Samsung customer services have been rather less keen to engage with my quest for a more ethical smartphone than their counterparts at HTC. First, I was told my email couldn’t be answered by national customer services, only international (apparently Samsung email doesn’t have ‘forward’), to I’d have to resend. Then my email couldn’t be answered as it was about something that had to be discussed by posted correspondence only (apparently they don’t have a printer). Then (surprise, surprise) my letter was mysteriously lost.
I did inadvertently manage to get one useful bit of information out of them though. Samsung have for a long while been customers of sweatshop touchscreen outsourcer, Young Fast Optoelectronics (YFO), who provide them with LCD touchscreens. However, as I was asking specifically about the Galaxy S2 model, I found out that as Samsung have been the pioneers in AMOLED screen technology, they built the capacity to make the new type of screens in house, rather than use screen suppliers.
So this means if you’re looking at an AMOLED model (such as the current flagship Galaxy S2 or the forthcoming, and very tasty looking, Google Nexus Prime), the screen is a Samsung product. For their cheaper phones with LCD screens, I guess the screens are still coming from the unionbusting YFO.
Of course, I’m guessing the switch had more to do with making the most of Samsung’s own screen technologies, rather than any kind of reaction to their business ethics, so this is hardly a ringing endorsement, given that reading between the lines, they still use YFO for other models, and haven’t made any public comment I can find.
Second black mark against Samsung in recent times has been their lack of concern for the safety of their own workforce and the environment in parts of screen manufacture. Greenpeace have been on their case for some time, since most other electronics manufacturers started ditching the chemicals Brominated Flame Retardant (BFR) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).
I asked Samsung specifically about this, but again no answer. However I recently stumbled on a new policy page on their site, which claims that they’re now BFR and PVC clear on all new model mobile phones since April 2010. So if your phone was launched after that date, it should hopefully be in the clear, meaning again that the Galaxy S2 and Nexus Prime are BFR and PVC free.
Presumably they didn’t want to crow about this though given their extreme tardiness in following the rest of the industry, and the between-the-lines admission that they may still be using the chemicals in 18 month old models that are still being manufactured (the original Galaxy S is still on sale – not sure if it qualifies).
So at the moment, Samsung seems to be sitting top of my ethical smartphone pile, ahead of heavy YFO customer HTC and Foxconn’s favourites Apple, but it’s a hollow recommendation, not really through any kind of positive action, and only true for the phones I’ve been looking at (Galaxy SII and Nexus Prime) rather than the manufacturer more widely.