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

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the ethics-vs-aesthetics dept.

Cellphones 371

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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Short answer... (5, Informative)

MonkeyBot (545313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412689)

No.

Re:Short answer... (3, Informative)

MonkeyBot (545313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412703)

Re:Short answer... (4, Informative)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413397)

Yes, and since a bunch of the other phone brands are made in the same Foxcon factories, that piece of propaganda is evidently just that: propaganda. But keep spreading it around. Some people may be stupid enough to believe it.

Re:Short answer... (2)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413457)

The reason Apple labor is “best than the rest" is that Apple, thanks to these controversies (so some good came out of it anyways,) has made sure their assembly staff gets treated better. Foxcon has no reason to treat the assemblers for any other client any better, and they don't.

Re:Short answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412729)

What's more, Apple requires a higher level of working conditions than other manufacturers. Working conditions are relative to what exists in a country as a whole.

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

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Short answer... (1)

praedictus (61731) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412945)

My Nokia N8 was apparently made in Manaus, Brazil, but that is probably just the final assembly for the domestic market here. There are tax benefits for doing so, and Brazilian import duties tend to be somewhat onerous otherwise.

Re:Short answer... (2)

jroesner (200756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413041)

My N8 says Made in Finland, my wife's N8 says Made in China.

I feel good about 50% of our phones.

Re:Short answer... (4, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413371)

why would it matter? All of the components are coming from the same places likely, whether 1% of the cost of the device in final assembly and packaging is done in one location or another doesn't really change that the CPU is probably made in one of a handful of foundaries in the world, same with the mobo, hard drive etc.

Re:Short answer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413207)

Were all the metals mined and components made there? Or under worker-friendly conditions in other countries? Very unlikely.

Re:Short answer... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412871)

Not only are the physical devices made under worker-unfriendly conditions, the software for the devices is typically built by those under nearly identical poor working conditions. The storefronts, OLTP backends, charging gateways, etc, etc, etc. The entire industry is controlled by those who wish to milk every possible cent out of their customer bases, and the backends are usually a poorly written hodgepodge of technologies with few experienced workers providing oversight. It's amazing anything works at all.
 
Posting as AC so I don't get fired from my 120h/week job.... In the US!

You're Wrong! (5, Funny)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412961)

My smartphone is made from low-fat granola pieces glued together from wheat reaped by freedom-loving highly-paid yet-still-spiritualistic gay Tibetan monks who are all married to one another and turn all their after-tax profits over to Greenpeace.

Of course it doesn't work, but I feel really good about owning it and it's a great conversation-starter with the cute angry Goth chicks who hang out in my local hipster food co-op in Brooklyn.

Re:You're Wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413299)

That was masterful.

Re:Short answer... (0)

panikfan (1843944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412999)

It's a matter of perspective. 'Worker friendly conditions' is subjective by nature. I'd say that if you're family is hungry, you have no wealth nor any means to acquire any, and you're able to get a job that puts food on the table, whatever conditions you work in are pretty friendly. If you have money, and food, then maybe you can start wishing for an employee arcade or room full of saunas or something.

Re:Short answer... (2)

gabereiser (1662967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413023)

oh +5 to this... Apple has gone out of their way to try and make their supply chain as worker friendly as possible (whilst still turning a profit, they are a business after all) but ultimately all our electronics (especially smart phones) are made in china... And at a lot worse factories than Foxconn..

Re:Short answer... (0)

Iniamyen (2440798) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413137)

Wow that's so informative.

Don't forget the raw materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413239)

Its not just the factory conditions that matter, its the conditions of all those involved in obtaining the raw materials and assembling sub components. A lot of the raw materials will be mined in Africa in conditions which are far worse than Chinese factories.

Well, with all the flak Apple's gotten lately... (2)

AtomicSymphonic (2570041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412705)

I would not be surprised to see reports from China that Foxconn workers are being treated a bit better over the next year... Thus eventually making Apple the most "labor-friendly".

Although, Foxconn manufactures devices for multiple companies, I believe. Doesn't Motorola also have their devices made there?

No (2)

orlanz (882574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412711)

No, .... well yes. It all depends on how deep you want to follow the supply chain and how much you want to remain ignorant of. And enough of that second part will also lead to a NO.

Define worker friendly. (5, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412737)

I don't mean to be obtuse, but worker friendly means something entirely different in the US versus China. I would go as far as saying there are a enough differences between Europe and the US that settling on the terms is difficult.

Pay? Hours? Benefits? Shift?

Can we throw in the type of job and modify those parameters?

To be frank the forty hour work week is an aberration. It certainly sounds great, I haven't had one in a dozen years. For some jobs it might make sense. Yet does it have to be across five days a week or can it be done in four or seven?

