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Fairphone ends support for first phone, cites discontinued parts as culprit

Fairphone, the company responsible for building modular, user-repairable smartphones with an eye on ethical production and consumption, has announced it is retiring support for its first phone.

The original Fairphone was launched in 2013, and the firm followed up with a second-generation device in late 2015. While it was the company’s objective to sell and support its products for as long as possible, it has encountered difficulties sourcing the same parts over the years.

A dwindling supply of batteries was one of the primary concerns, according to Fairphone CEO Bas Van Abel, who related the news in a post on the company’s blog.

“We’ve worked continuously to find new suppliers and convince them to keep making the parts,” Van Abel said. “For example, we’ve worked with two different manufacturers to try to keep batteries in stock. 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.”

Ordinarily, suppliers and hardware manufacturers can discontinue components on almost a yearly basis. The pace of advance in the mobile industry is so quick that there’s little risk in ceasing production of last year’s silicon when next year’s phones are on the horizon.

Unfortunately for Fairphone, that cycle appears to have made it incredibly difficult to keep a reserve of parts accessible to customers. The company founded to counteract the waste and disposability of modern technology has become a victim of those very circumstances.

Disappointing as the situation may be, Van Abel has stressed that Fairphone has taken the lesson in stride. The Fairphone 2 was built in a more versatile fashion, to accommodate new parts once the originals are inevitably discontinued. And the company encourages those who have held onto their first-generation devices to keep them up and running for as long as possible, with the help of maintenance tips it has shared via email.

Earlier in the year, Android version 6.0 Marshmallow was released for the Fairphone 2. The device originally launched with Lollipop, so the update went a long way in ensuring the second-gen model will last an extra few years. At Mobile World Congress in February, Fairphone announced it had sold 70,000 spare parts to date, and that customers had a 95-percent success rate performing DIY fixes.

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