July 22, 2024

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The Fairphone 5 is a bit more repairable and more modern

The Fairphone 5 is a bit more repairable and more modern

The Fairphone 5 is the latest sustainably produced and repairable phone from Dutch smartphone company, Fairphone. Like its predecessors, the Fairphone 5 is made with ethically sourced materials by workers for a living wage and is designed to be easy to fix with a long software support period. But this year’s model looks more like a modern mid-range smartphone, with an OLED display, 30W fast charging, and dual 50MP cameras on the back.

Fairphone begins taking pre-orders for the Fairphone 5 starting today, and the smartphone will ship on September 14 in Europe. Prices start at €699 in the Eurozone or £619 in the UK. This translates to roughly $758, though Fairphone has no plans to release the Fairphone 5 in the US at this time. (The Fairphone 4 was eventually released in the US earlier this year, though it was done through a partnership with Murena.)

You’ll get an OLED screen this time around, a first for Fairphone.
Photo: Vervon

In terms of specifications, the Fairphone 5 is the first Fairphone to ship with an OLED display. It measures 6.46 inches with a 90Hz refresh rate and a resolution of 1224 x 2770. On the back, you’ll find a pair of 50MP cameras – one main and one ultrawide – and the selfie camera is housed inside a punch-hole. The cutout is also 50 megapixels in resolution. If that sounds mundane or even a little mundane, that’s the point – Fairphone has never been a company at the cutting edge of smartphone specs.

Instead, Fairphone aims to compete on sustainability. One aspect of this is how easy it is to repair the Fairphone 5, with the goal of keeping it usable for longer, and thus out of a landfill. Fairphone has increased the number of repair units on this phone to 10 as it now allows you to replace the rear cameras individually or replace the unit that contains the SIM and SD card slots. Of course, the battery is still user-replaceable but it’s also bigger this time with a capacity of 4,200mAh, supports 30W faster charging, and is rated to handle 1,000 charge cycles.

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Another important aspect of the longevity of a smartphone is software support. Fairphone promises to update the Fairphone 5 with at least five major Android updates beyond Android 12 that comes with it as well as eight years of security patches. That should keep the phone usable from a software perspective until 2031, though Fairphone’s press release says it’s aiming for 2033 as a stretch goal. For reference, the company released its latest Fairphone 2 2015 software update earlier this year, ending seven years of software support, handily beating Android competitors like samsung And Google (They currently offer up to five years of security updates.) The Fairphone 5 also comes with a five-year warranty.

The duration of the Fairphone 5’s promised software support is at least partly due to Fairphone’s use of Qualcomm’s enterprise-focused chipset, the QCM6490, which is roughly equivalent in spec to the mid-range Snapdragon 778G. It is joined by 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, expandable up to 2TB via microSD card.

The excellent clear Fairphone 5 sits next to the objectively inferior blue model.
Photo: Vervon

A common concern with salvage phones is that they are not able to offer the same type of waterproofing as other modern phones, whose glue-assisted construction is great for IP ratings at the expense of repairability. The good news is that the Fairphone 5 has an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, which is a slight improvement over the Fairphone 4’s IP54 rating. The bad news is that despite this improvement, the phone still isn’t protected against full immersion. Effectively, you’re getting protection against more powerful water jets, which is better but still not perfect.

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Like the Fairphone 4, there is again no headphone jack here, and the phone is available in three colours; Black, blue and (the right choice) transparent.

The clear back shows the user-replaceable battery inside.
Photo: Vervon

Finally, in addition to designing it to last as long as possible, Fairphone has tried to produce the Fairphone 5 in an ethical manner. It lists more than a dozen materials it has attempted to source sustainably and says that 70 percent of these materials are either recycled or ethically sourced. So there’s aluminium, tin, nickel, zinc, copper, magnesium, indium and recycled plastics, and Fairphone has worked with the Responsible Mining Coalition, the Fair Cobalt Coalition, and the Responsible Mining Assurance Initiative to try to improve the mining of other materials like tungsten and lithium. A living wage bonus is paid to the 2,000 people who assemble the phone and its components such as the battery, PCB, and vibration motor.

Throughout the time I’ve been reviewing the Fairphones, my takeaway has been that they’re good entry-level phones priced about the same as more expensive mid-range phones. But as smartphones start to change less and less with each passing year, the benefits of being on the cutting edge of technology are diminishing. With its more modern looks and specifications, this could make the Fairphone 5 an even more attractive prospect. Stay tuned for our full review, soon.