Re:Define worker friendly. (5, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413057)

I have to agree with this post - my experience isn't quite China, but I think it does carry over.

At the end of January, start of February this year, I spent nearly three weeks in Uganda - and this wasn't all nice hotels and B&Bs in cushy areas of towns and cities, this was staying with some native Ugandan friends in their normal settings.

On a social level, these friends were our (myself and my wife) equals - in Ugandan social levels they earned the equivalent of what we did, they held a roughly equal level of job and such. And their "standard" of living, be it *very* good for their setting, is basically the equivalent of one step up from complete poverty in the UK.

Their kitchen was a basic stone (cast concrete) sink, and a single electrical hotplate on the floor. And thats a step up from what the neighbours used - the outdoor cooking facilities (basically, a fire pit), but only because my friends saved up and bought this for themselves.

Their bathroom was indoors, but extremely basic. Because they paid a lot more in rent. Others on the same site had to make do with outdoor facilities.

So we got settled into this - and then we visited our hosts father in his village. Thats a huge huge step down from the comparative luxury our hosts lived in.

Our hosts father is a vicar in a traditional Ugandan hilltop village, thirty miles from running water, a hundred miles from electricity, and a hundred and fifty miles from an actual paved road. Still lives in a mud hut, the roof covered with well used corrogated tin sheets and (funnily enough, Sainsburies) plastic grocery bags. He eats meat once a month, but still managed to serve his "honoured guests" two types of meat - that would have cost him two months wages, all gone in a single meal for us. His wash facilities is an old plastic jerry can, his toilet a long drop hole in the floor. He and his wife have to travel 9 miles each day to get fresh water, and then gather the wood to make the fire.

This man sold off 90% of his ancestral lands in order to put his first child through nursing school - and that child had to pay for the next two. He actually really struggled to sell the land as well, because it was seen as "the wrong thing to do" by his fellow villagers.

And the final place we stayed was with a Bishop of the Church of Uganda. No better really than our hosts - nothing to shout about at all.

And believe me, these people were seriously well off in the scheme of things. Meeting children who are never going to have a prospect of going to school, who are wearing sack cloth for clothes (I saw that dozens of times just in one 3 hour road trip, and then more turned up at the vicars house), or wearing "GAP" sweaters that have obviously been through at least two generations already. A 4 year old carrying a 2 pint plastic milk carton of water behind his older sibling, on a road where we hadn't seen a house for two miles before, and didn't see one for another two miles.

I never really thought poverty actually existed, or at least thats what I now think I thought - it just doesn't sink in until you see these things in the real world for yourself.

One of the huge things that struck me was the fact that you could never trust meat sold anywhere - if you wanted to make sure the meat you are eating hasn't been sitting on the butchers stall for a week then you have to kill the animal yourself, and store the parts you aren't going to eat immediately. The chicken and goat we ate at the vicars was killed shortly after we arrived, basically right in front of us.

You can't really judge the sort of step up that people in these situations get from jobs like Foxconn, its literally stepping from one world into another. You can shout all you can about how the standards don't match up with western ones, but when seeing the sort of standards these people are coming from you can see why there are thousands lining up whenever there is a mere hint of a job available. It really is the difference to them between "surviving" and "living" - no more having to lug twenty or thirty kilos of water each morning, no more cooking on a fire, the ability to eat decent food when you want, teh ability to own nice clothes etc etc.

Sitting on our thrones in the western world, its trivially simple to dictate what that step up should be for these workers, but they see it in an entirely different light. And thats how a population drags itself out of poverty - not overnight, not in one move, but slowly as the people itself see the better chances and take them, see the improvements and demand them.

Re:Define worker friendly. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413479)

Here's the problem I have. No doubt these jobs are better than the alternative. That doesn't mean these peoples live's are good. That doesn't mean they aren't being exploited.

Apple is sitting on billions of dollars as a result of the work that these people are doing for them, and the best we can say is that their life doesn't suck as much as it used to, or could?

Re:Define worker friendly. (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413129)

I don't mean to be obtuse, but worker friendly means something entirely different in the US versus China.

Living wage? No slavery? Worker's comp?

Re:Define worker friendly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413135)

No, "Worker Friendly" (aka "Fair Trade") actually has an internationally recognized definition...

Re:Define worker friendly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413151)

I don't mean to be obtuse, but worker friendly means something entirely different in the US versus China. I would go as far as saying there are a enough differences between Europe and the US that settling on the terms is difficult.

Pay? Hours? Benefits? Shift?

Can we throw in the type of job and modify those parameters?

To be frank the forty hour work week is an aberration. It certainly sounds great, I haven't had one in a dozen years. For some jobs it might make sense. Yet does it have to be across five days a week or can it be done in four or seven?

