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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions? 371

Posted by timothy
from the ethics-vs-aesthetics dept.
New submitter unimacs writes "So Apple has been under fire recently for the conditions at the factories of their Chinese suppliers. I listened to 'This American Life's' recent retraction of the Michael Daisey piece they did a while back. Great radio for those of you who haven't heard it — rarely has dead air been used to such effect. Anyway, while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories. Given that, are there any smart phone manufacturers whose phones are made under better conditions?"
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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions?

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  • Re:Short answer... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cbope (130292) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:00AM (#39412779)

    Not exactly true. Business-class Nokia smartphones (E-series) were made in Finland until very recently. Unfortunately, when Nokia signed a pact to switch to Windows Phone, production moved East for the new Lumia models. You can still pick up Nokias that were manufactured here, until current supply chain inventories run out. The E7 I got a couple weeks ago was Made in Finland and my previous E72 was also made here.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:04AM (#39412817) Homepage Journal

    If it's not made by machines, the odds are it's made by underpaid and overworked humans in some overseas sweatshop conditions.

    North Americans and Europeans aren't willing to pay for the true cost of the labour.

    I seem to recall an article estimating what it would cost to manufacture an iPad in North America with the unions, health and safety regulations, and so on respected. They came up with a number in the neighbourhood of $1400.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:29AM (#39413083) Homepage

    Actually Canada right now is the greatest country in the free world. They actually care about people instead of being a bunch of ravenous assholes that lose their mind over paying for healthcare for people.

    America right now is being over-run by uneducated scumbag assholes, (For perfect examples, please see the current top 3 GOP presidential candidates) I'd avoid it like the plague unless you are a filthy, filthy, rich person.

  • Reuse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:35AM (#39413143) Journal
    If you are worried about the social and environmental impact of your smartphone, you aren't going to be satisfied by any of the options on the market. A consolation prize, if you will, would be to purchase a used phone. You can get even the latest phones on the used market, and in so doing you prevent it from ending up in a landfill or "recycler" in the third world. Plus, the social and environmental impact of that phone has already been made. I won't say your conscience gets off scot free, but you could argue (to yourself and others) that those impacts are borne more by the original purchaser than you, the second purchaser. You can't fix the harm that originally went into making the phone, but you can prevent additional harm by not purchasing a new one.

    This calculus works for lots of things besides smartphones. The one I particularly like is to consider buying a used honda civic that gets 35+ mpg as a replacement for a gas guzzler, rather than purchasing a new prius.
  • by Roxton (73137) <roxton@gmail . c om> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:42AM (#39413235) Homepage Journal

    There is no ethical smartphone [salon.com].

  • Re:Why just Apple? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:52AM (#39413355)

    What I would like to know is why all the outrage over Apple?

    Because the mainstream press is extremely lazy due to the desire to not pay for real investigative reporting. Apple has disclosed its supply chain in bits and pieces in the past and is the only smartphone supplier to commit to opening up their supply chain for inspection by third parties. Combine this with the instant recognition that the Apple brand has and the "fans"/"haters" that come with it, you'll have an article that generates a very large amount of traffic with the least expense in work or money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:04AM (#39413489)

    From 2009 to 2011 you could buy a Garmin-Asus phone in the US. The nuvifone G60 was designed mostly by Garmin in Kansas, and hardware and low level software engineering and manufacturing was done by Asus in Taiwan. Asus is known for good working conditions, fair labor policies, and a refusal to work with suppliers with who do not share their ethics. While the software left a bit to be desired, the quality of the device was superb, and had an extremely low failure rate. However, because the device had software written by American engineers and was manufactured by an ethical Taiwanese company, it was expensive. The same could be said for the G60's successor in the US, the A50/Garminfone.

    And you know what? People didn't want to pay for these. They wanted iPhones. So excuse me for laughing when I see everyone here saying "oh I would've paid extra for a phone that wasn't made by unethical companies". The proof is undeniable. People didn't buy these phones because they were expensive. Today, neither Garmin nor Asus sell phones in the US anymore. You had your chance to support companies that produced equipment made ethically, but in the end you proved you just wanted something shiny.

    Posting AC since I was one of the engineers who worked on both of these phones.

  • by Wizzu (30521) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:22AM (#39413719)

    As far as I am aware, there will be no more Nokia phone manufacturing in Finland in the future, only "tailoring" (my choice of word). I do not know how long the transition period is while manufacturing will still go on, but probably no longer than a year (my personal guess only).

    That doesn't mean that Nokia won't pay attention to the manufacturing workers' conditions, as well as the materials supply chain. I'm biased, but I feel pretty good about the phones manufacturing. These are difficult issues to solve, but at least I see Nokia as trying to make changes for the better, industry-wide. It's the kind of things that usually don't make any sort of news ever - and also, which take persistence and a long time to come to fruition. Of course, there might be similar initiatives going on in other companies, and I wouldn't know about those.

    Disclaimer: I work for Nokia, although my work has nothing to do with the manufacturing or such.

  • Re:Why just Apple? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thoth (7907) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:28AM (#39413791) Journal

    It's trendy to pile on the leader, or perceived leader.

    I read an interesting article a few years ago, I think from the Economist, that stated it was often better to be #2 in a segment. #1 takes all the hits, even if #2 does basically the same thing. Examples sited were Walmart vs Target, Home Depot vs Lowes, and a few others. Here is happens to be Apple vs whoever else makes electronic gadgets. Apparently Apple's use of Chinese factories is the worst thing ever, while Google/Microsoft/Dell/Acer/Asus/etc on and on is totally fine, since they aren't Apple.

  • Re:Short answer... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:33AM (#39413865) Homepage Journal

    China's labor force is busy making products that we buy here. If you force Foxconn to shut down because you feel it is a "sweatshop", then those employees have to find a job at a different sweat shop. As more and more shut down, the choices of where to go become more limited, and they abuse the workers even more.

    Believe it or not, the way to fix the problem is to create more sweat shops in China. As workers there have more choices, they will find the ones that have the best pay and treat their employees the best. The final result is that the sweat shops will cease to be sweat shops, and China will be a strong economic leader with a strongly developed workforce.

    I realize a lot of people have this seething hate for employers, and are looking for a place to focus it. But, those who provide jobs are not the enemy. The jobs may seem terrible to you, but when you have a workforce this large, where everyone is just trying to get a piece of the pie, any additional job there is a good thing. The jobs will not get better until there are as many jobs available as there are people to fill them.

  • Re:Short answer... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msauve (701917) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:28PM (#39414639)
    Well, apparently those long hours without breaks are good for the soul, because the suicide rate in Foxconn factories is significantly lower than in the general population [wired.com].

    As one of the comments points out:

    according to the World Health Organization, China's average between men and women is 13.9 out of 100,000 or 24.51 times the rate at Foxcon[n].

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