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 paid a living wage, and is designed to be easy to repair with an extended 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 will begin accepting pre-orders for the Fairphone 5 starting today, and the smartphone will ship on September 14 in Europe. Prices start from €699 in the Eurozone or £619 in the UK. This translates to approximately $758, although Fairphone has no plans to release the Fairphone 5 in the US at the moment. (The Fairphone 4 was eventually released in the US earlier this year, though it was 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 screen. It’s 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 this sounds mundane or even a bit mundane, that’s the point – Fairphone has never been a company at the forefront of smartphone specifications.

Instead, Fairphone aims to compete on sustainability. One aspect of this is how easy it is to repair the Fairphone 5, with the aim of keeping it usable for longer, and therefore out of landfill. Fairphone has increased the number of repair modules on this phone to 10 as it now lets you replace the rear cameras individually or replace the module that has the SIM and SD card slots. Of course, the battery is still user-replaceable but it’s also larger this time at 4,200 mAh, supports faster 30W charging, and is rated to withstand 1,000 charging 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 out Android rivals 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 promised software support duration for the Fairphone 5 is at least partly due to the Fairphone’s use of an enterprise-focused chipset from Qualcomm, the QCM6490, which is roughly equivalent in specs to the mid-range Snapdragon 778G. It is joined by 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal storage space, expandable by up to 2 TB via microSD card.

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

One common concern with repairable phones is that they are unable to offer the same kind 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.
Image: 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 Alliance for Responsible Mining, the Fair Cobalt Alliance, 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, coming soon.

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