Nokia Lumia 800 – Another Foxconn sweated smartphone?

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!).

What interested me was Nokia’s positive environmental record for handsets – coming out very high in a Greenpeace table some years back that Apple brought up the rear for. Unfortunately that may be where the ethical positives end.

It seems that the two new handsets have been allocated to two outsourced manufacturers, so Nokia’s pretty good labour standards policies don’t actually apply to the workers producing them, as they would in one of Nokia’s 9 directly owned factories. This is unsurprising really, as despite their in-house capacities, Nokia have been a big customer of evil outsourcing legends Foxconn for some time.

One report I’ve seen suggests the 710 and 800 have been allocated to Compal and Foxconn to produce, but it’s not entirely clear which manufacturer has which phone, with some sources listing Compal as having the 800 (codename Searay), but others suggesting mixed manufacture.

To be honest, I’ve also other concerns too away from the ethical. My current phone is Windows Mobile 6.1, and the upgrade path has been non-existant, as Microsoft moved within months onto 6.5 (not even a full version up) and dropped back compatibility, meaning no new apps or even a working app store for half their userbase. WinMo 7 looks nice, but with 8 on the horizon, I’d be extremely reluctant to trust a Windows Mobile phone again. At least with Android, you can risk flashing a phone to keep it a bit more current.

But my main concern is Foxconn. In other Foxconn news this week, Prince of darkness Terry Gou announced he’d be increasing Foxconn’s use of worker replacement robots from 10,000 units to a million over the next few years. The interweb has suggested cynically in many places this might be because the third law of robotics prevents them comitting suicide like Foxconn’s regular workers. Cynicism or no though, would you think the best place to make this announcement would be the annual workers’ dance party? It seems Terry “Mr Burns” Gou would.

Cue an email off to Nokia to see if they’ll say what Foxconn’s involvement with the 800 and 710 might be. Compal of course are not likely to appear on the Sunday Times great places to work list any time soon, but at least they’re not Foxconn. Otherwise the Nokia Lumia 800 is sadly most likely off my list as quickly as it came on.

4 Responses to “Nokia Lumia 800 – Another Foxconn sweated smartphone?”

  1. Tim Says:

    Keep up the good work….I’m looking forward to seeing if you find a more ethical smartphone. I’ve been holding off on the iPhone because of you. :)

  2. Bianca Says:

    Thanks for doing this legwork – I am holding off buying a smartphone/iPod Touch until I find something that fits my ethical sensibilities.

    Can you tell me how Blackberrys – made in Canada – fit into the picture?

  3. John Says:

    John thanks for looking into this and for posting what your finding out. I’m in the same position; looking to buy a smart phone, I’m still using an old non-smart nokia phone at the moment which is dying.

    Perhaps this site need to update their nokia recommendation : http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ShoppingEthically/Topethicaltips/quickguidetomobilephones.aspx

    Have you looked into motorola at all or are they just as bad / worse?

  4. john Says:

    No, nor Blackberry sorry, which would be another obvious to look at, but that’s purely selfish I’m afraid, as I was focused more on my own choice for what I was after, which was really between HTC/Samsung’s larger screen smartphones (with Apple running a relatively distant 3rd).

    I’d been quite an HTC fanboi for a while (had 4 of their phones in a row), and would just have bought another of those otherwise, but I got something of a shock when hearing more from workers at Young Fast Optoelectronics. Labour rights and unionbusting for me was the issue I was most concerned about at first. Shame I couldn’t find anything positive really though, just least not goods.

    Still looking into this whole area though, so I hope that my own final choice of a Samsung doesn’t come back to bite me too hard as I find out more about it.