First of all, studies have indicated that once you exceed about 40 hours a week, you become more of a menace than an ultra-productive resource. For me, in fact I start to move backwards after 36 hours, since a lot of the creative part of what I do works best when done on "idle" time, not actively sitting at work concentrating.

Secondly, pretty much no mass-produced device is hand-crafted start-to-finish by one single person like it was a Black Forest cuckoo clock. The norm is Henry Ford's venerable assembly line, where one person only does part of the job and does it over and over. So a longer work week for that one person simply means that that one person sees the same bloody thing over and over for more hours, not that they need all that time to produce the final product.

Nokia fired 4000 last month (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412743)

Nokia fired 4000 smart phone assemblers in Finland, Hungary and Mexico last month, moving to Asia. Theres a press release from around feb 8th.

This /. article is probably a response, however indirect, to that.

Re:Nokia fired 4000 last month (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412859)

Yes, but there are still factories in Finland, and some Nokia phones continue to be made in Finland. Of course many of the components come from questionable countries..

Re:Nokia fired 4000 last month (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413189)

Also the new phones are manufactured from orphans' kidneys and puppy ears.

"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (4, Insightful)

kervin (64171) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412747)

Part of the issue is that consumers may want to do the right thing but have no information as to which is the least of all evils. A device/company/plant database that can be checked before buying an electronic device would help solve that particular issue.

The idea is not to tell the consumer which way to go. But instead to simply present all the facts and opinions.

Personally, I would spend a $50 premium over other phones if I knew I were rewarding fair manufacturing practices.

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412835)

I've started paying a lot more attention in recent years to where things are made. I'm not rich, but I'm not poor either and can easily afford a small premium to purchase things that are made in America. I consider it an investment in our country's future. Hell, the next time you're at the grocery store look at the canned mushrooms. The only type grown in the USA anymore is Pennsylvania Dutch. You know it's bad when it's cheaper to grow, can, and ship across an ocean something that costs less than a dollar.

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412887)

made in America ? I visited Statue of Liberty a while ago. The statue itself was made in France, and smaller copies for display and sale were all made in China :)

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413021)

You'll be attacked on this site for having any idea of standing up for America. You've been warned.

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412865)

Personally, I would spend a $50 premium over other phones if I knew I were rewarding fair manufacturing practices.

Personally I think you are smoking some good dope if you think it would ONLY be a 50 dollar premium... Try more like 1-2 HUNDRED. Thats about how much these companies are saving per-phone by not having American workers manufacture them.

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413203)

Personally I think you are smoking some good dope if you think it would ONLY be a 50 dollar premium... Try more like 1-2 HUNDRED. Thats about how much these companies are saving per-phone by not having American workers manufacture them.

Unrealistic. I know of one radio equipment mfgr in Mississippi who builds Chinese quality stuff in the US very cheaply. I can think of actual examples of assembled electronics in the USA... you just claim it can't be done... who's more likely to be correct?

The problem is the differential is more like $20... on a million sold, thats a big executive bonus.

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (2)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413439)

I do not know of too many radio/audio manufacturers in the US, specifically none in MS, however there is Emotiva, which is made in Tennessee, and is very well priced compared to some of the other high end products from Yamaha, Denon, Pioneer, etc. They are not cheap by any means, but they are also not expensive either.. And they are 100% made in the US (well, except for many of the internal components, transistors, capacitors, etc etc, which are no doubt made in China).

Re:"Manufacturing Conditions" Database/Wiki (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413077)

Part of the issue is that consumers may want to do the right thing but have no information as to which is the least of all evils. A device/company/plant database that can be checked before buying an electronic device would help solve that particular issue.

Another part of the issue is how you define "least of all evils". Is it less evil to build a factory in rural USA and hire factory workers that otherwise may have worked some other first-world job (working in a Mcdonalds, sweeping floors, general laborer, etc), or is it less evil to build a factory in China where the other option is either working at a less ethical factory under worse conditions or trying to eek out a living at subsidence farming.

Missing Google data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413377)

In a world where Google can find anything there's one area that's sorely missing.. where products are sourced from. Pick any item or product you purchase regularly and try to find out where the bits come from. It's surprisingly difficult. The best you can usually come up with is the (public) shipping records for imports, and even then you only know the one hop before it hit the coast here in the U.S. I try to purchase goods that are sourced from high wage countries.. I'm happy to purchase a product from Germany, Russia, UK, etc. But it's quite difficult to find out where most of the money was spent making a thing.

In the open market? (-1, Flamebait)

broomer (209132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412753)

No, as it will cost to much to pay your employees good money, and good conditions.
The greedy will only be satisfied (if possible) if there are people working as slaves.

