I’ve been an iPhone user for years. I think that of the big American corporations that make technology for consumers, there is probably none better for privacy and supply chain ethics than Apple. However, Apple is still a giant publicly traded corporation that cares about its profits for its shareholders above all else. That’s the nature of the beast.
Based out of the Netherlands, the Fairphone people have a phone that meets the ethical supply chain requirements. They also make the phone in such a way that it is easily repairable (and in some cases upgradable). The operating system is either Fairphone OS, which is essentially just Android, which bleeds personal information to Google, or Fairphone Open, which is stripped of many, if not all, of Google’s hooks.
The reason on why I don’t have a Fairphone right now, is because all of their models have come with cellular modems that don’t speak the frequencies of American cell phone carriers. The newly announced Fairphone 3 does have support for a single T-Mobile LTE band, but I’m hesitant to go through the trouble of getting a European phone to myself just to find out that it will barely work where I am.
Edward Ongweso Jr. has a short write up for Motherboard: The Fairphone 3 Is a More Powerful, Sustainable, Repairable Smartphone.
iFixIt’s Kevin Purdy has a longer write up that specifically addresses the Fairphone’s interoperability issues with American cellular carriers: The Fairphone 3 Is Here, and It’s Not the Only Sustainable Phone On the Way. In it he mentions Shift, which is from a German company and also appears to not have cellular compatibility with North American carriers, and Teracube, which is an as-of-yet non-existent product that is a bit light on the details about supply chain ethics and the software that will run on the device.
One not on the list that is about to come onto market is Purism’s Librem 5. It’s another crack at bringing a Linux based phone to market. Others who have tried and failed, have made me a bit of a pessimist about the success of this product, which I hope I’m wrong about. The Purism people make computers that have hardware kill switches for different components, which is an amazing thing to have for the privacy minded (which should be all of us), and this phone will have them as well. This phone is currently at the top of the list of phones that I would be interested in buying, however, it’s a phone that hasn’t been tried in the wild for me to read reviews on, and there is no real foundation of software for it. The things that I do with my iPhone currently are pretty basic, so it’s possible that the Librem 5 will meet my requirements right out of the box, but it is also possible that it’ll miss something important.
All said and done, I’m looking forward to having a phone where there are less hooks by organizations in them and that it passes the responsibility for more of the device back to the end user - me.