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?