Re:In the open market? (1, Flamebait)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413271)

By Greedy you mean everybody...
Companies will be happy to give you products and treat their labor like royalty. If you are willing to buy an iPhone for $2,000 and iPad for $3,000 and $9,000 for a standard laptop?

If anybody who has worked in a small business you will see that the cost of operating a business is a lot more then most people think. If you do all the right things then your product will be much more expensive then your competitors. And then you don't make profit and you go out of business leaving all your well treated employees out of a job.

There is really a fine line between greed and staying competitive. Supply and Demand (Always start every problem as a supply and demand problem) If your price is above the supply/demand optimal point then you are loosing sales. If your price is below optimal point then you are leaving money on the table which will prevent growth.

Why just Apple? (2)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412757)

What I would like to know is why all the outrage over Apple? Most Chinese factories have poor working conditions, so this would cover what, 95% of consumer goods.

Re:Why just Apple? (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412797)

Inflated prices would be my guess, along with a well known product.

Oh and difficulty in following the supply chain of other manufacturers. Apple are an easy target as they have everything "in house".

Re:Why just Apple? history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412989)

Remember the old apple ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUjyh2Fhnuk

"State of the art automation with a skilled workforce in freemont CA."

Re:Why just Apple? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413053)

Until the last couple of years a lot more phones were being made in other places with better working conditions, but somebody started a new race to the bottom...

Re:Why just Apple? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413133)

What I would like to know is why all the outrage over Apple? Most Chinese factories have poor working conditions, so this would cover what, 95% of consumer goods.

 
The two reasons that come to mind are "visibility" and "willingness to take action". I just hope that we do not go from "Stop poisoning and exploding your workers" to "Factory workers should all be middle class". While plugging cable A into slot B for 12 hours a day can be a grind, it takes less skill and assumes far less risk than the operation of a frier at McDonalds. The "Go to prison for discussing a Union" thing is difficult to give proper consideration, seeing as I have not come across a workers Union that has actually benefited workers.

Re:Why just Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413163)

Because Apple products are status symbols. A great deal of the irrational behavior you see in a given market space has a lot to do with image. Of course it's disconcerting when they find that the cost of their pride has a human cost.

It's not just phones either. I think you'd be pretty hard pressed to buy any product not made in the US that was constructed with human friendly means. The fact that the article submitter thinks this is all about phones or Apple shows how clueless he is. Wake up call! Apple isn't the only one who outsources labor. Wake up Call!! It's not even limited to electronics.

You should be asking the same fucking questions about everything you buy from light bulbs to plastic spoons to t-shirts to dog food.

Re:Why just Apple? (2, Interesting)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Yes I think. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412763)

Nokias made in Finland are. the question is: are there still Nokias made in Finland? I don't know the answer to that.

A retracted story should mean something (5, Insightful)

syntap (242090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412765)

It may be just me, but if one part of an article is retracted due to false statements or intentional innacuracies, with apologies from the publisher on releasing the story into the wild, I'm not going to base an opinion on ANY OTHER PART of the article or any other material sourced by that author. I'll have an opinion, but I'll base it on other sources.

Buy Apple (5, Insightful)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412773)

Listen, Apple's no angel, and neither is anyone else. I think we can all agree on that.

But Apple is the company making the biggest noticeable difference in this space. Whether that's out of the goodness of their hearts (unlikely) or the fact that the know they're under greater scrutiny because they're the big fish in this pond (considerably more likely), it does mean that the workers in the Apple foxconn factories are the ones that are likely to see the benefits of Apple's largess first.

Almost universally, however, workers at these factories feel they're better off than they would have been if they'd stayed in rural China. It IS a choice they make to work there; they line up to apply for jobs.

If that remains unconvincing to you--which is fair--write your political representatives and get them to try and convince the Chinese government to pass better worker protection laws and enforce them. Ultimately, it shouldn't be up to Apple, Samsung, Google or the consumers to protect the people of China.

Re:Buy Apple (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413065)

I agree 100% (except for that part where Apple is making the biggest noticeable difference). The US and many other countries started their economic fortunes using such things as child labor and poor working conditions. Out of those conditions rise better working conditions and higher wages. I get so tired of the comments about so-and-so working in poverty, when in many of these places, sustenance farming is the norm and any money received is used to make one's life better, no matter how small the amount. Not buying Apple computers means fewer people needed, so fewer people get any chance of making their lives better. But that is one truthful commercial you won't ever see .. 'Lee Yung has a job, and no matter how crappy it is, he is better off than his neighbor who doesn't have one. And buying Apple makes it possible'.

Re:Buy Apple (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413071)

Ultimately, it shouldn't be up to Apple, Samsung, Google or the consumers to protect the people of China.

