Innovation: Ubuntu Edge vs FairPhone

“We’re fighting for free software running on top of hardware that was manufactured by slaves.” – Vinay Gupta at #ohm2013

I have a smartphone, a Samsung Gingerbread device that does its job and allows me to use a mobile phone, check my email, use social networks and take decent pictures on the go (it does much more than that, actually). I have no need for an expensive alternative, so funding the Ubuntu Edge campaign was out of question. The Edge crowdfunding campaign will fail, even though it has been the biggest ever looking at the amount that was raised (but the Pebble campaign had more than twice the funders, and ultimately it was successful),

Is the Edge really driving innovation? My answer is no, quoting Vinay Gupta above. Sorry, Canonical, but I want innovation-that-makes-Earth-a-better-place, not innovation-that-makes-me-more-productive. Innovation for human beings, that is.

I think the Fairhone is a much more interesting project. The campaign shares many characteristics with the Edge, but it has had much less media coverage (because there is no Mark Shuttleworth here). The Fairphone aims at creating a more fair device that respects workers, using conflict-free resources (such as tin and tantalum), reducing the amount of waste in the production process. Interesting points:

  • they needed to reach a certain amount of pre-orders to be able to enter production;
  • they reached their goal and were able to produce 20,000 devices;
  • the final price is 325 €;
  • 13k phones sold so far ‒ more phones than the Edge campaign (see below);
  • you can still buy one, even if you didn’t contribute.

The Edge campaign raised more than 12M $. The actual number of Edge devices “bought” by backers is 5300-ish. A lot of people only donated 20 or 50 $: again, I don’t see the rationale in funding the making of a device that you can’t afford or don’t want to buy.

I didn’t even touch on the topic of Canonical, the Ubuntu community and the free and open source community. Or software at all. My next smartphone is likely going to be a FirefoxOS device. Maybe a Fairphone 3?

Pubblicato da

Stefano Costa

Archaeologist, I study the Late Antique and Early Medieval/Byzantine period on the northern side of the Mediterranean, focusing on pottery usage patterns. I'm also involved in open source and open knowledge communities, like OSGeo, the IOSA project and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

3 pensieri riguardo “Innovation: Ubuntu Edge vs FairPhone”

  1. you get a +100 for your post.
    These Ubuntu people and followers are skyrockingh put loosing contact with ground.
    Buy a phone even without the full specs…

    And it has dual sim & Batteries are removable & replaceable, the Fairphone.

  2. I looked into the Fairphone a while ago. My first impression? That it was basically yet another of these Chinese quad-core Android phones which are really popular on Chinese online device stores these days. I could basically guess the SoC just from looking at the specs in the home page, and when I went seeing them in detail, yep, there was the MTK 6589 chip.

    I own a phone powered by one of these chips and the same amount of RAM and the same screen resolution (with bigger screen dimensions). While it certainly doesn’t have that “fair” thing to it, it came with a charger and headphones, was over 100€ cheaper… but OK, I agree, it isn’t a do-good phone.

    I think the Fairphone and the Ubuntu Edge aren’t comparable projects. The Fairphone basically features the specs of a mid-range phone of the second quarter of 2013, and is available for buying now. The Ubuntu Edge would feature the specs of a high-range phone of the second quarter of 2014.
    The Fairphone is yet another Android 4.2 phone with a custom interface (I wonder how easy it is to get the simple AOSP or Nexus experience with it?), while the Ubuntu Edge would run two different OS, one of which would allow the device to turn into a portable computer with a desktop. And as it’s already implicitly said, one is a “would be” phone (that actually won’t be) with limited production, and the other already exists in physical form.

    The goals of each project were really different, and in my opinion both projects are interesting for different reasons. I don’t think it is a matter of “Ubuntu Edge is doing it wrong vs. Fairphone doing it right”. I think innovation-that-makes-me-more-productive in some way also makes Earth a better place, and is innovation for human beings as well (after all, Ubuntu Edge wasn’t made for droids, was it?).

    With that said, I think it would be great to see a phone that both makes Earth a better place by being “fair”, and at the same time makes us more productive. The problem is with the price tag of such a thing – as I meant to illustrate with the “Fairphone vs. my phone” comparison, being fair comes with a important increase in the price, and great specs to make us more productive also increase the price – as we saw with the Edge. I’m not sure how many people would pre-order a phone with such a high price, instead of buying yet another off-the-shelf Samsung, HTC, Nexus, etc. or the next Chinese knockoff of them, thus ignoring the fairer phone thing.

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