[Tinkerphones] Strategies for sustainable phones

H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Mon Sep 23 17:21:38 CEST 2019


> Am 23.09.2019 um 16:28 schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk>:
> 
> On Saturday 21. September 2019 15.48.50 H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
>> 
>>> Am 19.09.2019 um 18:18 schrieb Paul Boddie <paul at boddie.org.uk>:
>>> 
>>> I dislike the tone of technology reviews, especially when they talk of
>>> "last year's" technology. They start to sound like fashion industry
>>> gossip ("last season's collection") with largely the same implied level
>>> of regard for the planet, workers' rights, and so on, unless carefully
>>> worded and qualified.
>> 
>> Well, if there is no technological breakthrough progress any more (displays,
>> cameras, processors, RAM sizes etc. do not show significant improvement any
>> more), the only way vendors can tell they have something new and get
>> customers to replace devices is by changing the clothing every year - this
>> is called "fashion". And making them less durable. Seems to be a
>> fundamental law of economics...
> 
> But very bad for the planet. As it is, however, people can always be persuaded 
> to upgrade by just making the software more demanding, so as I noted, we have 
> the same kind of upgrade culture as the one Microsoft and Intel cultivated.

Yes, indeed.

The key reason is that if there weren't artificial market demand, there would
not be enough work for everybody on world...

Economy is mainly a machinery that manages money streams (by merging and distributing)
between people. Some people can make oscillations in this membrane and this means
there is more energy inside.

On the other hand, all this could be seen as a follow-up phenomenon of how
life and mankind developed on earth. So these oscillations occur because of
human behaviour. It is difficult to decide (and currently more a belief) if
this is good or not.

> 
> I have tried to get in touch with a researcher I very vaguely know who has 
> done work on sustainable phones, inquiring about considerations of software 
> longevity which were generally absent in the research being done, but I 
> haven't had any response yet. It seems to be a blind spot: people care about 
> how the physical product is made, claiming a long lifespan, but then the 
> software makes the device obsolete.

Sometimes not only the software on the device, but the software it is communicating
with (html3 -> html4 -> html5).

Yes, it would be nice to learn about thoughts of people who do research in this
area. We are just laymen for socio-economics.

> 
> [...]
> 
>>> I wonder, and think that others have also wondered before, whether it
>>> isn't worth concentrating on making more modest devices instead of
>>> supposedly competitive smartphones where openness is the differentiator. I
>>> recall discussions of the Fernvale kit, the Zerophone, and maybe Nikolaus
>>> considered a featurephone design at one point.
>> 
>> Yes, we thought about it - but where are the real users?
>> 
>> There is for example hyped LightPhone2 but I don't see that it is a useful
>> device. Minimizing functions can also go too far.
> 
> The stupid Web site for the LightPhone needs all my computer's CPU and half of 
> its RAM. I guess nobody will be viewing it on a LightPhone2. But I guess this 
> illustrates my point about ever-expanding hardware requirements for mundane 
> things.

Exactly.

> 
> As for that device itself, it takes the interesting but troublesome idea of 
> using e-ink or e-paper displays for something that people might expect to 
> support animated or rapidly updated content. Apart from the use-cases of 
> reading e-books or showing one's boarding pass barcode at the airport security 
> gates, people struggle to consider things that are compelling enough for 
> people to want one (other than the fashion aspect of having something 
> different).

And I understood that they basically replace the colored icon buttons on
touch smartphones with text menus you have to scroll through. The latter
isn't easier to operate IMHO. It requires locally translated versions and
people able to read and understand what the working means...

IMHO the breakthrough of smartphones was that they are much more intuitively
operated than feature-phones with menus and submenus.

> 
>> 
>> The key benefit of a smartphone is its flexibility for everyone. For the
>> user and for the vendor and for app developers. Nobody is basically
>> limited. And it optimizeds the quantities produced for the vendor. It is a
>> win-win-win for everyone and leaving this in either direction must have
>> another win for either of the groups.
> 
> Maybe use of the term "featurephone" isn't appropriate, then. If we rewind 
> back to the good old days...
> 
> [...]
> 
>> BTW: feature phones already were there approx. 2003. There was less and
>> less technical differentiation so that Nokia Vertu or Siemens Xelibri
>> tried the fashion path. With the arrival of the iPhone there was a big
>> change.
> 
> ...when people were using phones like the one I have recently abandoned, there 
> was a certain level of focus on a core set of practical but specific functions 
> that were gradually expanding. Starting out from handling only a small number 
> of essential things - calling, contacts, timekeeping, simple messaging - 
> various PDA-related and other more general computing functions were added. My 
> phone had e-mail and calendar support, for instance, although I never got to 
> use them to any decent extent.

Likely because it was too difficult to operate and did not sync well with the
desktop computer.

> Of course, music and video playback and Web browsing were introduced as soon 
> as the hardware and network bandwidth were good enough. When "proper" Web 
> browsing became available, the boundaries between phones and personal 
> computers started to be rubbed out.

That was the moment when Apple entered the arena with the iPhone 1 in Jan 2007.
Because they knew how to build personal computers.

> And it should be said that there was 
> always a demand for more capable phones and the ability to run other software 
> on them.
> 
> I wouldn't advocate dropping functions that were what many people wanted in 
> the first place, but there is something to be said for a device that does 
> certain fundamental things well, also providing support for other things but 
> not necessarily trying to be at the cutting edge. Maybe these observations 
> apply more to the software being pitched for the different phone efforts, but 
> I can envisage situations where certain hardware features could be eliminated 
> in order to deliver something less ambitious but more satisfactory for those 
> whose needs are met.
> 
> (In my own personal case, I could only ever imagine using the camera on my 
> phone for urgent documentation needs because it really isn't very good. But 
> then I'm one of those people who likes to use a "real" camera. However, 
> cameras could be offered as modules - DXO tried this for the iPhone - and 
> their absence is also of interest to certain niche markets, too.)

Well, I have a phone with a quite good camera so that I more and more forget
to take my 24Mpx + optical zoom camera with me. Which is sad if I would need
the optical zoom...

So for me it is a good compromise what you can buy. Except that it is not
open enough...

> 
>> The most promising current open phone initiative seems to be the PinePhone.
>> Seems to be much cheaper than the Librem 5 at comparable functions...
>> And seems to use existing Plasma Mobile instead of developing the n-1st
>> dialer.
>> 
>> I am currently considering to buy a PinePhone as soon as it becomes
>> available and start porting our LetuxOS to it. Maybe we can then quite
>> easily have QtMoko or Replicant or QuantumSTEP as alternative OS variants.
>> Well, none of them (maybe except Replicant) will be suitable for
>> online-banking. So that users still need a second device just for that
>> purpose...
> 
> From what I can see...
> 
> https://www.pine64.org/2019/09/05/september-update-the-pinephone-is-real-shipping-soon/
> 
> ...the PinePhone is making real progress. Of course, the software providers 
> will need to step up, but there is some chance that at least one of them will 
> manage to support the hardware decently enough.
> 
> As for online banking compatibility, we return to the non-trivial matter of 
> making sure that in our societies, the essential services we need to use do 
> not make restrictive and unreasonable demands on the software and hardware we 
> happen to use.

Well, the key argument you hear is that if i tis too restrictive, you can buy
a "compatible" phone and sell the old...

BR,
Nikolaus



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