Fairphone has just become the first company to launch a truly modular smartphone, even beating Google’s own Project Ara to market. Not only that, but it’s made from conflict-free minerals, and is leading the charge in giving workers in the supply chain a fairer deal.
The Fairphone 2 is the Dutch firm’s latest device and is set to ship in January. At heart it’s an Android smartphone that may appeal to anyone that doesn’t want to replace their phone every year, as well as those people with a conscience. Why? it can be repaired (and even upgraded) by the user. Need a new screen? Just replace the one it comes with yourself. Need more functionality? Then buy a special module or case that adds new capabilities…
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Ethics and environmental considerations aside, the main benefit of the phone’s unique design is that you can dismantle the whole thing and in theory configure it in different ways. There are a couple of clips on the bottom which allows the screen to be slid off revealing the glorious innards. Every internal component is also clearly marked and can be removed with just a couple of screws.
Replacement parts can currently be purchased directly from Fairphone (a new screen module costs 87 Euros, for example) but we’d expect new components over time and specialist third-party modules. How user-serviceable is it? Last month teardown site iFixIt recently awarded the device a 10/10 score for repairability, in marked contrast with the iPhone 6 Plus which only scored 7/10.
As far as specifications are concerned, the Fairphone 2 boasts a 5-inch full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), an 8 megapixel camera, 2 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32 GB of built-in storage and a 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU. It also allows expandable memory thanks to a MicroSD slot, plus dual SIM support, a feature that should make it attractive for emerging markets.
Perhaps the most important point about the Fairphone 2’s hardware is that it should last you longer than the majority of today’s smartphones – what with the yearly upgrade cycle that manufacturers encourage.
Ultimately, the Fairphone 2 is a mid-range but capable phone, but one that is admittedly beaten on raw specs by cheaper devices. That could make its 529 Euro price tag a little hard to swallow for some people. But taking into account its potential longevity and the fact it can be serviced at home, it may end up being cheaper in the long run; and it’s certainly more environmentally sound than most devices.
In the end, the a modular phone seems like a real taste of the future. Let’s hope the idea generates enough interest with consumers: if so, it could mark the start of an important shift in the industry and lead to longer-lasting, more environmentally friendly devices that won’t cost the earth.
The Fairphone 2 can be ordered today for €529.38 for shipment in January (currently only available in Europe).