Fairphone Three Evaluation: The Most Ethical And Repairable Phone

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What if you can buy a telephone with a view to ultimate 5 years, may be without difficulty repaired and is made as ethically as viable? That’s the aim of the present day Fairphone 3 – and on many counts it succeeds.

Ethically growing a phone is a lot more difficult than it can sound, however you have to begin somewhere. Amsterdam-based totally Fairphone grew to become from an attention marketing campaign about warfare minerals right into a phone business enterprise in 2013, and objectives to supply as many materials as viable in both human and environmentally type approaches.

Now in its 1/3 new release, the £420 Fairphone 3 is making development, now not most effective in accountable sourcing of materials, but in manufacturing and sturdiness, with a modular, repairable design. It even comes with its very own screwdriver.

Chunky, translucent plastic‘Change is to your hands’ publicizes Fairphone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

There’s no approaches about it: the Fairphone three has a dated design. Big chunks of frame at the top and backside of the display are paying homage to smartphones from 5 years ago. The LCD show is reasonably small by way of today’s standards at 5.7in, but is cheap with quite suitable hues and brilliant viewing angles, and is pretty much brilliant sufficient – most of the time you’ll see the brightness cranked as much as most. It’s protected by means of Gorilla Glass five, which isn’t the contemporary, however at least must make it pretty scratch-resistant.

The relaxation of the frame is utilitarian and boxy. At nearly 1cm thick, the Fairphone three is honestly a corpulent beast. The massive chin and brow, as well as fairly thick bezels every aspect of the display, make the phone a lot larger than its small screen dimensions might advise too. It’s closer in length to a cellphone with a display over 6.4in, and so requires comparable hand-stretching to apply it.

All the buttons and the speaker are in the left aspect of the smartphone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The translucent black plastic frame feels well made and tough-carrying. Being capable of see the typically hidden additives through the plastic makes it all the greater interesting. There’s little or no flex or give anywhere on the phone, which is all of the greater marvelous give you may take the back down and cast off modules.

The volume buttons and energy button are all at the left facet of the smartphone, which took a few getting used to. The speaker, too, is hooked up inside the left facet of the smartphone, because of this you’re much more likely to block it with an errant finger.

Through the again of the smartphone you can see the word “Change is in your fingers” written at the battery, that is a touch bit self-congratulatory for my tastes.

A USB-C socket within the bottom handles charging, even as there is a (now uncommon) headphone socket in the pinnacle. There’s additionally a fingerprint scanner on the again, which goes fairly well but is a bit excessive up the returned to be easily accessible with out moving the smartphone down your hand a little on every occasion you want to the touch it.

The fingerprint scanner is nearly on the pinnacle of the smartphone, which makes accomplishing it a chunk of a stretch. At least you could see why: the battery takes up the relaxation of the gap. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The GuardianSpecifications

  • Screen: five.7in FHD+ LCD (427ppi)
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 632
  • RAM: 4GB of RAM
  • Storage: 64GB + microSD card
  • Operating machine: Fairphone OS based totally 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 nine.9mm
  • Weight: 189g

Middle of the streetFairphone 3 overview – USB-C

The Fairphone 3 received’t win any prizes for overall performance. It has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632 chip from remaining yr, that’s a decrease-performance mid-variety processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot for adding greater.

General performance isn’t horrible, however it surely isn’t rapid, even in comparison with mid-range smartphones costing less. There are factors of lag and stutter all around the machine. You fast run into slowdown when sincerely looking for your way to a meeting, as launching the calendar app to locate an cope with, then Google Maps and Citymapper to examine guidelines changed into enough to repeatedly introduce big lag. Press a button and not anything occurs long sufficient to make you query whether or not you managed to honestly set off the button.

Battery life is similarly center of the street at approximately 26 hours among costs, which means it lasts from 7am on day one till 9am on day two. That is while the use of the Fairphone three as my primary tool with a complete display time of simply over four hours, lots of e-mail and messages, browsing in Chrome, four hours of Spotify thru Bluetooth headphones, 40 minutes of offline Amazon Prime Video and some images.

The Fairphone three doesn’t deliver with a charger or cable. It costs in about 2 hours 10 mins the use of a popular 30W USB-C charger, or quicker the use of one which helps Qualcomm’s QuickCharge three (€19.ninety five from Fairphone). But there’s also the possibility of just swapping in every other charged battery, given you could put off it in less than five seconds.

Fairphone OSAndroid nine at the Fairphone comes reproduction app and bloat-unfastened. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Fairphone three ships with its very own Fairphone OS, that is a widespread version of Android, free of bloat or duplicated apps and all the better for it. The only minor sadness is that it ships on Android 9, not the new Android 10, despite the fact that Fairphone objectives to provide safety and software updates for 5 years from release.

Anyone who has used Android within the closing five years can be acquainted with it, even as switching to it from an iPhone is fairly honest. It’s clear that Fairphone needs to do a higher job at optimising the overall performance of the software, but, because the troubles of lag are likely to be avoidable with a chunk of work.

