Kagoo recently started supporting smartphones on the site, offering comprehensive details on a whole range of quality smartphones. You can browse all the latest Smartphones in our Smartphone Hub & view the best deals on our Smartphone Deals Page. To celebrate their arrival, we’re looking in depth at smartphone features - today we’re looking closer at sustainable & modular smartphones.
In our previous articles on sustainable smartphone design, we looked at the problems of modern smartphone construction, including the materials used, the pollution generated, and the carbon footprint created by every part of the process. While there are measures in place to use more sustainable materials and reduce the carbon footprint from factories, there is another pressing problem: the waste created from discarded/broken smartphones.
Currently most people view smartphones as ‘black boxes’ - complicated devices that will occasionally break for a variety of obtuse reasons. When that happens, the choice is either to return them to the manufacturer for repair (an expensive and time-consuming process) or junk the entire device and buy a new one. Unfortunately such a mindset leads to an enormous amount of waste, where the failure of a single small element is enough to condemn the whole phone. It’s expensive, needless and bad for the environment.
How Can We Fix The Massive E-Waste Problem?
One solution is an alternate type of smartphone: ‘modular’ phones - these are smartphones designed so that individual elements can be easily removed, repaired and replaced. This has numerous benefits for consumers:
Allowing you to repair broken elements (i.e - camera, screen, battery) individually, rather than paying for the whole phone to be repaired - this significantly reduces the overall cost of maintaining the smartphone.
Allowing parts of the phone to be upgraded (i.e - swapping in a more powerful battery), improving performance and reducing the need for a full phone upgrade.
Allowing for multiple different modules to be swapped into the phone as required (i.e - different camera modules with unique capabilities, or a less powerful but slimline battery)
Not only do modular phones allow your current phone to last longer, but it helps ease the wastage caused by disposing of a perfectly good smartphone and means that resources don’t have to be consumed building a new one. Sounds like a good deal to me!
Existing Modular Phones
Unfortunately despite the positives, there aren’t that many modular phones currently on the market. Most manufacturers are fully committed to the standard model, and are unwilling to take the chances by dramatically overhauling their smartphone design. The most prominent is the Dutch company ‘Fairphone’, who have made a number of successful modular smartphones, including the award-winning ‘Fairphone 3+’. Their philosophy is simple - to design the most sustainable smartphone ever. That means that the largest majority of the components are user-servicable, and can be swapped out and replaced - they sell a number of spare parts on their website. They are the only smartphone in the world to be given a full 10/10 score for repairability on iFixit, and they cement their reputation by only using responsibly-sourced components and green energy to construct their phones.
While it’s true that the Fairphone isn’t as powerful as other Android smartphones on the market, they are determined to bring about change and improve the ecological impact of smartphones. If that’s something you believe in, then check out the Fairphone 3+ on Kagoo for the latest deals and best prices!
Outside of the Fairphone, there are only a handful of other alternatives. The German ‘Shiftphones’ also make a number of different modular phones, but they aren’t as easily user-servicable as Fairphone, and have to be specially imported from the continent. There is also Teracube, who have been making waves recently with their ‘Teracube 2e’, a very sustainable smartphone with a replaceable battery and a massive 4-year warranty. While not as modular as the Fairphone, it still follows the same philosophy - the need for a phone that isn’t just a disposable gadget, and can be serviced and repaired rather than being thrown away.
The technology for modular phones exists right now, but it is still a relatively new field - most manufacturers prefer to play it safe. However the tide is changing - increased concern about the environmental impact of smartphone construction and growing social conscience means more people are exploring more eco-friendly phone options. The recent EU ruling granting a ‘right to repair’ for phones and electricals has given a massive boost to this movement - while change will be slow, it’s possible we may see more mainstream phone makers such as Apple or Samsung embracing modular design and high repairability.
There are already some exciting new products on the horizon. The Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi recently patented a design for a fully modular smartphone with a choice of multiple cameras which could help bring modular smartphones into the mainstream. Finally, in a slightly different area, someone is working on a fully modular laptop, which sounds highly interesting!
While modular smartphones are still a very niche product, they have the potential to become the defacto standard for future phone design. High repairability, easy to upgrade, reduced waste… it’s a model that will help improve the environmental impact of smartphones for future generations. If you want to pitch in, take a look at the Fairphone 3+ and swap to a modular phone today!