A repairable Fairphone

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This post was first published as a guest post on the Fairphone blog.

Two weeks ago we ran a workshop in the Fairphone Pop-Up Shop as part of London Design Festival. We were invited to create a participatory event built around the latest prototype of the Fairphone, the first smartphone designed and produced with transparency and fairness in mind.

Our organisation promotes a positive change in people’s relationship with electronics: regaining control of the devices we own, by learning to take them apart, troubleshoot them, repair them and prolong their life span. When it comes to mobiles, our motto is that “the most ethical phone is the one you already have,” meaning that we should always try our best to make the most of the devices we have before thinking of upgrading.

It comes as no surprise that we decided to perform a “gentle teardown” of the Fairphone, to investigate whether the ethical direction of the project is also reflected in a design for durability and repairability. Even before dismantling the phone, we already appreciated that the device is Dual SIM, expandable with microSD and with user-replaceable battery. But we wanted to find out more.

Five Restarters took apart the Fairphone, sharing the experience with 15 other participants and a few Fairphone staff members, answering our questions as we made progress. Here is what we found out.

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Smarter Phones or Smarter Citizens?

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Volunteers from The Restart Project take apart a Fairphone prototype to learn about its design and repairability

It looks like it’s business as usual for mobile manufacturers, providers and “enthusiasts”. In the past few days, we have once again witnessed a typical set of events: first of all, new versions of an iconic smartphone get unveiled, followed by an extraordinary round of hype and media attention – like there is no tomorrow, and not other news to write or blog about.

In the meantime, more mobile providers around the world launch new fancy contracts, designed to allow customers to change their mobile as often as they want, so that when they get tired of the latest and the greatest, they can move on and find (temporary) relief in a new gadget.

Unsurprisingly, and yet unsettlingly, we are then shown one more time videos of customers queueing for hours, for days, to be the first to touch and buy the latest smartphone.

However, there is also another world out there, and we are happy to report it is growing steadily: more and more people are getting increasingly frustrated with the throwaway culture endlessly marketed to them.

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September Workshop: Start your own Restart Party!

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You have contacted us from all over the UK and well beyond. Some of you have plenty of repair skills you want to share. Others love the concept and would like to see it happening nearby. We have created a list of initial guidelines to help you run your event, but we know sometimes a friendly get-together can do wonders in supporting a new community activity.

So we’re organising a special one-day event in London on Saturday 14 September to help up to 15 people get started running a Restart Party or community repair event in your town. We’ll have a session on logistics, tools, venues, health & safety – and a Restart Party for you to attend and get stuck in.

If you’d like to get involved, please fill this form as soon as possible – we only have limited availability.

Building a new economy, one repair at a time

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This week the Transition Network‘s Reconomy Project featured us along with 19 other fantastic projects in their newly published report: “The New Economy in 20 Enterprises”.

We were delighted to be selected among such inspiring innovators striving to invent new meaningful local economies: reskilling and creating jobs in our communities, while developing much needed services and products truly respectful of the environment. As the Transition Town movement has been advocating for a long time, achieving real change in our communities also requires creating new livelihoods for people, in food production as well as in transport services, renewable energy and retail.

Where do we fit in this picture? Repair and reuse of small electrical and electronics have been neglected for a long time, replaced by a throw-away culture and often wasteful recycling. In just over a year, with almost no funding and no paid staff members, we have demonstrated that a different approach in not only possible, but it is necessary and a lot of fun too.

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Redesigning the inkjet printer – work in progress

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This week we participated in the first of three workshops organised by the People’s Design Lab. It was an opportunity to learn from others with a background in design about their frustrations with printing. Interestingly, initial conversations revolved around a deeper question: why should we print at all? Why is it that certain airlines and railway companies do not allow for simpler e-ticketing practices? Why do we need to pay a premium at times for an sms-based ticket, which would save ink, paper, paper recycling, etc etc?

When we started to look at options for improving inkjet printers, a key element was participants’ frustration with wasteful ink cartridges: expensive, containing very little ink, too often hard to refill and therefore simply “recycled”. We want to see much more interoperability among cartridges: less wasteful design, less unnecessary chips embedded in cartridges and the adoption of systems such as continuous ink supply in standard consumer printers.

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Let’s rethink and Restart the inkjet printer

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This inkjet printer is still functional, but was open by our volunteers Jack and Ben and is part of the Open Institute’s exhibit The Future of Open in London until July 3

Inkjet printers have been very common at our Restart Parties, since the very beginning. In many occasions, the meticulous work of our wonderful Restarters has helped to clean, repair, defeat planned obsolescence and give a second life to printers that were just about ready to be taken to a recycling centre.

However, we know that fixing broken printers is not enough. This week we are exhibiting a “transparent” open printer as part of the The Future of Open‘s exhibition in London, to help visualise how printers work.

Next week we begin working on rethinking future inkjet printers, particularly how they could be made better, with better durability, ease of maintenance and less wasteful operation.

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Help us scale!

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We need to help mobilise a global network of Restarters, and we need your help to achieve this. We have worked tirelessly alongside our dayjobs and degrees to give life to The Restart Project because we believe it is important and urgent and it simply has to happen.

With your help, we can spread Restart Parties and the spirit of repair across the UK and beyond, and this summer, we need funds to cover our costs while we work on securing sponsorships and grants to gain sustainability.

We need to pay for office supplies, volunteer travel expenses, communication and design costs, travel costs to help jumpstart Restart Parties in cities across the UK.

Please donate to The Restart Project – no amount is too insignificant – we won’t disappoint you!