Fairphone has introduced the Fairphone 5, a smartphone that has the potential to still be up-to-date and working in 2031 due to the longest software upgrade commitment we’ve seen. It also has the ability to replace 10 different key components if they expire or break. Not only that, by purchasing the Fairphone 5, you’re buying a device made with total care for the planet and its people.
Emphasizing sustainability may not always capture headlines, but Fairphone’s efforts go way beyond those of most other brands. It runs an industry-first living wage program, has obtained SA8000 certification for safe and decent working conditions for the factory where the Fairphone 5 is assembled, takes its materials from fair-mined sources, and claims it has the fairest sourced smartphone battery in the industry too. Its achievements continue with recycling phones to offset new ones sold and using recycled materials to reduce the carbon footprint of the new device.
This may not be “sexy,” but it’s immensely important. What’s really interesting is that Fairphone is also making exciting technical decisions that impact the new phone. It’s promising to upgrade the Android operating system five times and then commits to extending software support until 2031 — plus it hopes to extend this again until 2033. That’s eight years total of software updates, with the potential of stretching it out even further to 10 years. Beat that Samsung, OnePlus, and Apple.
Fairphone has done this by not choosing a recognized commercial smartphone processor. It has worked with Qualcomm to integrate the QCM6490, a 5G octa-core chip mostly used in enterprise hardware, which allows for longer standard software support until 2028. The Fairphone 5 is also modular, which lets you change 10 components yourself — including the battery, screen, rear panel, SIM card slot, SD card slot, USB-C port, the two speakers, the main and wide-angle camera modules, and the entire top of the phone if you want.
Parts prices vary from 20 euros (about $22) for ports and speakers to 40 euros (about $43) for a battery, and up to 100 euros (about $108) for a new display. Despite this level of repairability, the Fairphone 5 has an IP55 water-resistance rating and is covered by a five-year warranty.
Fairphone 5 design and specification
The rest of the specifications includes a 6.46-inch OLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage space with a MicroSD card slot, a 4,200mAh battery, 30-watt charging, NFC, dual-SIM support, and a trio of 50-megapixel cameras. The main 50MP camera has optical image stabilization (OIS), and there’s autofocus and a macro mode on the wide-angle camera. The third 50MP camera is in a hole-punch at the top of the screen for selfies. Android 13 is installed and ready for five years of version upgrades, but if you want to use a different operating system, it’s no problem to install one of your choice.
Finally, we come to the design. Fairphone models of the past haven’t always been especially pleasing aesthetically, but since it has been working with Above, a Swedish design agency, things have really improved. The Fairphone 5 is thinner and lighter than ever before and comes in a choice of black or blue colors or a cool transparent design. It doesn’t differ much from the Fairphone 4, but it still looks great.
The Fairphone 5 combines forward-thinking business practices for sustainable appeal with out-of-the-box thinking to solve some of the usual smartphone pain points — all without sacrificing design or durability. All this makes it one of the most important smartphones of the year, despite not featuring any of the big alterations we usually associate with “major” new devices. Fairphone isn’t alone in making smartphones more sustainable, with HMD Global also pushing repairable hardware and sustainable purchasing plans.
The Fairphone 5 costs 699 euros, which is around $755, and it will be released on August 30 in Europe. Fairphone eventually sold the Fairphone 4 in the U.S. for $600, but it was a non-Google device launched with software company Murena. We will have to wait and see if it does something similar with the Fairphone 5.