Fairphone brings back the idea of a 10-year lasting smartphone.

Fairphone brings back the idea of a 10-year lasting smartphone.

Fairphone 5: A Sustainable Smartphone for the Future

Replacement parts can be ordered at Fairphone’s online shop.

Our phones have become an integral part of our lives, but unfortunately, they often have lamentably short lifespans. Batteries die before they’re old, compatibility becomes obsolete, software support expires, and new upgrades frequently arrive, making us feel like we must keep up with the latest trends. It’s an insidious model that leads to wastefulness and disregards the environmental impact of our technological choices. However, the Dutch startup Fairphone is challenging this norm by releasing a handset that sets new standards for sustainability – the Fairphone 5.

The Fairphone 5 is a modular machine, designed to be repairable and upgradeable. Its unique design allows users to easily replace fading batteries and nine other parts, including the screen, USB-C port, and speakers. All it takes is a screwdriver and following the accompanying video guide. During the recent IFA Berlin trade show, TNW had the opportunity to inspect the Fairphone 5, and they can attest that the repair process is as simple as it sounds. In addition, the Fairphone 5 comes with a five-year warranty, further emphasizing its commitment to durability.

But it’s not just about hardware; Fairphone extends its sustainability goals to software as well. Unlike other devices that typically offer two to three years of software support, the Fairphone 5 provides at least eight years of operating system (OS) support. In fact, Fairphone is aiming for an entire decade of OS support, promising support until 2031. This unprecedented commitment to longevity is made possible by the choice of the Qualcomm QCM6490 chipset, which is specially built for industrial applications with a longer product lifetime, allowing for extended software support.

The Fairphone 5 is available in three colours: matte black, sky blue, and transparent.

The benefits of Fairphone’s sustainability efforts go beyond the device itself; they are rooted in the materials and the people involved in their production. Fairphone began as a campaign against conflict minerals commonly found in smartphones, with a focus on raising awareness about the use of forced labor to extract these minerals. In 2013, Fairphone transitioned from campaigning to producing handsets with the aim of sourcing conflict-free and sustainable materials.

Recognizing that positive change can have a greater impact when focused, Fairphone identified 14 materials with a high potential for supply chain improvement. In the Fairphone 5, over 70% of these materials are either fair-mined or recycled. One area that Fairphone takes particular pride in is the battery supply chain. The lithium used in their batteries comes from a single mine in Chile, which is certified by IRMA, the leading global standard for industrial mining.

Fairphone also takes steps to reduce the harm caused by cobalt mining, which often involves child labor. By using cobalt credits, they ensure that 100% of the cobalt used in their batteries is produced under improved working conditions at artisanal and small-scale mines. In an industry first, Fairphone ensures that those who assemble the batteries receive a living wage bonus. All of these measures contribute to what Fairphone claims to be the most fair and sustainable battery in the world.

Apart from its sustainability efforts, the Fairphone 5 also offers impressive features. It boasts a 6.46-inch OLED screen and a triple 50-megapixel camera system, rivaling mid-range smartphones made by industry leaders. However, Fairphone’s intention is not merely to compete with these giants but to inspire them. Fairphone aims to change the industry from within and make their model something that other companies can replicate or join.

The industry response to Fairphone’s sustainability-focused approach has been mixed. While positive changes have been observed on the environmental front, improvements in the lives of workers involved in the production process have been slow. As long as this remains the case, Fairphone will continue to stand out in the market. Ultimately, it’s up to consumers to push the industry towards more ethical and sustainable practices.

Noud Tillemans, the interim CEO of Fairphone, believes that there’s no reason to buy an iPhone when you can opt for the Fairphone 5. Not only does it have comparable tech specifications, but with every Fairphone sold, there is a greater potential for positive impact. The Fairphone 5 is now available for pre-order in Europe, with prices starting at €699 in the eurozone or £619 in the UK. Shipping will commence on September 14th, marking the beginning of a new era in sustainable smartphones.