In April, the flagship product launches of mainstream mobile phone manufacturers have also come to an end. Each product has its own characteristics. The same is that most of them are relatively compact in structure, difficult to disassemble, and also have a certain degree of dust and water resistance.
With the development of smart phones nowadays, integration and precision have become the default development direction of the whole industry, but this also makes a lot of the fun of playing with the machine disappear.
When I was in high school, I would inevitably charge several batteries when I went out. The battery level of my phone went from 0% to 100% with a single tap. There was almost no battery anxiety.
Today, when the battery cannot be removed, fast charging only slightly reduces the power anxiety, and the fun of removing the battery is no longer there.
However, there is still such a maverick mobile phone company in the industry, Fairphone, which can not only disassemble the battery, but also replace the back cover and lens module, allowing you to replace parts and assemble mobile phones like Lego bricks.
With the fierce competition of smart phones and the more mature development today, it is not easy for them to continue to survive.
Assemble the phone like Lego
Fairphone is a mobile phone company founded in 2013. At that time, it was the golden age of smart phone development. Various mobile phone brands created and launched products, and smart phones were rapidly popularized due to falling prices.
Compared with other brands' main cost-effectiveness, Fairphone is a bit special. It is mainly used for sustainable use, that is, modular design. According to Fairphone's official website, batteries, lens modules, USB ports, etc. can be replaced.
It is not very expensive to disassemble the back cover of the module. The most expensive 48-megapixel camera module is 59.95 euros.
Seeing the internal structure diagram of this product, it can be seen that it is very simple to disassemble. After opening the phone, most of them are fixed with screws, and the components are relatively easy to disassemble and replace. Firephone is also the first to obtain iFixit repairable points of 10. Points (10/10) mobile phones.
In contrast, the iPhone 12 Pro Max's iFixit repair score is 6 points, and according to Fairphone, most of them choose sustainable materials or corresponding industry chain companies that support sustainable design when manufacturing mobile phones.
Bas van Abel, the founder of Fairphone, once told the media:
We have made such a mobile phone that people can open and replace the parts themselves. If they use it carefully, it can take longer. This also means that they may use it for a long time.
From the current perspective, it seems worthwhile to buy a mobile phone that is easier to repair and has a longer service life. Moreover, the concept of environmental protection and sustainability is becoming more and more supported by consumers. The market research organization Nielsen once issued a report saying , 2/3 of global consumers (including 73% of post-80s and post-90s) expressed their willingness to pay more for sustainable brands.
However, at that stage in 2013, Fairphone was still regarded as a representative of idealization. Mainstream mobile phone manufacturers were occupying the market through low-end products or increasing product power to form a fixed brand recognition, but Fairphone took the initiative to enter the niche market. .
From the comparison between the two parties, it can be seen that the product power of Fairphone is much lower. Although the modular design makes it easier to disassemble, the speed of configuration updates and obsolescence is also much higher.
Take the Fairphone 3+ released last year by Fairphone as an example. Not only does it have no full-screen design, the battery capacity is only 3040mAh, and the processor uses the Snapdragon 632, which has only 4GB of running memory.
And the price of Firephone 3+ is not low. It starts at 439 Euros. Converted to RMB, it is more than 3,000 yuan. Of course, there are also reasons why European mobile phones are more expensive.
Comparing the Mi 10T 5G and Firephone 3+ sold in Europe will be more intuitive. Mi 10T 5G supports 5G, the processor uses the Snapdragon 865, the screen supports 144Hz, and the memory starts at 6GB+128GB, but the price is higher than Firephone 3+. Cheap, priced at 419 euros.
The low price and wide hardware configuration have dissuaded many consumers. To put it bluntly, buy a mid-to-low-end experience mobile phone at the price of a mid-range phone, just to let it be used for a few more years. There are still not many consumers to choose.
Even today, when low-end products have relatively good experiences in daily social networking, e-commerce and other scenarios, most people still tend to buy more cost-effective mobile phones. Fairphone’s first mobile phone was sold through crowdfunding, while the second generation relied on sales revenue and some bank loans to be sold.
The fact that it can live to the present also proves that there are still certain consumers in the niche market, but in fact it does not mean that the modular hardware design can be used all the time by replacing parts, and the mobile phone system will also affect the life cycle.
Continuously upgrade the system to make the phone last longer
I mentioned in the previous article that the life cycle of a mobile phone is not only determined by the hardware, but also by the software. Taking the iPhone as an example, the iPhone 6S is the oldest iPhone supported by iOS 14.
▲ Picture from: CNET
And the software in the App Store also has requirements for the system. For example, "Yuan Shen" is only iOS 9.0 or above, the latest version of WeChat requires iOS 11.0 and above, and the software in the Android App Store also has similar requirements.
