What if you could buy a phone that will last five years, can be easily repaired and is made as ethically as possible? That’s the aim of the latest Fairphone 3 – and on many counts it succeeds.
Ethically creating a phone is a lot harder than it may sound, but you have to start somewhere. Amsterdam-based Fairphone turned from an awareness campaign about conflict minerals into a phone company in 2013, and aims to source as many materials as possible in both human and environmentally kind ways.
Now in its third iteration, the £420 Fairphone 3 is making progress, not only in responsible sourcing of materials, but in manufacturing and longevity, with a modular, repairable design. It even comes with its own screwdriver.
Chunky, translucent plastic
There’s no two ways about it: the Fairphone 3 has a dated design. Big chunks of body at the top and bottom of the screen are reminiscent of smartphones from five years ago. The LCD display is fairly small by today’s standards at 5.7in, but is reasonable with pretty good colours and excellent viewing angles, and is just about bright enough – most of the time you’ll see the brightness cranked up to maximum. It’s covered by Gorilla Glass 5, which isn’t the latest, but at least should make it fairly scratch-resistant.
The rest of the body is utilitarian and boxy. At almost 1cm thick, the Fairphone 3 is certainly a chunky beast. The big chin and forehead, as well as fairly thick bezels each side of the screen, make the phone a lot larger than its small screen dimensions might suggest too. It’s closer in size to a phone with a screen over 6.4in, and so requires similar hand-stretching to use it.
The translucent black plastic body feels well made and hard-wearing. Being able to see the usually hidden components through the plastic makes it all the more interesting. There’s very little flex or give anywhere on the phone, which is all the more impressive give you can take the back off and remove modules.
The volume buttons and power button are all on the left side of the phone, which took some getting used to. The speaker, too, is mounted in the left side of the phone, which means you’re more likely to block it with an errant finger.
Through the back of the phone you can see the phrase “Change is in your hands” written on the battery, which is a little bit self-congratulatory for my tastes.
A USB-C socket in the bottom handles charging, while there is a (now rare) headphone socket in the top. There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back, which works fairly well but is a bit high up the back to be easily reachable without moving the phone down your hand a little each time you need to touch it.
Screen: 5.7in FHD+ LCD (427ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 632
RAM: 4GB of RAM
Storage: 64GB + microSD card
Operating system: Fairphone OS based on Android 9 Pie
Camera: 12MP rear, 8MP selfie-camera
Connectivity: dual sim, LTE, wifi, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS
Dimensions: 158 x 71.8 x 9.9mm
Middle of the road
The Fairphone 3 won’t win any prizes for performance. It has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 chip from last year, which is a lower-performance mid-range processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot for adding more.
General performance isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t fast, even compared with mid-range smartphones costing less. There are elements of lag and stutter all over the system. You quickly run into slowdown when simply trying to find your way to a meeting, as launching the calendar app to find an address, then Google Maps and Citymapper to compare directions was enough to repeatedly introduce significant lag. Press a button and nothing happens long enough to make you question whether you managed to actually activate the button.
Battery life is equally middle of the road at about 26 hours between charges, meaning it lasts from 7am on day one until 9am on day two. That is while using the Fairphone 3 as my primary device with a total screen time of just over four hours, lots of email and messages, browsing in Chrome, four hours of Spotify via Bluetooth headphones, 40 minutes of offline Amazon Prime Video and a few photos.
The Fairphone 3 doesn’t ship with a charger or cable. It charges in about 2 hours 10 minutes using a standard 30W USB-C charger, or faster using one that supports Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3 (€19.95 from Fairphone). But there’s also the possibility of just swapping in another charged battery, given you can remove it in less than five seconds.
The Fairphone 3 ships with its own Fairphone OS, which is a standard version of Android, free of bloat or duplicated apps and all the better for it. The only minor disappointment is that it ships on Android 9, not the new Android 10, although Fairphone aims to provide security and software updates for five years from release.
Anyone who has used Android in the last five years will be familiar with it, while switching to it from an iPhone is fairly straightforward. It’s clear that Fairphone needs to do a better job at optimising the performance of the software, however, as the issues of lag are likely to be avoidable with a bit of work.
