my previous blog
(Dutch) I gave a detailed analysis of how the Dutch consumer organization
'De Consumentenbond' tests the sustainability of smartphones. My
focus was on the methodology of testing and the presentation of the results.
Here I add a new surprising discovery and a summary of the analysis in my
The smartphone test of De Consumentenbond is a one-dimensional ranking
of 311 smartphones based on a large number of criteria. This results in one top-ranking smartphone: 'The Best in the test'.
The winner is the iPhone. Most criteria they use have to do with technical performance and features such as camera, screen, sound, battery longevity, etc. Each property contributes with a fixed percentage to the total score (100%). The sustainability
filter was introduced only this year on the website in tests of smartphones. Sustainability is defined by properties such as conflict minerals, child labour , durability, etc. These properties (if known) are listed for each phone and are given either a quantitative (if possible) or a qualitative value. Surprisingly, sustainability is not included in the ranking of
the phones (0%). (see my previous blog). The result is that the 'Best of the test' is not (automatically) the most sustainable smartphone. In fact 'The Best of the Test' can by definition never be the most sustainable, because sustainability contributes only for a small percentage (if not zero!) to the total score. That is how 'De Consumentenbond' defines the total score. It is good to realize that this is a choice, not a test result.
Confusingly, as it happens, the iPhone got a 9.3 and the Fairphone got a 8.4 for Sustainability . A counter-intuitive result. If true, than what was the point of bringing Fairphone to the market if all smartphones were already sustainably produced? It would be economic suicide for a start-up. This result is mind-blowing. It is contrary to what is generally accepted in the smartphone community, namely that the Fairphone is the most sustainable smartphone . For example, the company Fairphone is a member of the Fair Cobalt Alliance. Apple is not a member. So, how does De Consumentbond arrive at this conclusion? In my previous blog I noted that a replaceable battery was not included in the Sustainability filter on the website, but it is present as a separate property. Again, this is a choice. Since the iPhone has no replaceable battery, this decision results in the inclusion of the iPhone in the group of sustainable smartphones. How wonderful! If they had chosen to include a 'replaceable battery' in the definition of sustainability, and implement it in the software on the website, than only 4 or 5 smartphones, including Fairphone, but excluding iPhone, would have ended up in the group of sustainable smartphones.
Later I discovered yet another mind-blowing fact: Repairability is not included in the definition of sustainability. Even worse, the whole concept is absent . Again, this is a choice, not a test result. Repairability means that the owner of the phone can replace modules. In the case of Fairphone no less than 11 modules. Clearly, repairability is connected with the modularity of the phone. Repairability and modularity are the most important sustainability features. If the owner can replace modules the phone will last longer. And that is good from a sustainability perspective. It is well-known that Apple has gone to extreme levels to make their phones un-repairable by design by gluing parts together so that the owner of the phone cannot replace them . This is summarized in the discovery of smartphone expert Hugh Jeffreys: 'Astonishing Anti Repair Practices By Apple In the Last 15 Years' . In 2009 Apple introduced the infamous anti-repair Pentalobe screw. On the other hand, it is no secret that Fairphone is the most repairable smartphone on the market . It makes the Fairphone product unique. It is the raison d'être of the company. Doesn't De Consumentenbond know this? They know this, because they published about the Fairphone back in 2016 in their magazine .
It is one of two things: either the testing of smartphones is a work in progress and De Consumentenbond struggles to include 'Sustainability' in a straightforward and consistent way in their tests, or, God forbid it, we see here a bias against sustainable smartphones disguised as a neutral, independent, objective, and quantitative test method. It doesn't help to add: "Our tests are professional". It is beside the point that the tests are being done in highly sophisticated professional labs. My point here is that a bias creeps in through the value they give to certain test parameters, the weight they give it in a percentage of the total, and/or the omission of parameters. Although I personally value sustainability very high, maybe the highest of all features, I do not ask 'De Consumentenbond' to do the same. However, I do expect from an organization that claims to be professional, a bias-free evaluation of all phones. And I do expect that it is easy to select the best sustainable smartphone from the test results.
Note  I am not allowed to quote any of the test results because they are for members only. Maybe I have revealed already too much. This makes it risky to discuss their method in public at all.
The Consumentenbond knew of the existence of the Fairphone
back in 2016 (see
Marleen Bekker in
Consumentengids okt 2016.
The Consumentengids published an interview with a disappointed user of a Fairphone 1 (see picture above), she owned a Fairphone 1 but hesitated to buy a Fairphone 2 because its price (500 euro). The first fair phone was the most fair, but did not have the same features as other smartphones on the market at the time. They could have interviewed a happy Fairphone 2 user, but did not. In 2016 the Consumentenbond did not include any ethical criteria in their tests. Apparently, a fingerprint scanner was of higher value than ethical manufacturing practices.
 For example:
- Clove Technology Fairphone 5 - The World's Most Sustainable Phone (YouTube, 31 Aug 2023).
- TechAltar: Is Fairphone really fair? (YouTube, 13 Oct 2023)
|Is Fairphone really fair? |
- Android authority: All smartphones, including iPhones, must have replaceable batteries by 2027 in the EU. July 13, 2023.
- Tweakers: (Dutch) Duurzaamheid gaat gepaard met offers. Fairphone 5 Review (16-09-2023)
- Fraunhofer Institute report 'Life CycleAssessment of the Fairphone 4', March 2022.
- Fraunhofer Institute: Keeping phones for 5 years cuts yearly impact on global warming by around 31%, finds Fairphone’s latest life cycle assessment May 03, 2022
- Fair Cobalt Alliance: members are Fairphone, Google, Tesla, LG. Not: Apple!
 Hugh Jeffreys (18 Sept 2022) iPhone 14 Pro Programmed To Reject Repair - Teardown and Repair Assessment. (youtube 16 min) Most detailed test of the unrepairability of the iPhone (swapping parts between two identical iPhones!). Recommended!
Hugh Jeffreys (5 Nov 2023) Astonishing Anti Repair Practices By Apple In the Last 15 Years (youtube 13:19 min)
Hugh Jeffreys (29 May 2022) Apples Self Repair Program Is Not What It Seems (youtube 18:00 min)
Hugh Jeffreys (18 Jun 2023) New Laptop Brand Shocked Whole Computer Industry - Framework Laptop - Teardown And Repair Assessment.
This a review of the most repairable and upgradable Notebook on the planet.
 A work in progress? The repairability of Notebooks.
De Dutch consumer organization 'De Consumentenbond' tested the repairability of 24 laptops/Notebooks in the December issue of the Consumentengids ('Repareren? Vergeet het maar!', page 16-19). The test did not include the Framework laptop (why?), although it is mentioned in the text. Repairability was included in the ranking (good!), but contributed only for 5%. Despite the lowest value for Repairability, Apple MacBook Air was 'The Best of the Test'! So, in practice repairability is not valued at all. The author Eric Verlooij wrote that repairability is fine, but the higher price as an obstacle (!). He is not alone. This is short-time thinking. He did not think of the consequences of an unrepairable laptop with a broken component.
See my blog: The Framework laptop: an upgradeable, modular, customizable, user-repairable laptop, 5 April 2022.
 Alex Alderson: Fairphone 5: World's most repairable smartphone survives savage durability tests. notebookcheck.net (Published 08/30/2023)
 'De Consumentenbond' says of the Fairphone: 'Child labour' 'not tested', however Child labour is mentioned on these pages: