Recommend me a labor-friendly phone
March 13, 2017 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Are there any phones on the market today that weren't made through exploiting workers in 3rd world countries?

I like Apple products but am super concerned about their business practices. Any smartphone will do. An ideal make would be big enough to write in easily - I like to use my phone as a calendar for scheduling and for taking notes and so on. Thanks!
posted by benadryl to Technology (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have bad news for you. All phones use rare earth minerals, and mining conditions are terrible for both miners and the environment.
posted by AFABulous at 10:17 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Nope. The Moto X was assembled in Texas around 2013-2014 (with foreign made parts) but no longer. If you're looking for a more neutral option, try a used/refurbished phone.
posted by acidic at 10:20 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

This company is having a bash at it
posted by runincircles at 10:25 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

You might look into Fairphone. Note that they only ship within Europe.
posted by mama casserole at 10:26 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

The Fairphone is purported to be better, but they're not easy to actually buy, especially in the US.
posted by cnc at 10:30 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

This is crazy! I just read that the cost of making an iPhone is 10 dollars. Apple squeezes Foxconn, the manufacturer in China, for every last penny - that is partly why Foxconn squeezes the workers so badly. Minimum wage is frozen and they are trying to make more with less. Less than 2% of the price is paying workers and they are working like 12 hours a day over there! 14% of the profit goes to Foxconn. And then 60% of the profit goes to Apple! Nuts.

Also apparently those cool features and new versions they announce at the last moment are part of why the workers are suffering! They boost sales but everyone has to work at the same wages but more hours to get them done. Ugh.

Thanks and sorry for the editorial - will check out Fairphone.
posted by benadryl at 10:36 AM on March 13

I admire your passion and commitment to doing better in the world, but I would question your source that says it's $10 to build an iPhone. Not that it's necessarily authoritative, but here's a recent article on the cost of building them. Spoiler: it's more along the lines of 1/3rd of the retail price.
posted by LowellLarson at 11:08 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]

LowellLarson - the article you linked says that component costs are about 1/3 of the price of the phone and manufacturing (which I assume is assembly) is $5. So it's actually worse than benadryl said.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:14 AM on March 13

[Folks, this needs to not turn into free-form chat about bad phone manufacturing practices; if the actual question's basically answered, that's maybe all there is to say.]
posted by cortex at 11:25 AM on March 13

The way that I have dealt with this is to buy used phones. There are enough people out there who just have to have the New Hotness the minute it drops even though their current phone is only 9 months old (or they switch carriers, got a two-for-one deal they didn't need, etc...) that you can get a reasonably up-to-date phone on the secondhand market (Craigslist, let's be real). The old phone is saved from going to e-waste, you're not contributing to demand for new phones (because the people who constantly buy new phones will do so whether they can unload the old one for $100 or not).
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:57 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

Here is Apple's tenth annual Supplier Responsibility Report in which they share "the latest steps we’ve taken to create fair employment and safe working conditions throughout our supply chain." Sections cover Accountability, Labor & Human Rights, Empowering Workers, and Environment, Health & Safety.
posted by fairmettle at 12:40 PM on March 13

I went with the Fairphone 2 via the Coop here in the UK partly for this reason. It's kind of a personal bonus for me that the ethical model spreads all the way down to a free software rebuild of the OS that I find gives me the confidence that I know what this terrifying tracking device full of recording and transmitting equipment is doing most of the time.

One of the charming things they put inside the easy-to-disassemble body of the thing is a map of the DRC with a sort of trace showing the locations of the ethically-sourced tantalum and tin mines they used. I understand they got a good source of conflict-free gold from somewhere else and had that shipped to the factory (where they keep someone on-site to ensure everything is built to their standards).

Of course this is an easier thing to acquire in the EU than the US right now, but I can recommend it as a phone. It's designed to avoid planned obsolescence (you can upgrade individual parts, including the battery, screen, cameras, audio gear, etc), and I hope I manage to keep it maintained for the next several years. My old Nokia 1100 lasted me a full decade!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:26 PM on March 13

Seconding used phones. I've bought my last two phones on Amazon, and they have worked out well. I buy 2 or 3 versions behind the newest, so they tend to be inexpensive as well.
posted by ananci at 7:05 PM on March 13

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