often don't get home to midnight so spare batteries would be useful, but not yet essential.
Camera
I confess I haven't used this much. I haven't noticed any problems with the few I have taken. I would use a phone camera for sporadic/spontaneous moments where capturing the memory is more important that the image quality, so I am not the best to comment on this at the moment. Certainly no problems with redness noted.
Sound/music
The sound output is good and clear. The speaker is very loud. Again, with respect to music, I am not expecting premium sound quality, but with a decent set of headphones I would be happy to listen to music through this. Definitely on par with the Moto G.
GPS
This has been a worry for a lot f people due to the Mediatek SoC. I woul strongly advise following the advice on the forums about optimising GPS. The initial location pick up did take awhile (perhaps 15 minutes), but that was in a stone walled building. Outside the pick up is around 15-20 seconds. Overall I have found it compares with the SE Xperia X10 i had many years back: it does get a pick up, but it can sometimes take a while. However, the Moto G also has Glosnass, and GPS pickup is very, very quick.
Misc
FP have been very quiet about two other features. The first is the multicolour LED notification light, often not found on mid to lower end phones, and some find very useful.
The second, which I think they should shout about is called "scheduled power on and off." Why is this important? It sets a time for turning the phone off (not standby, but off) and for turning it back on again. I have never seen a feature to schedule a phone off, but more importantly, turning the phone on from off has been missing from Android phones forever. This means not having the phone on overnight using unnecessary power downloading email/social media updates, which you won't read until you wake anyway.
Summary
The phone is everything I expected an more. A professional device that holds its own against its class competitors. It's weight and comparatively poor GPS means I won't be using it for running as an MP3 (the G gets this duty), but its design. look and feel mean that it is more than acceptable for day to day use.
Conclusion
I started this by comparing two companies very different outlooks on phone manufacture and design. Whether or not the G brings Motorola back into the public awareness as a premium phone manufacturer will require more time.
However, since the Fairphone project started, the world has changed, and I would like to think that Fairphone has been an influence. Employees in factories in the Far East are getting better paid and more rights (60 hour working week restriction - woohoo!). The awareness of conflict materials is increasing and regulations are tightening. Perhaps the greatest change so far is that Intel are starting to make conflict free processors.
Have they met their objectives? They have excelled.
 

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