The Fairphone 3 has a fairly standard 12-megapixel camera on the back, which is technically the same as that fitted to Google’s Pixel 3a, but doesn’t come anywhere close, lacking the software magic that makes Google’s camera so good.
In good lighting the Fairphone 3 shoots reasonable pictures with a solid amount of detail and colour. The same goes for selfies and portraits. Unfortunately that’s not the case in middling to low light conditions. Shots taken indoors at night with a mixture of overhead and lamp lighting produced dark, grainy and indistinct images.
Overall, the Fairphone 3’s camera performance is similar to today’s budget phones: fine on a sunny day, but poor indoors.
Other than efforts from the company to source materials ethically, and to pay the factory workers who put together the phone a top-up to a living wage, the most exciting thing about the Fairphone 3 is its modular nature. It’s not some Google Ara reinvention of the wheel, but rather the ability to take out and replace or repair parts when they go wrong.
Starting from the removable back and battery, the rest of the phone can be pulled apart with standard screws. Fairphone even includes the correct screwdriver in the box. If a part breaks, buy a replacement module, screw it in place and away you go. That’s the idea, anyway, and repair guide masters iFixit gave it a big thumbs up recently.
The individual parts aren’t that cheap, of course, but given you can place them yourself without breaking everything else in the process it seems like a fair trade-off. A replacement camera costs €49.95, the speaker €19.95, the bottom module with the USB-C socket in it costs €19.95 and the top module with the selfie camera, headphone socket and other bits costs €29.95. Probably more widely used parts are the screen for €89.95, the battery for €29.95 or the back cover for €24.95.
Fairphone includes a bumper case in the box that wraps the sides of the phone while leaving the back open
The vibration motor is strong but imprecise, feeling like one from four years ago
Bluetooth performance is poor, causing hiccups with headphones that are rock-solid with other devices
The Fairphone 3 is not water-resistant
The Fairphone 3 costs €450 direct, or £420 from the Phone Co-op, and is available for pre-order now delivering in mid-September. The Fairphone 3 is also available on Sky Mobile on contracts starting at £21 per month.
The Fairphone 3 is a device full of compromises with one massive advantage: being ethical.
The design is a bit more interesting thanks to its translucent finish, but it’s chunky and dated-looking. The 5.7in screen is pretty good, but the big chin and bezels make the phone considerably larger and harder to use than it could be. It has USB-C and a headphone socket, both of which are welcome, but the odd speaker placement makes it easy to block.
The inside is the same. The clean, bloat-free Android software is good, but it’s only Android 9 not the new Android 10, and it has performance issues. Dual-sim and microSD card support is great too, but Bluetooth performance was pretty poor.
If you were to look at the Fairphone 3 simply as a £420 smartphone, you’d say it costs about £200 too much and isn’t even a great £220 phone at that. You can buy a phone with more modern design, similar specifications, performance and software for around £220 such as the Motorola Moto G7, or phones that are infinitely better at £420.
But the Fairphone 3 isn’t just another smartphone: it’s an entirely different way of thinking about how a phone and its creation fits into the world.
You can genuinely repair this phone yourself with modular components you simply unscrew and replace. If the battery is worn out, swap it out for a new one in less than 10 seconds. The Fairphone 3 is arguably the most sustainable phone you can buy, and that’s without even looking at the firm’s efforts to source all materials and manufacture the phone in as ethical manner as possible.
But I worry that a phone that has performance issues now won’t be serviceable in five years, and so all the reparability in the world won’t make it a device people still want to use in 2024. If buyers use the Fairphone 3 for two years, then dump it for a new one, that defeats the object of the exercise.
Until now it’s not been possible to put a real price on the ethical side of a smartphone in the same way you can with a Fairtrade chocolate bar. Thanks to the Fairphone 3, we now know it’s about £200. So the question is whether people are prepared to pay £200 extra to support a worthy movement. I hope they are.