CameraThe camera can produce a few appropriate shots in excellent lighting, however struggles in low-light, whilst the digicam app lacks some capabilities. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Fairphone three has a reasonably trendy 12-megapixel camera at the lower back, which is technically similar to that suited to Google’s Pixel 3a, however doesn’t come anywhere near, lacking the software program magic that makes Google’s digicam so appropriate.

In top lights the Fairphone 3 shoots affordable pix with a solid quantity of detail and color. The equal goes for selfies and snap shots. Unfortunately that’s not the case in middling to low mild conditions. Shots taken interior at night with a aggregate of overhead and lamp lighting produced dark, grainy and vague photos.

Overall, the Fairphone 3’s camera performance is just like these days’s finances phones: nice on a sunny day, but poor indoors.

Repair modulesAll the diverse modules push suit into area and are secured with the aid of simple screws. Photograph: Fairphone

Other than efforts from the company to source substances ethically, and to pay the manufacturing unit people who put together the phone a pinnacle-up to a living wage, the most thrilling aspect about the Fairphone 3 is its modular nature. It’s now not some Google Ara reinvention of the wheel, however instead the potential to take out and replace or repair components once they move wrong.

Starting from the removable returned and battery, the relaxation of the smartphone may be pulled apart with widespread screws. Fairphone even includes the suitable screwdriver in the field. If a element breaks, purchase a replacement module, screw it in location and away you pass. That’s the idea, besides, and repair manual masters iFixit gave it a large thumbs up currently.

The person elements aren’t that reasonably-priced, of course, but given you may area them yourself with out breaking the whole thing else inside the process it looks like a truthful trade-off. A replacement digicam costs €49.ninety five, the speaker €19.95, the bottom module with the USB-C socket in it prices €19.95 and the top module with the selfie digital camera, headphone socket and different bits prices €29.ninety five. Probably greater widely used components are the display for €89.95, the battery for €29.95 or the again cover for €24.ninety five.

ObservationsSwapping the battery out is a 10-2d affair, in preference to a trip to a restore keep. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

  • Fairphone consists of a bumper case within the field that wraps the sides of the smartphone while leaving the lower back open
  • The vibration motor is robust but obscure, feeling like one from four years in the past
  • Bluetooth overall performance is bad, inflicting hiccups with headphones which might be rock-solid with different devices
  • The Fairphone 3 is not water resistant


The Fairphone 3 charges €450 direct, or £420 from the Phone Co-op, and is to be had for pre-order now handing over in mid-September. The Fairphone three is likewise to be had on Sky Mobile on contracts starting at £21 in step with month.

For comparison, Google’s Pixel 3a costs £399, the OnePlus 7 fees £499 and the Motorola Moto G7 fees £220.


The Fairphone 3 is a device full of compromises with one huge gain: being moral.

The layout is a bit extra exciting thanks to its translucent end, but it’s chunky and dated-looking. The five.7in screen is pretty exact, but the massive chin and bezels make the cellphone considerably larger and tougher to use than it may be. It has USB-C and a headphone socket, both of which can be welcome, however the odd speaker placement makes it clean to dam.

The inside is the equal. The easy, bloat-free Android software is right, but it’s best Android nine now not the new Android 10, and it has performance problems. Dual-sim and microSD card aid is top notch too, however Bluetooth performance became pretty terrible.

If you have been to observe the Fairphone 3 definitely as a £420 cellphone, you’d say it expenses about £200 an excessive amount of and isn’t even a fantastic £220 phone at that. You should purchase a phone with greater contemporary layout, comparable specifications, overall performance and software program for around £220 along with the Motorola Moto G7, or telephones which might be infinitely higher at £420.

But the Fairphone 3 isn’t just another cellphone: it’s an entirely exceptional way of thinking about how a telephone and its creation fits into the arena.

You can certainly repair this cellphone your self with modular components you genuinely unscrew and update. If the battery is worn out, swap it out for a new one in much less than 10 seconds. The Fairphone three is arguably the most sustainable cellphone you can buy, and that’s with out even searching at the organization’s efforts to source all materials and manufacture the phone in as ethical way as possible.

But I fear that a cellphone that has overall performance issues now gained’t be serviceable in 5 years, and so all the reparability in the world received’t make it a tool humans nevertheless want to apply in 2024. If buyers use the Fairphone 3 for two years, then dump it for a brand new one, that defeats the object of the workout.

Until now it’s not been possible to position a actual charge on the ethical aspect of a telephone within the identical way you could with a Fairtrade chocolate bar. Thanks to the Fairphone three, we now understand it’s approximately £200. So the question is whether human beings are organized to pay £200 greater to assist a worthy movement. I hope they may be.

Pros: ethical production, sustainable substances, definitely repairable, solidly constructed, twin-sim, microSD card slot, headphones socket, removable battery, bloat-unfastened, software support for 5 years

Cons: most effective Android nine, middling performance, chunky, luxurious for the specifications, average camera, poor Bluetooth

The Fairphone branding is strong, displaying the in-the-understand global which you’re an moral phone client. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The GuardianOther evaluations

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  • OnePlus 7 evaluation: opposition-beating overall performance for much less
  • Honor 20 evaluate: Huawei’s first new phone for the duration of Trump dispute
  • Best phone 2019: iPhone, OnePlus, Samsung and Huawei as compared and ranked

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