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Fairphone 4 review: Sustainable, repairable, and ethical

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Sustainability, modularization, and modern design meet in a phone from a small Dutch company.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of different phones you can buy today, and many of them offer something unique. This makes it really difficult to stand out in the crowd, and when a company is able to do something different that also turns out to be something great, it’s worthy of our attention.

If nothing else, that’s what the Fairphone 4 aspires to do. It’s a big step forward from the company’s previous offering while being just as sustainable and repairable. If you live in Europe (the Fairphone 4 isn’t available outside of Europe at this time), it’s a device that deserves to be on your radar. Not necessarily because of what it can do, but because of what it is.

The Fairphone 4 is the phone I would buy if it were available for North American networks. It’s also one of the best sustainable and repairable phones you can buy.

Fairphone 4 review:

  • Price and availability
  • What you’ll like
  • What you won’t like
  • The competition
  • Should you buy?

Fairphone 4



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Bottom line: The Fairphone 4 doesn’t boast the best specs or a unique design. But it does offer a few meaningful things you just can’t get from any other phone maker.

The Good

  • Five-year warranty
  • A long support life
  • Easily repaired

The Bad

  • Mediocre camera
  • It’s not cheap
  • Not using the very best specs

€579 at Fairphone

Fairphone 4: Price and availability

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The Fairphone 4 is not available outside of Europe. This is a very important detail and where we need to start this section.

According to Fairphone, the company does plan to sell products for use outside of the E.U., the U.K., Norway, and Switzerland eventually, but right now, the focus is on selling devices for Europe. When you consider the company’s business model of building sustainable and repairable products on equal footing with turning a profit, this is probably a wise move.

Thanks for your support! Hopefully one day, it’s definitely on our wishlist!💙🌿

— Fairphone (@Fairphone) November 8, 2021

If you do live in Europe, you can buy the Fairphone 4 direct from the company or one of its official partners starting at €579 for the base 128GB storage/6 G.B. memory model.

Fairphone 4: What you’ll like

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The Fairphone 4 is more than the sum of its spec sheet would suggest. On paper and during normal use, it’s a phone on the high side of mid-range that delivers a mostly bare-bones version of Android 11 without any serious hitches or issues. It’s a good, basic phone, but how it’s made and what it’s made of is the real story.

The phone is built using ethically-sourced materials and is e-waste neutral.

The Fairphone 4 is built using Fairtrade-certified gold, ethically sourced aluminum and tungsten, and recycled tin, rare earth minerals, and plastics. In addition, Fairphone makes sure that the phone is built as ethically as possible with initiatives that improve working conditions for everyone involved in making the phone, from miners to assembly line workers.

Fairphone also says that every Fairphone 4 is e-waste neutral. If you buy a Fairphone 4, the company will renew or recycle an existing phone or recycle an equivalent amount of e-waste. The company is serious about building sustainable products and equally concerned about changing the entire industry by setting the right examples.

Operating System Android 11
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
Storage 128GB/256GB
Memory 6GB/8GB
Camera Dual 48MP rear (f1.6 and f2.2), 25MP front camera
Battery 3,905mAh removable battery
Display 6.3-inch FHD+ LCD
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
Network EU-based 5G, dual-SIM
Ports 1x USB-C
Sustainability TCO Certified, 9.3 of 10 repairability score

Repairability it comes with a screwdriver

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This is one of the most exciting things about the Fairphone 4 to me. You don’t have to be an electronics specialist or have any unique knowledge to repair the Fairphone 4 because it was designed with easy repairs in mind.

The phone comes with a full five-year warranty that covers anything that you didn’t cause. For those things that you did cause, let’s say you dropped it and broke the display, you can likely easily fix it yourself using inexpensive spare parts that Fairphone sells itself.

The Fairphone 4 eschews everything that makes a phone difficult to repair, like excess glue and sealed parts.

The same way Fairphone is attempting to shake up the phone industry, it’s also trying to change the way we think about having our phones repaired. What keeps your Samsung phone from being easy to fix is how it is built and the materials used to make it. Things like glued-in displays or sealed cases aren’t an issue with the Fairphone 4. You can pull out most internal assemblies and then replace them with new components using only a small Philips head screwdriver.

