The technology industry is notorious for its electronic waste and unethical manufacturing practices. Increasing awareness of the morality of conflict materials, and the poor conditions and low pay of production facilities has made some brands pay attention.
However, many of the announcements are little more than marketing, only paying lip service to the issue. That’s not true of German manufacturer SHIFT.
The company’s flagship product, the Shiftphone, was first released in 2015, with a new model available every year since. As with the like-minded Fairphone, the company emphasizes repairability, modularity, and ethical credentials. Their phones run SHIFT OS, a modified version of the Android operating system.
The modularity of the phone is not a gimmick like many similar devices have been. The battery cover pops off, uncovering the replaceable battery inside. Once the battery is out of the way, you have access to the phone’s board. While this used to be commonplace on phones, they go a step further.
The front display detaches with just the press on the side. Only a single ribbon keeps the screen attached, allowing you to disconnect it to access the motherboard easily. Components like the camera aren’t soldered into place either, making production more sustainable, and repairs low-cost and reasonably simple.
While some may question why the German company manufactures its products in China, it is, surprisingly, the greenest choice. Many electronic components are sourced from Asia, so it reduces the environmental impact to keep production there too.
Additionally, the manufacturing process requires plastic housings to be used through the production. Shift reuses these housings internally, and with other manufacturers. This wouldn’t be economical if they had to be shipped back to China from Europe.
Shift doesn’t rely on investors either, giving them full autonomy on decisions and the direction of the company. As they don’t receive funding, the company initially used a crowdfunding campaign to launch the Shiftphone. Further releases have been supported with preorders.
Their latest project is the SHIFTmu; a universal computing setup aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary devices, with an eye on sustainability. The SHIFTmu phone is the center of the platform. You can order the phone as a standalone device or as part of the SHIFTmu Bundle, which includes peripherals like a mobile tablet screen, keyboard, hub, and power supply.
The SHIFTmu concept expands the company’s philosophy of sustainability. The phone acts as an all-in-one computing device, which can be accessed through the tablet or expanding into a more traditional computer. While their current range of phones run on SHIFT OS, the company is currently in talks to add support for other operating systems too.
The SHIFT6m smartphone is available to buy now from €555. The SHIFT6mq is available to preorder for €755, with shipments expected to start in late 2019. The SHIFTmu smartphone is also available to preorder for €888, while the SHIFTmu Bundle costs €1,222. Both editions are expected to ship in 2020.
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