Fairphone lessons

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Fri May 17 13:39:48 UTC 2019

On Friday 17. May 2019 12.19.36 Johannes Zarl-Zierl wrote:
> While I think that warranties for electronics could and should be longer, I
> think the comparison to household appliances is unfair.
> Mobile phones may undergo less physical stress than washing mashines in
> absolute terms, but operate withing much tighter tolerances. In other words,
> there are plenty of places on my washing machine where hitting it with a
> hammer would do minimal damage. The same is not true for a mobile phone,
> and simply cannot be true due to physical constraints...

It is true that washing machines can be overengineered by a greater margin and 
not change the nature of the product. However, they are still susceptible to 
failure through improper use, lack of maintenance and care, and so on. One 
might also argue that the economics do not favour their repair, either, and 
that many people would simply replace a failing appliance than spend 
comparable amounts on repairing it.

However, what led to the dispute about warranties was the continual refusal of 
manufacturers (particularly Nokia if I recall correctly) to honour warranties 
because of moisture damage supposedly due to improper use. This raises genuine 
questions about what conditions such products should be reasonably be operated 
under, alongside issues of appropriate design and manufacturer responsibility.

I don't think it is unreasonable for people to expect their phones to last at 
least five years. The argument that phones get better all the time and that 
people "need" to upgrade constantly is even weaker now than it was, partly 
because (like with other products) the customer discovers that what they have 
already is "good enough", that upgrading delivers fewer new benefits than the 
last upgrade did, and partly because the upgrade treadmill was shamefully 
exploited with personal computers and that this is just another outing for it.


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