Another side effect of this is having a battery that can be swapped at any time by removing the 100% recycled plastic backplate. This used to be normal for Android phones, but I can’t think of a single mainstream device with a user-swappable battery in 2021. Of course, you can still charge the battery quickly using a USB C P.D. charger, but knowing that you can carry a spare “just in case” is great.

I know most people will never attempt to fix their own phones. That’s partially because phones are so difficult to repair, and seeing a company buck that trend is a breath of fresh air, and what makes the Fairphone 4 the phone I would spend my own money on were it available for North America.

fairphone-4-dissassembly-2.jpg Remove six screws and you can change the USB connector.

Fairphone 4: What you won’t like

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The elephant in the room: the price.

The Fairphone 4 will set you back at least €579, which is about $673 the day I wrote this. For reference, the Google Pixel 6 starts at $599 and has better specs all around. I understand why the Fairphone 4 costs this much — Fairphone isn’t making phones in huge numbers. Ethically and responsibly sourced materials cost more, and paying better wages or offering better working conditions will add to the cost of any product. But knowing this doesn’t lower a price that many will feel is too high.

You won’t love the price or the camera here.

Another drawback is a familiar one, and that’s the camera. The Fairphone 4 comes with both a standard and a wider angle camera. Both use 48MP sensors, and both produce mediocre results. Phones from Google and Samsung naturally take better photos, and many of those are in the same price range as the Fairphone 4.

This is a definite issue for many, but if you’re satisfied with the photos you can get from a Motorola or OnePlus phone or from a phone a few years ago, then you might not have a problem here. The photos are more than usable for social media, and it’s possible to get great images from the Fairphone 4 — you just have to work at it.

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One last issue is that the Fairphone 4 is “only” IP54 rated. This means the Fairphone 4 is “protected against dust ingress sufficient to prevent the product from operating normally, but it’s not dust-tight. The product is fully protected against solid objects and splashing of water from any angle”.

You can use the Fairphone 4 in the rain, but you can’t take it into the pool. Once you realize that the back of the phone pops right off and the fact that gaskets and other waterproofing measures would add to the cost considerably, you understand why,

Fairphone 4: Competition

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There really aren’t any other phones that fill the same niche as the Fairphone 4, but there are many others that fall in the same price range.

Notably, the OnePlus 9 Pro and the Google Pixel 6. Both of these phones have better specs, and there are times when you’ll notice it, though the Fairphone 4 is by no means a slow device. The real differentiator is the value/feature ratio, and you won’t find things like Warp Charge or Tensor-powered photography in the Fairphone 4.

On the flip side, you won’t get a five-year warranty or be able to swap out the camera module or USB port on any competing products, and no other company invests in the workforce and environment the way Fairphone does.

It’s difficult to compare the Fairphone 4 to anything else on the market, and that goes for both the good and the bad.

Fairphone 4: Should you buy it?

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You should buy this if …

  • Sustainability and repairability matter to you
  • You want the five-year warranty
  • You value the company’s commitment to better wages and working conditions

You shouldn’t buy this if…

  • You care about having the best specs
  • You need a phone with an amazing camera
  • You live outside of Europe

Again, the Fairphone 4 was designed as a 5G phone for Europe. You can’t buy the phone through normal channels unless you’re in Europe, and you wouldn’t want to use it on your network if you could. If you live outside of Europe, this is not the phone for you.

The same goes if you value having the best camera or if having the most current specs on the market matters to you. The Fairphone 4 doesn’t boast either of these.

It’s difficult to compare the Fairphone 4 to anything else on the market, and that goes for both the good and the bad.

But if you want a phone that’s designed to still be used five years from now or one that you can change the display on yourself if you break it, you won’t find another phone like the Fairphone 4. Finally, if you care about sustainability, ethically sourced materials, and better working conditions, then you should think about the Fairphone 4.

4
out of 5


The Fairphone is a nice phone and a change from the norm in all the good ways — as well as a few of the not-so-good ways. I am sure the company wants to sell enough products to stay in business, but I can’t help but feel like profit isn’t the company’s end game as much as shaking up the industry is.

It’s also a nice upgrade from the Fairphone 3, bringing meaningful features like water resistance and a better chip for better performance. To me, the good outweighs the bad, and I would recommend that anyone in the market for a new phone in Europe at least give it a second look.

Fairphone 4

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Bottom line: The Fairphone 4 doesn’t boast the best specs or a unique design. But it does offer a few meaningful things you just can’t get from any other phone maker.

€579 at Fairphone

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