The smartphone is often the professional's fifth limb, and in fact, the market is so saturated that it's not unusual to see elementary kids with their own devices. The rub of the technology, though, as with tablets, computers, and other mobile options, is that it's often wrapped up in controversy--sweat shop or child labor, lack of protections from hazardous conditions, and damage to the environment to get or recycle materials, for example.

But Dutch social enterprise company Fairphone isn't having that. The company has just put the Fairphone 3 on the market, hoping to show the rest of the world that you can have your ethical cake and make your calls, too.

An intent to do things differently

The device, which as the name implies is the third in the company's line, is built on the idea that phone manufacturers (and really, businesses in general) can do a whole lot better in their supply chain and manufacturing processes. So Fairphone asserts it is working with NGOs and manufacturers in China so that workers who actually make the phone have decent pay and working conditions. The company does the same for the people who get the raw materials. These efforts are intended not only to help adults, but also to do away with child labor and insist on better mining methods. Fairphone also has projects that push for fair trade standards, and its factories provide training and advancement opportunities.

What you get (and what it costs)

For a good summary of what the newest phone offers, you can see the breakdown directly on the Fairphone site or read the review from Daniel Cooper over at Engadget, but I'll break down the basic specifications for you here, too:

  • 4G LTE Dual Nano SIM
  • Android 9/Pie
  • Snapdragon 632 chip (Qualcomm)
  • Adreno 506 graphics
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 GB internal storage (microSD expandable)
  • 3,000mAh battery (removable)
  • Quick charge support 
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Semi-transparent back cover
  • Power and volume up and down buttons (on left side)
  • Side-facing stereo speaker
  • USB-C port
  • 12 megapixel rear camera w/ f1.8 aperture and Sony Exmor IMX363 sensor
  • 8 megapixel forward-facing camera w/ f/2.0 aperture
  • Microphone
  • 5.7" 18:9 full-HD screen
  • 2.4 & 5 GHz WiFi
  • Bluetooth 5 + LE NFC
  • Gorilla Glass 5 display
  • 2 year warranty
  • Bumper included

All these components are set up in six individual modules, which makes them easy to replace or repair. And Fairphone gives you a spudget that makes popping off the back and going to work a breeze. Overall, the phone is designed to last five years, which is significantly longer than the two or three years most other models pull, and which automatically means that fewer devices need waste management. And since most people already have accessories like earbuds and chargers, the company offers them but doesn't ship them by default, further cutting e-waste.

As for price point, Fairphone is asking $500 for the new model. So for what it offers, the cost isn't awful. You also can get get some cash back ($45) if you recycle the Fairphone 3 with the company. You already can preorder, with shipping set for late September.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot...

Now, if you've read my column at all in the past, then you know that I'm big on doing the right thing. Integrity and ethics aren't items I just put on my wish list. So I'm elated that a phone company purposely is taking these steps to treat the world and people better.

Yet, I can't help asking myself--why is this still the exception rather than the rule? Part of me doesn't want to give kudos to a company for doing something that, in my opinion, should be the default in the first place. And it's a little hard to stomach that companies so desperately need this example.

But I also try to stay optimistic. And so I remember that in the old Dr. Seuss story The Lorax, the idea is that it only takes one seed, one person willing to call out what isn't right, to save the Truffula trees. We might not be in the place we need to be. But we can get there if we choose to.