Pros: ethical manufacturing, sustainable materials, truly repairable, solidly built, dual-sim, microSD card slot, headphones socket, removable battery, bloat-free, software support for five years
Cons: only Android 9, middling performance, chunky, expensive for the specs, average camera, poor Bluetooth
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What is the best green phone? The iPhone 14 Pro is our top eco-friendly phone. We considered many specs, including eco-friendly packaging, energy consumption, incorporation of recycled materials, price, warranty, software system, camera quality, battery life and more, to find the best green phone.Is Fairphone 3 discontinued? ›
Fairphone 3(+) End of Sales
Since September 2021, we stopped the sales of the Fairphone 3. In November 2022 we sold the last of our new Fairphone 3+ devices. The production of the Fairphone 3(+) is discontinued and our sales stock is now sold out.
Fairphone is a Dutch electronics manufacturer and social enterprise that designs and produces smartphones with the goal of having a lower environmental footprint and better social impact than is common in the industry.What are the weaknesses of Fairphone? ›
- Iffy camera performance.
- Fingerprint sensor is temperamental.
- Poor palm rejection.
- Connectivity concerns.
Again, the Fairphone 4 was designed as a 5G phone for Europe. You can buy the phone in North America but you probably won't enjoy using it here. It's compatible with the following network bands: 3G : HSDPA 850(B5) / 900(B8) / 1700|2100(B4) / 1900(B2) / 2100(B1)Which is the world's first ethical smartphone? ›
Fairphone 4: A Smartphone to self-repair
The plastic used is 40-per-cent recycled, and the minerals are ethically sourced, though still from conflict zones.
Fairphone phones have global coverage for 2G. It works everywhere, all the time, anytime, as long as there's still a 2G network. For 3G, 4G, and 5G you will get at least one band supported anywhere in the world.How long will Fairphone 3 last? ›
Fairphone 3 and Fairphone 3+ have the same core module, released in August 2019. We aim for at least 5 years of software support after launch. That would be 31 August 2024 with Fairphone 3(+) and Fairphone 3(+) New Life Edition. With Fairphone 2, we reached 7 years of software support.Why is Fairphone not available in the US? ›
A direct quote from Fairphone's CTO: “We looked into it, [but] the cost of doing a North American version is too high,” Herbert said. “We're not going to do it with this one, but the next one.”Are Fairphones worth it? ›
Relatively affordable, very environmentally friendly, and a major improvement on its last handset, the Fairphone 4 is a solid all-round pick for a mid-range handset. It is also the clear choice right now for anyone after a sustainable handset that will last through the falls, accidental drops and years of usage.
A phone that's built to last
The big selling point for the environmentally-conscious consumer is that Fairphones are not destined to meet the mountain of e-waste we're stacking up. They have a five-year warranty, and phone owners can repair the phone themselves by using a screwdriver to replace its spare parts.
Fairphone boasts that it uses ethically-produced minerals, including Fair-trade gold, where possible. It fights against planned obsolescence by making the phone easily repairable by users. Each phone shipped includes a small screwdriver so you can open your phone and remove parts, including the battery.Is Fairphone really sustainable? ›
The Fairphone philosophy is embedded in the way we run our company. This commitment to fairness has been made measurable by the globally-recognized EcoVadis sustainability rating.What happened to Fairphone? ›
After March 2023, we will no longer deliver software updates for the Fairphone 2. This is an incredibly bittersweet moment: the Fairphone 2 has far surpassed our initial hopes to offer three to five years of software support, but in an ideal world, we would be able to support our devices indefinitely.Can a phone last 10 years? ›
A smartphone that is made for longevity can be a real thing. Too bad that's not how most of them are designed.What is the average lifespan of a cell phone? ›
How Long Do Phones Last? According to Statista research, the average lifespan of smartphones is 2.58 years. This represents a 0.06-year decrease from 2022 and a 0.17-year decrease from 2021.Which phones work best in USA? ›
- OnePlus 10 Pro. Specs.
- Samsung Galaxy S23+ Specs.
- Apple iPhone 14. Specs.
- OnePlus 11. Specs.
- Apple iPhone 13. Specs.
- Asus Zenfone 9. Specs.
- Google Pixel 7. Specs.
- OnePlus 10T. Specs.
