Posts Tagged ‘smartphones’

Samsung Galaxy Note ethical teardown

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012


View Samsung Galaxy Note ethical teardown in a larger map

Work very much in progress here, but I wanted to take a look at how some of the supply chains fit together in a modern smartphone. The badge on the front of my shiny new device says Samsung, and the Korean electronics giant obviously did a large chunk of the work involved in making it, but there are technical and economic factors making the overall picture of its origins rather wider.

Given the pretty reliable maxim that if you turn over most stones you’ll find something creepy underneath, I thought I’d have a look at the bits that make up my gadget and see if I can find out a little more about they impact they’ve had around the world.

So here are my first two snippets of stone lifting so far… (more…)

D’oh! Samsung Galaxy Note not nearly as ethical as I’d thought

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Well, that’s just great…

After doing a bunch of reading up on HTC, Samsung and Apple smartphones, and some of the dodgy suppliers who make their phone components for them, I settled on upgrading my mobile to a Samsung Galaxy Note. I’ve had it a week now and really love it. It’s an amazing device, able to do most of what I’d ever want from a phone and a laptop all in one tool, which (just about) fits into my jeans pocket.

My choice had come down to the Galaxy Note or the almost as mammoth-sized HTC Sensation XL. In the end, I’d plumped for Samsung mainly as I’d not found any evidence that HTC had done anything to improve the situation with sweatshop touchscreen supplier YFO, whereas Samsung customer services had responded that they’d brought screen manufacture in house (not actually responding to ethical concerns of course, but side-stepping the problem could debatably be seen as slightly better than just doing nothing).

However, today Hazards Editor Rory O’Neill has helpfully pointed me towards reports that despite the improvements, Samsung might still not be doing enough over their bad record on exposing workers to hazardous chemicals, and that they’ve also got a draconian no union policy that has seen attempts to start up real independent unions bullied into failure. (more…)

Nokia Lumia 800 – Another Foxconn sweated smartphone?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Nokia announced themselves back in the smartphone race yesterday, with two forthcoming Windows 7 models, the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800. They’ve lost ground hand over fist in recent years to Apple, HTC and Samsung phones. How long has it been since you last heard the once ubiquitous Nokia ringtone in the wild?

The Lumia 800 in particular looks like a pretty neato handset. So as I’m in the market for an upgrade at the moment, I thought I’d check it out a bit more. My upgrade choices (Samsung’s Google Nexus Prime, HTC’s Sensation XL and Apple’s iPhone 4s) all have some degree of question mark over their corporate ethics, so could do with some competition if I’m looking for a less unethical mobile (I realise I’ve no chance of an actively ethical one!). (more…)

Samsung: Not as evil as they have been…

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

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. (more…)

Have HTC read their own Code of Ethics recently?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

So I’ve been looking at choosing my next smartphone upgrade with a nod to its ethical implications. It’s not really surprised me that it’s not that easy to find out much on this. Customer services departments tend to clam up when you ask awkward questions, and I don’t have the clout of a proper media outlet to make press offices take note.

HTC have come the closest in terms of answering my questions so far though, and were good enough to give me the requested copy of their Code of Ethics for suppliers (PDF). It’s not a bad policy *, mentioning the right to union membership, and many of the key terms you’d expect.

After a stunt last year by workers who make HTC phone touchscreens, HTC Chairperson Cher Wang engaged sympathetically but told her disrupted press conference that the issue wasn’t one she knew about, other than that it related not to HTC staff, but to a supplier (Young Fast Optoelectronics), and that therefore HTC unfortunately couldn’t do anything about it.

However, a lot of the issues in the HTC supplier code neatly map against a Taiwanese government inspector’s report from 2010. Chairperson Wang is a busy woman, so I’ve made her a handy cut out and keep guide: (more…)

Ethical smartphones: An upgrade dilemma

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I am something of a phone geek. Oh okay then, I am rather obsessed by them, smartphones in particular. I’ve had 5 different smartphone handsets since ditching my standalone PDA for 2003’s splendid SonyEricsson p800, and whichever I’ve had, it’s always been my most treasured possession.

Now though, my choice of handset is giving me a bit more of a headache. (more…)

HTC excuses over sweatshops are a bit rich

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Taiwanese smart phone manufacturer HTC has had an extremely successful year, on the back of a strong product line. Increased sales at the company have nearly tripled the share price and more than quadrupled the wealth of husband and wife top team Cher Wang and Wenchi Chen in the last year alone. Wang and Chen are now worth a very tidy $8.8bn, and are sitting right at the top of this week’s Forbes Taiwan Rich List.

Which makes it all the harder to work out why exactly they don’t seem to be taking any action over worker abuses at their outsourced touchscreen supplier Young Fast Optoelectronics, where there are allegations of union busting, forced overtime for low pay, child labour and poor safety.

(more…)