That's true enough, but neither does it absolve those parties of responsibility. Nothing is stopping Apple from refraining from using business partners where workers are treated poorly, even if that means not doing business in China.

Chinese Government policy (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413225)

The fact that workers are better off in these factories doesn't mean much, given that China is a brutal, repressive dictatorship. If the Chinese authorities leave conditions in the country so bad that near slavery in towns is better, despite their need for farming, then the desire of workers to escape the countryside is unsurprising. "Encouraging" the population to move to the towns to replicate the Industrial Revolution makes sense for the Chinese global strategy, but giving people a choice between agrarian near-slavery and urban better paid near-slavery isn't exactly validated by their preferring the frying pan to the fire.

Re:Buy Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413259)

The most disturbing thing to me about what Apple apparently does is request detailed information on the books of their suppliers. Using this information, Apple sets the price allowing only a thin margin of profit. Suppliers accept this because being "good enough for Apple" allows them to sell their services more easily to others.

The thin profits limit the supplier's ability to make improvements to the factories.

Frankly, Apple makes enough money. They could allow the suppliers greater margins or even dictate that a portion of what they pay the suppliers go toward improving the conditions of the workers.

The fact that workers lives suck even worse in rural areas doesn't make it right to get rich off of their misery.

To me the most ironic thing about this is that socialism and communism were in part reactions to the excesses of capitalism. Yet some of the worst excesses of capitalism today are taking place on the soil of the most powerful and successful communist country ever.

Re:Buy Apple (2)

danbob999 (2490674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413447)

I am pretty sure that Samsung workers in Korea (where phones are assembled) would not switch place with Foxconn workers in China...
So how is Apple making a positive difference here again?

RIM/Blackberry (3, Insightful)

alphax45 (675119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412775)

AFAIK they are made in Mexico and/or Canada
As always mixture of foreign and domestic parts.

As a side note: Depending on how low level you want to go (eg: all the individual parts) you will never find a phone that is made under worker friendly conditions unless you mine the raw materials yourself and go from there. Of course this is NOT realistic!

And Hungary (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412943)

Mine was made in Hungary...which used to have a considerable phone-making business back in the Soviet Union era. But I think the BB Playbook is Chinese.

That said, I suspect that globalisation is heading into a lot of flak at the moment. There has always been a conflict between the perceived strategic needs of the US and what American corporations will do. In WW2 they were the begin with supplying both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union with arms and technology although it was not in the interests of the USA to do so. You can see the transfer of manufacturing to China as hastening the downfall of the USA, but corporate executives will simply buy citizenship of whatever country offers the most benefits to them; they have no loyalty whatsoever to any particular country.

So no, you will never get any piece of electronics nowadays that can be called "ethically sourced", but it is just about possible to decide which is most in your interest to buy, assuming that you have, or want, to live in one country.

For an inhabitant of CA, that is probably Apple. For anybody else, YMMV.

Re:RIM/Blackberry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413229)

I know (I work @RIM) that many devices, especially the newest ones, are made in Waterloo, by people who are paid very well, work normal hours, get full benefits, vacation, etc. As devices get a little older, the manufacturing is moved to other facilities.

Minimum wage in North America (5, Insightful)

derfla8 (195731) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412777)

I find it a crazy FWP that people are so fixated on workers rights in countries where the work they are getting in factories are much better than the alternative. Yet we ignore the plight of minimum wage workers in North America. In major metropolitan areas where housing is unaffordable and public transit is sadly there, why don't we fix things for our own before aiding those who haven't really ask you for your opinion?

Re:Minimum wage in North America (-1, Troll)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413153)

I don't ignore their plight ... I tell them to get some skills so they don't get minimum wage. It's not WalMart or McDonald's job to provide a workable wage, they sell stuff and if someone can't find any other job, then they had better find several friends to rent an apartment or move back in with mom and dad. I found it very interesting that in all of the layoffs over the last several years, the people that I know that had good skills were all finding jobs and moving around, while those with less skills were stuck, or got laid off. That's called 'competition' and 'supply and demand', and it's what helps balance the system. Minimum wage laws only serve to drive up prices, and no-skills people getting paid more than they are worth.

My wife spent a few years with two kids and a low-paying job after a divorce. Then she got some additional skills, and worked her way out of it, Never took food stamps either. It's amazing how people can make it happen through hard work and creative thoughts instead of asking the government to take care of them.

Re:Minimum wage in North America (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413493)

All of those jobs with good working conditions came from either government safety regulations and/or unions forcing employers to provide them. When will the manufacturer's union get started in China? When will the government of China come in and say you can't poison your employees?

Re:Minimum wage in North America (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413159)

why don't we fix things for our own before aiding those who haven't really ask you for your opinion?

