Subscriptions are nothing new in the smartphone space. Wireless carriers and phone makers have long offered customers a chance to pay for phones in a series of monthly installments rather than putting down a bunch of cash up front. And many plans also include cheap or free upgrades to newer phones every few years.
Fairphone’s new subscription plan is different. It still lets you pay a small amount every month for a phone rather than paying full price up front. But the goal of the subscription isn’t to provide you with new phones every few years… it’s to get you to keep using the same phone for many years.
The Fairphone Easy subscription is launching first in the Netherlands, where customers can rent a Fairphone 4 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for anywhere from 3 to 60 months (five years).
Price start at €21 per month in the first year(with an initial deposit of €90). But if you keep the phone for a year, the price drops to €19. After another year it goes down to €17. And in the fourth year of your subscription will drop to €13 per month.
The price includes a phone, case, and screen protector but no SIM card: you’ll need to supply your own for the carrier of your choice. It also includes a lifetime warranty that covers repairs and replacement parts. And if your phone breaks down entirely, the company will ship you a new model within 48 hours and collect your broken device for refurbishment or recycling.
Theoretically folks who can afford to pay full price up front and plan to keep the phone for 4 or more years may be able to save money in the long term. Fairphone charges €650 for a Fairphone 4 with similar specs, and that phone comes with a 2-year warranty (and support for up to a 5-year extended warranty). But if you were to rent a phone with the Fairphone Easy plan, you’d end up spending €840 by the end of year four.
If there are advantages to the subscription model, they’re that you don’t need to have a lot of money up front, you get extended warranty for the duration of your subscription, and if and when you stop paying, Fairphone is committed to responsibly refurbishing or recycling the phone to cut down on electronic waste.
That’s in keeping with Fairphone’s entire business model, which is to provide sustainable devices made from ethically-sourced materials. The company notes that the vast majority of CO2 emissions associated with smartphones come from manufacturing process, so the best way to cut down on emissions from phones is to get people to hold onto their phones for longer.
With that in mind, the company already focuses on repairability, long-term support, (and occasionally upgradeability) in its devices. And while the Fairphone Easy subscription plan might not be the cheapest way to get a Fairphone, it’s certainly designed to convince customers to hold onto their phones for 3+ years.
At this point there’s no word on if or when the subscription will be available outside of the Netherlands though.