As well, Samsung did poorly on Greenpeace's last electronics guide from 2017. Case in point: it scored a D- on hazardous chemical elimination while Apple earned a B. Samsung also flounders when it comes to doing right by its employees.Are any phones made ethically? ›
Fair Phone is the most well known ethical phone alternative. The phones are easier to repair and have recyclable parts. Their phones last 5 years as opposed to the normal 2-year lifespan of an Apple phone. Their materials and ethical standards are a lot better and more transparent.What operating system does Fairphone use? ›
By default the Fairphones come with Fairphone OS (Operating System), based on Android and a set of standard Google Apps. You can download additional apps on your phone from the Google Play Store. If you're looking for a Google-free experience, we have information about that here.
Features. For USA Buyers: This Smartphone is not compatible/will not work with any CDMA Networks including: VERIZON, SPRINT, US CELLULAR.How old is Fairphone 3? ›
The Fairphone 3+ was launched in August 2020. It has upgraded front and rear cameras, improved audio, an increase in the amount of recycled plastic it contains (40% rather than 9%) and Android 10. The rear camera has a larger sensor, intelligent scene detection, and a higher dynamic range.Does Fairphone 3 have 5G? ›
Fairphone 3(+) does not support 5G. Unfortunately, we are unable to add support to 5G in Fairphone 3(+) with a future software update or hardware component upgrade.Can a cell phone last 5 years? ›
Some devices can even last upwards of five years if treated gently. However, you might start noticing a decline at around the three-year mark. It's usually at this point that your hardware becomes outdated, with no new operating system updates from developers.Should you keep a phone for 3 years? ›
Upgrading your phone every three years is appropriate for most people, but it might not be for you. For instance, a modern flagship phone is already future-proof enough to last you longer than five years—assuming that you don't care about having the latest software updates and can replace the battery later on.How long should I replace my phone? ›
Nonetheless, replacing your device every two years is still a good idea. Even if the phone functions well, the hardware and operating system are antiquated by the time the phone is two years old.What phones no longer work in the US? ›
Some tracfones, flip phones, Jitterbugs and even older-style smartphones will no longer be able to make calls once the networks are taken down. Most of these phones, which are sometimes called “third generation” phones were launched nearly 20 years ago and will no longer work with most of the carriers in 2022.What smartphone was banned from the US? ›
The US has banned the sale and import of new communications equipment from five Chinese companies, including Huawei and ZTE, amid concerns over national security. Other companies listed include Hikvision, Dahua and Hytera, which make video surveillance equipment and two-way radio systems.Why are Chinese phones not sold in the US? ›
New FCC rules affect Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies. The U.S. on Friday banned the import and sale of new telecommunication equipment from Huawei, ZTE and three other Chinese companies, citing concerns over national security.Are old cell phones good for anything? ›
Donate Cell Phones as a Fundraising Tool
Some charities that accept donations for fundraising. Donating old cell phones or even flip phones is a valuable way to help organizations help those who need it most.
Other reasons for using a burner phone can vary from wanting to keep business and personal calls separate to avoiding telemarketers and former spouses. Burner phones can also be useful when traveling because users can avoid huge international roaming charges by using a local SIM card.Who are the competitors of Fairphone? ›
The best alternatives to Fairphone are Apple, OnePlus One, and Nothing Phone (1). If these 3 options don't work for you, we've listed a few more alternatives below.What phone should I switch to from iPhone? ›
Google Pixel 7
The Pixel 7 has a higher 90Hz refresh rate compared to the iPhone's 60Hz, so it feels smoother to use, plus a brighter screen, bigger battery and more built-in picture editing tools.
- Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. New 200MP main camera • Beautiful display • S Pen functionality. ...
- Apple iPhone SE (2022) Apple iPhone SE (2022) ...
- Sony Xperia 1 IV. Sony Xperia 1 IV. ...
- OnePlus 11. Powerful peak performance • Blazing-fast wired charging • Excellent software promise.
