I tried the Fairphone 3: the third generation of sustainability

Fairphone presents a new smartphone that aims to attract fans virtue of sustainability. In fact, there are some arguments in favor of the smartphone, but there are other arguments against it. We went hands-on with the device to see what it is all about.

Fairphone 3 release date and price

The Fairphone 3 is available now for €450 in Europe ($500/£400), which makes it a bit cheaper than its predecessor. As usual, you can order it directly from the manufacturer’s online shop. Here you can also find spare parts. In the UK, you can get the Fairphone 3 from Sky Mobile, as part of Sky’s public commitment to creating a plastic-free future. Prices at Sky Mobile start at £21 a month, including the Roll service which allows you to spend unused data on Sky’s streaming apps.

Clunky, but sustainable

When unpacking the Fairphone 3, you first notice the lovingly designed packaging, which contains the smartphone, a short manual and a screwdriver. A power adapter and USB cable are missing. You either already have them, according to the manufacturer’s theory, or you just have to buy them separately.

The next thing you notice is that the device is quite bulky compared to today’s smartphones.
Although it is not excessively heavy in the hand at 189 grams, it is almost 10 millimeters thick. If you then pick up a reasonably up-to-date, thin smartphone again, you have the feeling that something is wrong here. This is of course due to the modular design of the smartphone. The transparent design made of recycled plastic looks nice, but cannot keep up with current trends such as curved glass surfaces. But it doesn’t have to, because the focus here is on practicality and reparability.

The 5.65-inch display, protected by Gorilla Glass 5, is in 18:9 format and has quite wide top and bottom bezels. It looks a bit old-fashioned. At the top is an 8-megapixel selfie camera. On the back, there is a main 12-megapixel camera that can also record videos at 4K and 30 fps. But nobody is buying the Fairphone because of its top-end technical specs and the latest hardware.

AndroidPIT fairphone 3 stock android
Stock Android running on the Fairphone 3 / © AndroidPIT

Fairphone 3 special features

The crux of this smartphone is sustainability. Gold, tungsten, tin and cobalt have a transparent origin. Fairphone avoids obtaining them from conflict-ridden regions and questionable mines. The smartphone is built to last as long as possible, but then should also be disposed of properly. And it’s easy to get inside the thing. Unfortunately, this step is also necessary to insert the dual SIM cards or a memory card. All of this is under the battery, just like before. In the case of the memory card, this is quite impractical.

On the other hand: yes,
the 3,060 mAh battery can be removed! 
Something that has been hard to find on smartphones for years. It is therefore sufficient to reorder a rechargeable battery in case of an emergency, instead of having to have it replaced at a high price or even resorting to buying a new smartphone. That’s not where it ends. The camera module and all other components can also be unscrewed and replaced individually. We will try out how well this works when we get stuck into our full review. With the Fairphone 2, for example, this means that you could buy a better camera. That’s great. You can essentially upgrade the phone yourself. By the way, the fact that there is still a headphone jack fits in with this idea, because old headphones with a 3.5mm plug can still be used.

Fairphone’s SoC is the Snapdragon 632 from Qualcomm, a processor with eight cores and a clock frequency of 2.2 GHz. It certainly does not do miracles, but should be perfectly sufficient for normal everyday life. In addition, there are the graphics CPU Adreno 506 and 4 GB of RAM. The internal storage is 64 GB. If this is not enough for you, you can expand it by up to another 200 GB via microSD. Fairphone has finally switched to USB-C and supports QuickCharge 3.0. According to the manufacturer, the battery should last for 20 hours of normal usage. NFC is also available, so you can use Google Pay.

Pure Android software

The software runs smoothly. This is mainly due to the fact that a pure Android 9 Pie is installed here. Only a few Google services are found on the phone when you first boot it up. No bloatware, no unwanted apps. This is not only extremely pleasing, but also helps not slow down the smartphone, of course. Even if the current flagship Snapdragon isn’t installed here, the Fairphone 3 runs extremely smoothly. There are no delays, and no jerking. We will of course test how this behaves with more complex apps during our full review. At first glance, what the Fairphone delivers with its hardware is extremely impressive.

The Fairphone 3 supports LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The fingerprint sensor on the back seems to work well in normal use. When saving the fingerprint, however, the phone kept complaining that the sensor was dirty – even after it had been cleaned. Inaccurate recognition was probably more at work here.

We haven’t been able to test the camera extensively yet, but it seems to be a significant improvement compared to the first version on the Fairphone 2. On the software side, there is now facial recognition. The camera should now work better in low light conditions, too. We’ll be checking that out in detail shortly.

AndroidPIT fairphone 3 call
The Fairphone 3 supports LTE / © AndroidPIT

Early Verdict

The Fairphone 3 is not a smartphone for users who want the fastest processor or the latest technology. But if you want a smartphone that can be repaired easily and relatively cheaply, you should definitely have a look at the Fairphone 3. This idea of increased sustainability in the smartphone business is definitely a good idea.

Also Publish AT: https://www.androidpit.com/fairphone-3-review

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