False dichotomy. We can and should help both workers here and abroad. And they in fact have asked us for our help in many cases, let alone our opinion.

Define "worker friendly" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412781)

A lot of people works on "good companies" but still hate their job. I'm sure that many Apple US employees hate their job but stay there anyway. The same happens for all the other companies.

The opposite is also true. I'm sure that there are many happy employees at Foxcon.

It is better to buy the SmartPhone that better suits you for your needs, and makes you more productive, and donate money to Amnesty, Caritas, etc. to help the poor.

Your need to use your time to do whatever you are best at, and donate some money to NGOs.

Japanese phones (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412799)

Japanese manufacturers like Sharp are probably your best bet as they do have factories in Japan. Of course many of the components will have been made in China, but that is about the best you can hope for. Unfortunately I don't think Sharp do any phones outside of Japan.

Maybe LG or Samsung. I know they use Chinese factories for some manufacture, but they do have some assembly done in South Korea. That is about the best you can hope for.

Re:Japanese phones (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413103)

Actually Sharp is a component manufacturer as well - I buy a variety of Sharp components and I'm pretty sure they are made in Japan. I've got a Sharp 5V regulator sitting on my desk right now and it has "Japan" clearly (but very tiny) printed on it. Toshiba makes amazingly good components as well.

Suicide rate (2)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413167)

Japan: 25 per 100,000
Foxconn: 2.5 per 100,000

Think of it this way (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412809)

Working conditions are relative to the alternative, aren't they? Apple, Foxconn, etc. aren't forcing anyone to work at those factories, and yet people turn out in droves and line up for the chance to be one of the lucky few to get a job there. For them it's a choice between working in a factory under intense, sometimes dangerous conditions or working in a field under MORE intense, and yes MORE dangerous conditions in order to make a life for themselves. Would it be great if they had income and conditions somewhat closer to what those in the developed world enjoy? Of course, but when your nation is run unilaterally by a self-elected body of bureaucrats, the conditions could be a lot worse (see: North Korea).

Going to hell? Yes, i probably am. But it's not like i won't have a lot of you around to keep me company.

Find someone who uses robot assembly (3, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412817)

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.

I simply do not believe this. (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413099)

Cost of labour is a tiny part of the cost of electronic devices nowadays. Believe me...I have worked as an industrial engineer, and I believe that the issue is much more related to the desire to reduce working capital employed, incentives offered by foreign governments, corruption, and fashion - moving assembly to China was seen as big dick swinging by many executives, who could also avoid some of that pesky having to manage people stuff. Assemblers do not want to invest in dedicated automation.

A converse example is the car industry, where automation is unavoidable because the assemblies are too heavy to be easily manipulated by people. The result is that cars get made in the USA, Europe and Japan.

I suspect that whoever cited $1400 to make an iPad in the US was either manufacturing-illiterate or had a financial incentive to misrepresent the facts. I would be surprised if assembly in the US added more than $25 to the cost, and unsurprised to find it was more like $5 when everything was taken into account.

Re:I simply do not believe this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413211)

I suspect that whoever cited $1400 to make an iPad in the US was either manufacturing-illiterate or had a financial incentive to misrepresent the facts. I would be surprised if assembly in the US added more than $25 to the cost, and unsurprised to find it was more like $5 when everything was taken into account.

It's funny too that no one ever publishes how they got those numbers.

Re:I simply do not believe this. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413391)

Lets have some fun with the numbers, since the greater american population is completely innumerate and will never try it for themselves. A recent press release claimed that foxcon has some of the highest paid assembly line workers in the country at $290/month or at 6 day weeks 10 hours a day 4 weeks a month thats about $1.20/hr. A cousin in law of mine work(ed) in HR at an electronics assembler, and the illegal aliens they employed got a bit above minimum wage but not much, lets say $8/hr.

Now my old ipad 1 was I think, $400. So $200 for retail profit, $100 wholesale profit, figure labor and parts cost a 50:50 ratio that gives about $50 "worth" of labor to build a ipad 1. First of all I cry bogus as thats roughly 42 hours of work to assemble and pack a ipad into a box. That just screams bogus. I've done work inside apple products and its an unholy PITA to replace a battery requiring complete disassembly, but it never takes more than an hour for a completely inexperienced American to do it the first time, so I'm unclear why an experienced Chinese takes 42 times longer to do the same work. None the less, I'll stick with that ridiculous estimate.

OK so at 42 hours per ipad, labor in the usa for illegals at $8/hr would be 42*8=$336. The delta is supposedly $1400-$400 = $1000. So the cost of regulation is $1000-$336 = $664. I find that unlikely in the extreme.

I would estimate a "made in the USA" ipad would cost less than "a hundred bucks" more based on some knowledge of the electronics assembly trade. Which means, at dozens of millions sold, the execs would not get bonuses to the tune a hundred million or so.