The Fairphone 3 was originally launched in 2019 with Android 9, the upgraded version, Fairphone 3+, followed in 2020. Both models are guaranteed to continue to receive software support until at least August 2024. However, Fairphone aims to support the phones for even longer, until 2026.How long will Fairphone update last? ›
Q: For how long will Fairphone support Android 10 by providing security updates? We will continue to provide software updates for as long as Android 10 is still actively supported by Google. We aim to release 3 Android 10 version updates in 2022, after the upgrade.Is The Fairphone waterproof? ›
Weatherproof. The Fairphone 4 is weatherproof (not waterproof!) – quite an achievement for a modular device.How popular is the Fairphone? ›
With 175,000 phones sold since its start in 2013, Fairphone is just a tiny little phone manufacturer compared to giants such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi.Is A Fairphone expensive? ›
With a starting price of €579 / £499 (around $669, though Fairphone has no plans to sell the Fairphone 4 in the states) for the 6GB RAM / 128GB storage model, the Fairphone 4 costs a premium compared to its competitors.Does Fairphone have a headphone jack? ›
To support maximum longevity and because of the IP rating, Fairphone 4 does not feature a headphone jack. In the end, it comes down to how we make a product that lasts for at least five years.
Compatible with all eSIM-enabled mobile devices: iOS iPhone, iPadOS, Android, Windows 10 and Windows 11.Is Fairphone 3 an Android? ›
The phone that cares for people and planet
iFixit even awarded the Fairphone 3 a perfect score for repairability. And for extra peace of mind, our phones are backed by our 2-year warranty. Experience Android 11 Intelligent and fast, Android will keep your phone running smoother, for longer.
Energy from ionizing radiation can damage DNA. DNA damage can cause changes to genes that may increase the risk of cancer. The NCI fact sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer lists sources of radiofrequency radiation. More information about ionizing radiation can be found on the Radiation page.What are bad reasons for phones? ›
Stress and anxiety
Excessive use of mobile phones is bad for your psychological health. Constant over-use of mobile phones leads to increased anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and low self-esteem. Reliance on mobile phones can also cause irritation, frustration, and impatience when they cannot be used.
As well, Samsung did poorly on Greenpeace's last electronics guide from 2017. Case in point: it scored a D- on hazardous chemical elimination while Apple earned a B. Samsung also flounders when it comes to doing right by its employees.What phones are ethically made? ›
Fair Phone is the most well known ethical phone alternative. The phones are easier to repair and have recyclable parts. Their phones last 5 years as opposed to the normal 2-year lifespan of an Apple phone. Their materials and ethical standards are a lot better and more transparent.Which company is more ethical Apple or Samsung? ›
Apple may seem like it's recycling more, but the actual amounts of rare earth, tungsten, tin, and gold are minute compared to the plastic and other materials being used in their iPhones. Meanwhile, Samsung is ahead on using 100% recycled packaging materials, and eliminating all plastic within its smartphone boxes.Which phone company has most radiation? ›
It turns out that the smartphone that emits the most radiation is actually the Motorola Edge. If you look at it in terms of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), the Motorola Edge emits 1.79 watts of radiation per kilogram.Is Fairphone actually ethical? ›
Verdict. The Fairphone 4 removes some, but not all of the compromises previous models have made for two big upsides: being as ethical and easily repairable as possible. It is chunky but with a more modern, distinctive design. It has a decent screen and 5G, but the camera isn't great.Why people still choose iPhone over Samsung? ›
Most people who buy iPhones do so because of the well-integrated Apple ecosystem and the seamless user experience. iPhones handle core functionalities like calling, video recording, system navigation, and web browsing more reliably.
The iPhones have a series of processors that reportedly deliver better performance than most Android phones. In addition, Apple blends hardware and software well, making the iPhone more efficient and effective.What is the most sustainable Samsung phone? ›
Samsung says that the Galaxy S23 series phones are its most sustainable to date, thanks to an increased use of recycled materials in components.Which company phones are not made in China? ›
It all comes down to what you want out of your software. Android is more customizable and has more features and complex options, while iOS is more straightforward, easy to use and has a higher level of security. Most apps are available on either operating system, but more Android apps are available than iOS apps.Why is Apple considered better than Samsung? ›
Since Apple has a large market share and is known for its versatile and fast operating system, developers prefer to launch their apps and high-end games first on iOS and then on Android. Further, iOS runs on consistent hardware, while Android comes in different iterations and versions depending on the phone.What is the safest cell phone? ›
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Your Note 20 Ultra has multi-layered security created by this security platform. You will get security improvements designed expressly for the Android OS, encryption, and TrustZone architecture to safeguard critical data.
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The current lowest radiation smartphone (by SAR rating) is the Verykool Vortex RS90 with a SAR rating of . 18 w/kg.