If the hardware still supports the operation, the mobile phone does not support system updates, which will make the mobile phone useless. The fact is that because the iPhone uses a self-developed chip and system, the supported system update cycle is longer than that of Android, and Fairphone naturally uses the open source Android system.
This also means that although Fairphpone can continue to replace parts, the system will also limit its use time, without updating the processor and other hardware, it will also limit system updates. Compared with other mobile phones, Fairphone is relatively weak in this regard.
Here is a brief description of the Android update process. Generally speaking, when Google releases it to users, it basically needs to go through chip manufacturers, such as MediaTek and Qualcomm, to add driver support to the system, and then the mobile phone manufacturers will further adapt to the mobile phone. Add drivers for the lens and other hardware and customize the Android system.
In this process, Fairphone plays the role of a mobile phone manufacturer, which means that it is subject to the development progress of Google and Qualcomm. This is why Fairphone claims to be able to be used for a long time, but the mobile phone has been updated to Fairphone 3+ for a total of four generations.
As a commercial organization, chip manufacturers definitely hope to continuously iterate and update and sell more and more chips, so it is impossible to maintain the old chips or add corresponding driver support to the old chips.
The Snapdragon 801 on Fairphone has stopped supporting as early as Android 6, and the Snapdragon 632 used by the latest Fairphone 3+ is only supported until July 2021.
Of course, Fairphone has not thought of a solution during this period. Other open source Android systems are its choice. The open source Android system LineageOS can be used without Qualcomm support.
However, this also caused Fairphone to complete a large number of feasibility tests on its own to meet Google's requirements, and the system update was slow. While most of the mainstream flagship Android phones are using Android 11, the latest Fairphone 3+ uses the Android 10 system.
What makes the Firephone team happy is that Qualcomm and Google recently jointly announced that they will start with Snapdragon 888 and jointly undertake part of the upgrade and adaptation work, so that phones equipped with Qualcomm chips can support 4 years of Android system updates and security updates, and increase the update speed.
This means that it can allow the phone to support the new system longer without the need to replace the main chip, and users can use the Fairphone for a longer time. After all, the most influential software system requirements are often later than the system update cycle.
This is also in line with the current changes in user habits. The use time of a mobile phone is increasing, especially after 5G mobile phone manufacturers have raised prices and hit the high-end trend.
Small and beautiful deserves respect, but it is better for the mainstream to see niche needs
Fairphone is currently mainly sold and operated in Europe. It is claimed to have been in Europe for a long time. It is also a European company, but there may also be different influences on user habits in different regions.
▲ Picture from: androidcommunity
If Fairphone goes on sale in China, sales may not be very good. Fairphone 3+ is not only a low profile and high price, but the product form and performance are far from mainstream mobile phones. It looks like a product from a few years ago. It is also a niche in a niche in Europe.
The vast majority of consumers will not choose such a mobile phone. To some extent, it is going against the commercial development direction of electronic products. The mainstream mobile phone brands are constantly improving performance and developing new technologies in order to create new ones. Different experience points in order to obtain higher sales.
The result is to seek for benevolence and benevolence. Fairphone has indeed become a small and beautiful brand that meets the needs of some users. Personally, I would not buy a mobile phone like fairphone, but it is still worthy of respect and a small screen flagship. Similarly, it is not easy to produce products that can cater to the needs of a small number of users, not to mention that it has been alive until now.
Of course, I hope that mainstream manufacturers will see these hidden corners so that mobile phones can be used for longer.
France’s recent repairable sub-system is also an attempt to tell consumers how difficult it is to repair mobile phones through quantified scores, allowing people to choose mobile phones that are easier to repair and use for a longer period of time, thereby prompting mobile phone manufacturers to adjust their products.
After the French law was introduced, Samsung quickly added a detailed online repair guide to its Galaxy S21 Plus for people's reference.
As the most criticized company, Apple also announced some time ago that it will speed up the IRP (Independent Repair Provider) plan to open up third-party repairs, and spread it to the world as soon as possible, so that third-party repairers can also obtain official Apple parts and simplify the user repair process.
Although the IRP (Independent Repair Provider) program still has a stricter review, it is still a good thing for ordinary consumers to promote it from the United States to the world.
As a sophisticated electronic product, the integration of mobile phones is indeed a development trend, but it is still very important for consumers to repair them more conveniently. This is also in line with the changes in consumer habits, and now mobile phone manufacturers do not rely solely on mobile phone hardware. Services such as profit, application stores, etc. are all ways for them to make money.
In addition, connecting more IoT devices through mobile phones is also one of the development directions of mainstream manufacturers. Mobile phones and IoT products of the same brand will mostly have advantages in connection and interaction, and they can also attract consumers into the brand's hardware ecosystem.
Covering the widest range of user needs, product strength will become stronger and stronger.
The picture of the title comes from: hugtechs
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