Re:I simply do not believe this. (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413475)

Now my old ipad 1 was I think, $400. So $200 for retail profit, $100 wholesale profit, figure labor and parts cost a 50:50 ratio that gives about $50 "worth" of labor to build a ipad 1. First of all I cry bogus as thats roughly 42 hours of work to assemble and pack a ipad into a box. That just screams bogus. I've done work inside apple products and its an unholy PITA to replace a battery requiring complete disassembly, but it never takes more than an hour for a completely inexperienced American to do it the first time, so I'm unclear why an experienced Chinese takes 42 times longer to do the same work.

When iSuppli lists manufacturing costs (and they are pretty keen on those things) they rarely exceed 10% of the "cost of good sold" and in fact, when analyzing the "new iPad" here is what they came up with:

Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) cost to produce the 32-gigabyte, 4G long-term evolution version of its new third-generation iPad is $375.10[...] The market research firm said the $364.35 estimated bill of materials, which excludes $10.75 for manufacturing costs,

So you can probably count on no more than about 5% of the COGS to go to the worker. (the 32GB, LTE version is at 3% but probably has marginally higher complexity with much higher component cost vs the 16GB wifi version.) Anyhow, carry on, interesting thesis you have there...

Re:Find someone who uses robot assembly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413147)

That's if a shop is unionized, the alternative is non unionized and that would add $43.00 to the cost to manufacture in the US. Actually apple would save money on shipping and transport if it was made here.

Re:Find someone who uses robot assembly (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413265)

North Americans and Europeans are willing to pay for the true worth of the labour. If Fred is willing to do a task for $10 less than Bill, then the true worth is what Fred is asking for, not Bill.

Unions and government regulations are responsible for companies not being able to pay the true worth of labour. Greed has increased wages so high in those places that many firms have flocked to China and other countries in order to pay the true worth of labour. I'd love to get paid the same for working 35 hours a week instead of 40 and have my retirement start at 55, but that means everyone else has to pay more to subsidize me and I risk my job going where it's cheaper.

So the next time someone complains about China and India taking all the jobs, feel free to blame greedy workers, Unions and Government for sending it there.... those that felt they were worth more than they truly were sent them there.

While companies may try to exploit workers by paying low wages, employees are willing to blackmail employers to try and force wages up. Both parties are equally greedy.

Greed is what drives the entire system, I wouldn't have it any other way. China and India wages will slowly come up, which in turn will drive jobs to other countries with small economies waiting to grow.

Come on... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412857)

...while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims...

Please think about what you just wrote there. He was discredited but he wasn't inaccurate? Um, yes, he was wrong. The majority (and certainly the most notable) of his claims have been revealed to be _lies_. That is pretty much the definition of "inaccurate". Until there are actual, factual reports substantiating the claims, I do believe that his claims were entirely inaccurate.

This article was bait and you fell for it... (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412867)

Was the author going to purchase one of those friendly phones? Nope, more free press time for Apple. And I'll leave with another note. When I say that I'm tired of America, I get people who say, "It's still the greatest country in the world." Really? So, everything they do is OK. NOPE. Any company, crapple or otherwise, has no pride in its products if they make them in this fashion. Still working with the maker revolution.

Re:This article was bait and you fell for it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413049)

The reason people say its still the greatest country in the world is because it is. When you weigh everything a country has done or offers its people America wins hands down. Only a idiot would think everything we do is ok, but what other country can a person go to and thrive as easily as America?

Re:This article was bait and you fell for it... (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413083)

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.

Futurama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39412911)

No quit asking!

No. (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39412921)

But then again virtually nothing made in a factory is made under "Worker friendly conditions."

Very few things at all in fact. Your food, for example. Explore where that all comes from. Anything sold at a Big Box store. Video Games for large companies. Movies.

There are few Worker Friendly products out there because the point isn't to be nice to the workers, it's to make money.

If you want things produced with respect for the workers, buy things produced locally by small businesses or individuals. However you won't be able to find a phone made that way. You have to make your choice: How much is your convenience compared to a few minutes of factory worker's time in another country? A country you probably know nothing about, economically or culturally?

HTC ? (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413009)

HTC is headquartered in Taiwan, not mainland China. Does anyone know if they manufacture their phones in Taiwan or in China?

Re:HTC ? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413131)

HTC is headquartered in Taiwan, not mainland China. Does anyone know if they manufacture their phones in Taiwan or in China?

HTC manufactures in various countries, including mainland China. Foxconn is also headquartered in Taiwan, so there's really no correlation between where their CEO sits and where manufacturing happens.

I find it interesting that those most upset about Foxconn factory conditions have never been there, and those that have been there lied about what they saw.

