I've been waiting for the contract on my HTC Touch HD to expire, and now it has, I was planning to upgrade to the new Desire HD. One thing has stopped me though, which is allegations of very dodgy practices at one of HTC's suppliers - Young Fast Optoelectronics - the people who make the touchscreens (not just for HTC, but also for many other Samsung/LG phones).
YFO have allegedly been compromising safety, forcing people into long overtime, having kids working for them, and sacking union activists/members to stop people complaining about it. I've followed some of the story on social media as the workers there are quite plugged in as you might expect. (There's a blog at http://yfotu.blogspot.com/ unfortunately - for me at least - only about 10% in English).
This has echoes of Apple's woes at Foxconn (who make their iphone screens), where high pressure and low pay have been driving workers to suicide as protest. In both cases, the brands themselves like to have a good corporate social responsibility profile, but aren't doing so much to enforce it on their suppliers too (tho looks like Apple are starting).
I wrote to Samsung and HTC, and got back similar good words about what they expect of their suppliers. They just don't seem to have any teeth in the agreements to enforce this. Samsung went one further, almost implying the Galaxy S would be a more ethical phone choice as they've brought production for that model back in house where they can control it.
So what I'm wondering - looking at recent reports on growth for HTC & Apple, and decline for Nokia, is will subcontractor sweatshops become a bigger and bigger problem if more smartphones are either from brands which now assemble purely from subcontracted parts, or (in the case of Google Nexus and network branded sets) another step further removed from this?
I'd be happy to add the few dollars that it would cost to give subcontractor workers a more decent standard of working life to the cost of the Desire HD I'm after. Or does anyone else have ethical android tips? (pref ones that don't involve me wearing a hair shirt and living with my old handset!!)
I realise this is an issue right across electronics, but it seems to me that smartphones could be right at the front of it, given the changes in the new industry, and the fact the products themselves are all about killing distance between people - helping connect people to find out about problems on the other side of the world or even do something about it.