Sustainable smartphone maker Fairphone has announced a new subscription service offering its latest phone, the Fairphone 4, for just €21 per month. Fairphone Easy is currently only available to customers in the company’s home market, the Netherlands, who can rent the phone for between 3 and 60 months, but Fairphone spokesperson Ioiana Luncheon says the service could be expanded to more countries in Europe by 2023, depending on the results of this first pilot.
The subscription service is the sustainable manufacturer’s latest effort to reduce the environmental impact of smartphone production, and it’s designed to encourage users to hold onto their existing phones for as long as possible. The monthly cost includes free repairs (Fairphone says you’ll get a replacement phone within 48 hours if needed), and there are also discounts that take effect for each year you manage to go. without needed to fix it. After the first year, customers receive a monthly discount of €2, after two years €4 and after three years €8.
While the structure of the plan bears a superficial resemblance to paying for a phone for financing or when bundled with a phone contract, there are a few crucial differences. First, you don’t actually own the phone, even at the end of your subscription period. Instead, you must return it to the company so it can be reused or recycled. And there is no included network contract – customers must provide their own SIM card. There is also a €90 deposit that you must pay when you first sign up for a subscription.
Based on the minimum price of €21 per month, and using some rough math, it seems to take just under three years to pay as much subscription fee as it would if you pre-purchased the Fairphone 4 (the 8GB RAM / 256GB storage model that comes with the subscription costs $649). That assumes you never have to fix it and thus take advantage of the discounted rates in years two and three. But if you to do needs to be repaired, the subscription service may make sense over an even longer period of use.
Fairphone Easy is a little more restrictive than traditional phone financing options, but the company’s sharp focus on sustainability often leads to these kinds of trade-offs. For more details on the Fairphone 4, check out my review from last year.