Find a phone made in america (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413037)

Because with all the regulations America has, something like that would never happen.
OH WAIT. That's why all these phones are manufactured overseas, safe labor set ups be damned.

If they don't like it they can quit (2)

satuon (1822492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413059)

If Foxconn employees aren't happy with the wages and the working conditions I'm sure they know where the door is.

Reuse (3, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413143)

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.

Re:Reuse (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413491)

In some countries, 35mpg IS a gas-guzzler.

-- An Englishman who drives a 16-year-old car that gets 40mpg without even trying (for the past three years, zero testing issues), and cost £300 second-hand. I get charged slightly higher road tax and insurance because it's considered a "large" engine (1.8) that's not very green.

That car existed before I turned of legal age to drive and gets more than 35mpg without having to use premium fuels, hybrid fuels, LPG, etc. I had an LPG quote last year. £800 for the entire conversion. Nearly three times what I paid for it, but still less than half what I spend on fuel each year.

Contraction in OP statement / electronic list? (4, Informative)

Tronster (25566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413165)

", while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories."

That statement is nonsense.

Michael Daisey was discredited because working conditions were fine for iPhone or iPad factories; none of the horrible things he had reported on were true upon his visit. I've listened to original piece (when it aired) as well as the full retraction. He had to create lies based what he'd heard of previous (outlawed) practices of various Chinese manufactures as well fabricate people, events, and conversations in order to invoke an emotional response. Then he repeatedly, unapologetically used the theater as a scapegoat as to why he could tell people that he was telling a factual account, but in reality, was more lie than occurrence.

That said, the OP does have a good question about sweatshop free phones. I wish there was a list for all goods and services; seems internet searches pull up a lot of hits for clothing and apparel, but not so much for electronics.

There is no ethical smartphone (4, Interesting)

Roxton (73137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413235)

There is no ethical smartphone [salon.com] .

Korean/Japanese (1)

danbob999 (2490674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413253)

Many Samsung phones (such as the Galaxy S) are made in South Korea.

Soon everything will be made by Slaves (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413263)

Most of your clothes is made by slaved children, processed foods is made by slaved Mexicans, and electronics is made by slaved Asians. And when I mean SLAVE, it really is slavery! These people have no choice but to work in these places.

Make your own conditions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413279)

Try this: http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Main_Page

Made in whatever conditions YOU decide to make it in. Problem solved.

But then are you really helping those workers? (1)

Maltheus (248271) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413289)

If someone is desperate enough to take one of those crappy worker-unfriendly jobs, then doesn't it follow that they likely need it even more than one of the workers from a more worker-friendly company/nation? Are you helping them by encouraging the movement of jobs elsewhere, when even they agreed that the job was better than the alternative (ie. starvation)?

FYI (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413295)

Most of the electricity in China are generated by coal, so your One True Worker-Friendly factory (assuming existance) there is likely using that. And we all know coal mining is oh so human right-friendly [theecologist.org] .

Chances are your Proudly American-made Patriotic Local Product's production involves petroleum, with high chance being imported from paragons of freedom such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela, or bought from God-fearing, Mohammet-loving kings of Arabia [wikipedia.org] .

And the Coltan mine, which produce the tantalum used in your recent worker-friendly phone, was operated by the most peace-loving nations of the world [africaontheblog.com] since the fall of Rome.

Apples monthly report (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413305)

Apple issues a monthly report of working conditions throughout for all it's suppliers.

From the report regarding indentured migrant labor...

"As a result of our expanded audits in 2011, suppliers reimbursed $3.3 million in excess foreign contract worker fees, bringing to $6.7 million the total that has been repaid to workers since 2008."

http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/code-of-conduct/labor-and-human-rights.html [apple.com]

Foxconn factories relatively better off (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413309)

They may be severe by US labor standards. But in China they are considered among the best by workers. With all the foreign pressures there is some attempt toward safe conditions. They actual pay their workers instead of disappearing some random Sunday. Applicants line up by the thousands for these relatively desirable jobs.

"Apple fully traced its supply chains" (2)

Btrot69 (1479283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413331)

According to this article, "Apple fully traced its supply chains for the four conflict minerals—tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold—which is further than other companies have gone."

http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/blog/post/new-report-apple-strong-supply-chain-tracing-weak-certification [raisehopeforcongo.org]

Re:"Apple fully traced its supply chains" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413495)

What about the coal used to generate electric power for their plants?

Robots (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39413353)

You can make them with robots like Nissan do with cars, I would suggest that this is the best way forward anyway.

Yes, iPhones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39413417)

Thousands line up for jobs at Foxconn. It wouldn't be so if the working conditions weren't relatively good.

There *were* phones you could get... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

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